Have you ever gone shopping and found the perfect shirt? Then you start looking for your size and it says, “one size fits all”. How can that be--- I am very petite and could not possibly where the same size as my good friend who is a foot taller and has a completely different build. I think the same about retirement and wonder if there could be a one size fits all for retirement. With previous generations, the formula was to move south, and spend your days relaxing, enjoying full time leisure. Sounds nice—right? Maybe for a while but then it gets boring. What does Retirement mean today? Boomers have dreamed about this time of life after years of working long, hard hours. And we have all worked hard often causing stress and fatigue. According to a 2009 Gallup Poll and statistics from Monster.com, the numbers speak to the extreme stress that people are feeling in the workplace and the desire for a career make-over or change. Americans are working more hours than they did 20 years ago. Eighty-six percent of workers are experiencing job stress and half describe their stress as “extreme fatigue” or “feeling out of control.” More employees feel pressure to work too much and want more time with their families. There is clearly a need to refresh, renew and recharge!
Deciding what to do in retirement is a challenge because there is not one clear image or plan on how to do it. Everyone’s retirement is as unique as they are. Baby boomers are reinventing retirement and many are kicking and screaming and just don’t want to RETIRE. Or perhaps just not retire the way their parents did but find their purpose and mission as they transition to their next chapter. They are forging a new model of retirement that is a radical departure from that of previous generations.
With this new model, and Boomers working longer, there needs to be changes in current employment practices. Sixty-five percent of Baby Boomer works plan to work past 65 or do not plan to retire. However, many Baby Boomers want some form of work but not sure what that will look like. They do want more time to pursue interests, enjoy family and friends and have purpose. Some form of work—part time, project based, starting a business, encore careers are all options they are thinking about. Many plan to work for enjoyment and to make a difference in their community.
So, what can employers do accommodate the aging workforce? They can facilitate a flexible or phased transition into retirement. By doing so, they can help optimize their own workforce management efforts, improve succession and continuity planning, provide employees with valuable training and mentoring and enable pre-retirees greater flexibility to retire on their own terms.
Employers can also create an age-friendly workplace. With so many Boomers planning to work past 65 and anxieties about age discrimination employers have an opportunity to foster an age-friendly environment. By communicating their commitment to diversity, include age and other demographic factors, they can adopt a diversity and inclusion policy statement that they widely communicate to employees and other interested parties.
The first step is to start the conversation with pre-retirees in a sensitive way. Many boomers stay because they are not ready for full retirement or unsure what they will do with their time. It can be a scary place for those who have worked long hours and their identity is tied to their work. Having a discussion on career path and development with pre-retirees is just as important as having it with younger workers. This is an issue that impacts the entire workforce as well as managers working on staff planning/recruitment. Each company needs to pave their own path and a plan which is also not one size fits all. The important part is to start a conversation and determine the appropriate actions steps. Baby Boomers are once again breaking all the molds, challenging convention and blazing a new path for retirement that future generations will follow.
As a career management and retirement coach, I’m doing some research to learn about your challenges and assisting in providing solutions to make the most of your aging workforce. How will your company proactively address the aging workforce?