Working in retirement, once considered an oxymoron, is the new reality, according to a recent report by New York-based The Conference Board Inc. Besides wanting to continue doing what they love, economic needs also are keeping older Americans in the workforce.
"The maturing workforce is often seen as an issue to be dealt with instead of a great opportunity to be leveraged," says Lorrie Foster, director of research for Working Groups at The Conference Board and co-author of the report. "The skills and knowledge mature workers possess can be utilized to great advantage by a company that knows itself well and can identify its weak areas that can be bolstered by the right mature workers."
The report is based on a "managing mature workers" working group that includes executives from a cross-section of industries, staff and line functions, and job titles. It includes such major companies as BP America, Ernst & Young LLP, Ford Motor Co., IBM and Shell International.
Companies are addressing the trend of "working retirement" via flexible programs, but according to The Conference Board, these companies have sometimes had to struggle with legal or regulatory constraints that restrict flexible work arrangements for mature workers. The report found that the majority of survey participants perceive a Catch-22 -- wanting to offer something special for mature workers but feeling unable to do so in a way that doesn't seem discriminatory.
The report recommends strategic ideas and actions to address potential issues:
- Identify potential gaps and knowledge transfer needs.
- Broaden succession planning thinking.
- Check communications mechanisms and messages for intergenerational approach.
- Review training history.
- Capitalize on affinity groups.
- Become an "employer of choice" for all generations.
- Encourage better financial planning among employees.
- Build a retiree network.
- Offer benefits of interest to mature workers such as long-term care insurance, pre-retirement planning, health and wellness programs, comprehensive medical coverage -- including prescription drugs, health coverage for retirees and part-time workers, and pro-rated benefits for employees on flexible work schedules.