Can semi-retirement help combat the 'great resignation'?

Many workers interested but 'most employers are late to the party'

Can semi-retirement help combat the 'great resignation'?

Faced with the so-called “great resignation” — with many employees changing their jobs or careers amid the upheaval of the pandemic — employers should consider tapping into the retiring workforce.

Why? A strong majority of employees say they’d be likely to partake in semi-retirement by having a flexible work schedule (79 per cent), transitioning to a consulting role (62 per cent) or working reduced hours with reduced benefits (57 per cent), according to a survey commissioned by Express Employment Professionals.

This signals a change in the previous standard of having workers retire at a certain date, says Hanif Hemani, Express franchise owner in Saskatoon, in speaking with Canadian HR Reporter.

“There’s also been a bit of an attitudinal change amongst baby boomers that are retiring where they want a little bit more out of life; they feel like they still have a few good years to offer. And so this concept of semi-retirement is basically bridging these individuals from their traditional work and phasing them into retirement, rather than having a set end date when they’ll be gone.”

Almost one in five (18 per cent of) Canadians aged 50 and up are planning to push out their retirement date, according to an earlier report from RBC.

However, just 22 per cent of workers say their employer offers semi-retirement, according to the Express survey of 2,065 Canadian working adults between Sept. 28 and Oct. 13, 2021.

“I think many employers are still stuck in the traditional models. Most employers are late to the party, so to speak. Very few employers are ahead of the curve,” says Hemani.

“And this is one of those ideas where it seems like a very simple concept, but it’s taken a while to gain any traction because they never had to think about it. And the last couple of years, the last eight months, they’ve had to think about it."

Instead, more than four in 10 (43 per cent) employees say their employer has brought retired employees back, either to be a knowledge expert (21 per cent), act as a mentor to current employees (16 per cent) or handle key client relationships (14 per cent).

Many employees are struggling to hire the workers they need, according to a previous report from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

Best practices for semi-retirement

This generation of older workers has a strong work ethic, they have learned through experience, and they have wisdom, says Hemani.

"They have the ability to answer the question ‘If I knew then what I know now…' which is a very powerful question to answer in business.”

For employers, transitioning older workers to consulting roles and offering them flexible work schedules are key in structuring semi-retirement, he says.

Hanif Hemani

“It can be customized very easily and they also feel like they have more control over their pre-retirement.” he says. “Employees who are retirement age likely want to spend more time with family and friends, pursue hobbies and travel, so a flexible work schedule would certainly be desirable.”

More than the in five (63 per cent) employees wish their company offered more help for transitioning to retirement, and only half (51 per cent) say their company has an adequate successor in place for their role when they retire, according to Express.

Ideally, employers should have conversations ahead of time around what these individuals want to do as they approach retirement, says Hemani

“I mean, we never even have conversations with our older employees about whether they actually want to retire. These conversations should be happening in the pre-retirement, which to me is T-2 years... and ask them ‘What does it look like for you?’”

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