Even without that incentive, it had become common practice for people to leave our company by age 55 because of the generous retirement benefits, including health insurance. In fact, as one of my lunch companions told me, the system had evolved over time to implicitly encourage this trend. The buyouts simply accelerated that process.
Some of us skipped out joyfully; some of us looked around and realized that -- ready or not -- it was time to go; some of us left kicking and screaming.
The common thread? Whether it was seeking full-time or part-time re-employment; consulting, or working on contract; starting our own companies or buying a franchise: many of us weren’t ready (or able) to stop working.
The latest exodus of early corporate retirees joins a flood of 50+ adults losing their jobs due to the punishing recession. Any way you look at it, there’s an amazing number of highly skilled, hard working people looking for ways to continue being productive.
And yet connecting people in this age group with opportunities is difficult.
This isn’t a piece about how to do an effective job search for the over 50 crowd. AARP has some good advice; so does Workforce50. I’m more interested in exploring the opportunities for lifelong employment.
Case in point: in July, my former employer contacted me about taking over part of my old job -- the part I never had time for as an employee and felt constantly guilty about, as a result. To borrow from the jargon I worked so hard to banish from company communications, it was a “win-win” proposition: the company would cede handling of an important (but not strategic) aspect of its work to someone with the knowledge, skills and interest to competently manage the work. And may I add, with enthusiasm!
Getting to “yes” required a lengthy co-employment evaluation to ensure I
wasn’t a threat to the company’s retirement plan. But what if retired employees were considered
a strategic asset rather than a potential threat? What might that look like?
could retire but still be part of an accessible database when the company
needed their expertise. In fact, there’s been a move to tap into retired
talent. For example, Your
Encore “was created to tap into our country’s under-utilized asset: the
growing number of retired and veteran scientists.” But while companies
participating in the program encourage their retirees to register, you’re unlikely
to find much on offer unless you’ve worked in a technical field.
There are also a number of job listing sites catering to the 50+ crowd. In Canada, Retired Worker promises to connect employers “with the skills, knowledge and experience of Baby Boomers.” WiserWorker and Retirement Jobs appear to do the same for a U.S. audience. All these options, though, are simply job search sites; they don’t screen people and match their skills with employer needs.
status could be on a continuum, from full-time with benefits to
intermittent with none, and variations in-between. In other words, you would never truly leave
the company – you would just move from one state to another, with diminishing
levels of company support as your situation changed or you aged.
I found some examples of companies who are actually doing this. According to this article on BNet, “Monsanto brings back retirees as temporary workers or part-timers to fill gaps and reduce costs…Monsanto estimates that it saves 12-15 percent by using retirees instead of traditional temps.” The article also lists “the customer service center of a major national bank [that] keeps track of employees who are about to retire from other parts of the organization and then proactively recruits them, offering part-time, flexible hours…cutting down on recruiting costs.”
Baby Boomers are entering their retirement years to the strains of Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Through sheer numbers, we’ve been a force of social change our entire lives. We’ll continue to shape and redefine what it means to be retired, just as we have with every other milestone we’ve encountered. It’s too early to know what that means, but the view from here is that we’ll continue finding meaningful ways of contributing, for profit or not, until well into the traditional golden years.