Catalytic Conversion: Turn Retirement Planning Into Succession Planning

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By Pam Paquet

The Baby Boom in the mid 1900s provided Canada with many long-term benefits including a sizeable workforce, a significant pool of skills and knowledge, and decade’s worth of experience and expertise. The fact that Baby Boomers have started to retire and leave the workforce in droves has been foreseen for years yet continues to hover like a black cloud over Human Resource (HR) departments.

Oddly enough, it is the recent severe economic downturns that give HR professionals a unique window of opportunity for Baby Boomer employment extension. The latest market drop has caused most investments to lose significant value. This has resulted in a loss of financial security for some Baby Boomers and has delayed a number of retirements until the financial picture improves. The resulting uncertainty Boomers may hold about their retirement finances is an opportunity for HR professionals to capitalize on retaining their value, knowledge and experience while helping them make the inevitable transition.

Retirement can be black and white when looking at finances but it is not only about money. By shifting attention to the grey area outside of money, HR departments can help Boomers facilitate their own exit plan while continuing to contribute to the company and assist with succession. This is best done when HR shifts their focus from jobs to people. HR professionals also need to accommodate the individual preferences of future retirees to ensure the transition is personalized, comfortable and predictable.

Baby Boomers make up a wonderful generation categorized as those who value service, dedication and hard work. This group believes and fulfills the “live to work” philosophy where being a workaholic is the norm. In the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Older Worker Survey, the top three traits most valued in this generation are: experience and qualifications (90%), strong work ethic (85%) and loyalty (79%).  When it comes to retirement, this generation may view it as a reward for years of hard work or fear it as a tragic and undesirable ending to a great career.

HR professionals must use different retention strategies for Baby Boomers because their retirement planning priorities include distinct values, work ethic and level of eagerness. The Retirement Planning Association of Canada notes the top three variables important for retirement planning are: work re-orientation, retirement attitude and self-directedness. When retention strategies correlate with these three variables, the results are effective and long lasting, something the Baby Boomers can appreciate.

Three steps that can easily achieve this correlation include:

1.  Make retirement a safe topic
Retirement discussions are usually avoided because employees fear being pushed out or downsized when they mention leaving the company. HR professionals also seem to avoid the topic for fear of infringing on privacy or the innuendo of discrimination. Now is the time to open Pandora’s Box, pull the “R” word out and have safe discussions, negotiations and openness to inspire creativity and innovation around transition.

2.  Show retirees that HR is on their side
Comfort and security are provided to Baby Boomers when HR is willing to listen to individual needs, coordinate common goals and create multiple, feasible options. Collaboration proves support to the employee and reassurance that everyone is on the same side – not at opposite ends of an arbitration table.

3.  Help to plan, prepare and record
A clearly defined written plan that is negotiated and agreed upon provides clarity and predictability to employees and the company.  It is proof that respect and recognition are present. It also establishes parameters and concrete measurements. Everyone’s level of commitment improves when things are in writing and simultaneously the level of comfort increases when future steps are formalized and consistent.

Right now is the perfect time for HR professionals to turn the retirement of Baby Boomers into information sharing, transitional planning and succession strategies. Make the departure of Baby Boomer employees an opportunity where individual needs can be met, knowledge transfer is predictable and company change is scheduled and seamless.

Pam Paquet specializes in retirement transitions. She works with people and companies who believe that retirement planning is an investment that reduces stress, minimizes surprises and promotes predictability.  Contact her at www.retirementchanges.com or 604-468-9094.

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