Depending on the size of your organization and your industry, you may be faced with a workforce consisting of 5 generations of workers. Each generation brings its own unique challenges to the organization, creating shifts in organizational thinking, policies, and processes. The newest challenge: the non-retiring retirees. Not only are people working longer into their retirement years, the vision of retirement and what it means is changing. These two factors have created a challenge for HR leaders to find ways to help their mature workers transition to the next stage of their productive lives.

To begin with, the majority of working Americans expect to retire at a later age. In fact, according to US News & World Report, the expectant retirement age is now 66, a number that has creeped up in recent years—even though the actual average retirement age is 63.

In addition, people aren’t looking for a seat on the porch to spend their retirement years watching the world go by. For many, this version of retirement leads to monotony and boredom. Instead, mature workers are seeking purpose and meaning and a way to remain engaged and productive well past the time they are employed full-time.

As retirement patterns change, it causes a trickle-down effect on businesses and the HR professionals charged with human capital management. Because they aren’t leaving your business to go fishing, mature age employees may go on to become your consultants, company references, or brand ambassadors for years to come. As more and more people leave their full-time careers of 50 years to pursue other opportunities, HR leaders must shift their thinking and adopt new policies for helping employees discover the next phase of their lives.

Instead of traditional retirement, maturing employees are looking to enrich their second phase of life with substance and meaning. This new vision of retirement includes:
 

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Entering the gig economy
  • Volunteerism and philanthropy
  • Joining a board of directors

Taking care of individuals interested in a creative retirement option is an investment in their future, and the future of the organization.

What’s an HR professional to do? Here’s a crash course on creative retirement, featuring 4 ways employers can support mature age employees.

#1: RETHINK “NORMAL”

We recently blogged about cutting ageism out of the recruitment process, along with other exclusionary practices. By rethinking what “normal” means, and opening your mind that any work arrangement can be normal for anyone, regardless of age, gender, background, or religion, you stay away from discrimination claims. In addition, letting go of old assumptions around age, productivity, and ability creates opportunities for experienced workers to deliver value to your organization.

Whether or not you're looking to hire employees past a certain age, the reality is that these people aren’t leaving your organization, either. One of the motivators for mature age employees to continue to work is financial. Just because people have reached a certain age, doesn’t mean they don’t still need an income, and as Chuck Saletta recently predicted to his readers at the Motley Fool, many retiring Baby Boomers will take on jobs to make ends meet. In addition to the financial need for employment, many Baby Boomers are continuing to work because they are still seeking ways to find purpose and meaning, even if they don’t want to work for someone else full time.

Instead of looking at older workers as “out of date,” start placing a higher value on their industry knowledge, maturity level, and business perspectives. Think about employees as individuals, and be ready to support them in whatever their version of “normal” may be.

#2: CREATE A MATURE WORKFORCE TRANSITION STRATEGY

Most successful HR processes start with a thorough plan. As part of our contemporary outplacement services, we offer a Creative Retirement Program that is designed to engage mature age workers and assist them in designing and planning a positive and productive late career and future retirement. We’ve found that most HR departments don’t have the bandwidth or personnel to design and execute a comprehensive creative retirement program on their own.

Since a one size fits all approach never works, an effective creative retirement program puts the individual at the center of the process and includes self-assessments and customized planning designed to help transitioning employees work through the challenges that come with entering this new phase of life. With the right tools and resources, employees considering a creative retirement option will have the support they need to make this transition as seamless as possible.

#3: GET CREATIVE WITH A CAREER COACH

Essential to a creative retirement model is the presence of a certified career coach. Under the guidance of a coach, individuals can participate in an in-depth retirement self-assessment to understand their unique retirement motivators and critical considerations. A dedicated career coach has the expert knowledge and skills to facilitate a conversation that allows individuals to take inventory of their physical, financial, and personal health factors and to determine the best, most sustainable creative retirement path. The result? A more customized, and often more creative, retirement plan that will benefit the individual and the employer.

While some employees might want to end their careers abruptly, others might want to transition to volunteering or part time work. Some employees might be interested in consulting, or obtaining a position on a board of directors. A career coach can get creative with the possibilities, and offer customized suggestions for employees based on their skillset, interest, motivation, and other personal factors.

If your company allows it, perhaps a part-time or consulting spot within the organization would be a benefit to the employee and the organization, instead of full retirement. Think about taking a more holistic approach to people processes. In other words, consider how the various components of the individual employee journey come together and how your culture and people processes impact that journey. Older workers might benefit from a flexible schedule, or only working on certain projects. Don’t overlook the benefit that retaining mature workers provides. In addition to retaining institutional knowledge, mature workers are excellent candidates for mentorship roles and other teaching opportunities to help grow the less experienced members of your team.

#4: TAKE CARE OF EMPLOYEES FROM ONBOARDING TO RETIREMENT

While retirement parties and the infamous gold watch are often viewed as rites of passage, they are no longer part of the workplace landscape. Now, employers are finding that it’s important to take care of employees throughout their entire journey – from recruitment all the way through off boarding and beyond.

Instead of looking at the employee journey from a limited scope, consider providing support for employees at every phase of their journeys with continuing education opportunities, career coaching, flexible schedules, financial opportunities, and career transition services – including creative retirement.