The “great resignation” – In fact, a mass retreat?

The story of the Great Resignation was that the pandemic allowed people to stop long enough to discover the meaning of life. The extra hours of sleep and joyful family meals made them dream of quitting their current job to find purpose and passion at work. I wish that. Polls have made headlines announcing that 40% of workers plan to quit – soon. Proof of that was the 4.3 million Americans who quit their jobs last August – a record since the records began. But is it true?

These numbers seem huge, but represent 3% of the workforce, not 40%. The dream has not yet made its way to the door. Instead, recent research from economists at Goldman Sachs offers a completely different take on the now highly controversial story of spiritual awakening. At least two-thirds of those who quit their jobs last August have not actually “quit”. They were retiring. One million were “normal” retirements, an additional 1.5 million opted for early retirement. It’s a whole different story.

We could applaud a natural generational transmission and welcome the increase in jobs and upward wage pressures for young people. But that would ignore the divided reality behind the data, between the affluent knowledge workers and the harsh reality of the long-term unemployed.

Some older workers may be heading into determined third quarters, sitting on comfortable assets and determined to launch a range of enticing opportunities, including starting a new business (25% of start-ups are created by those over 55 years). But more than half of American job seekers aged 55 and over were long-term unemployed (over 6 months). Job losses during the pandemic particularly affected extreme ages, those under 30 and over 50.

Age is not (yet) a feature of most dimensions of business diversity. If companies are struggling to find talent in a newly competitive job market, where the US has over 10 million jobs open and the UK 1.1 million, they may want to be more attentive to the generational balance of their workforce and exploit potential longevity. dividend. One of the easiest steps to managing retention is not to unwittingly and unnecessarily lose talent in the first place.

3 steps to retaining older workers

A: Count them. Start by measuring the current age distribution of your business. Most companies don’t measure the percentage of their workforce and talent by age, so they may not know what percentage of current staff is eligible for retirement or early retirement. Find out where your employee demographics lie and what the knowledge gaps and implications of a wave of retirements could be. What are the risks to the business and is a solid succession plan in place? Don’t overlook external data, either. What are the demographics of your customers? Older customers (especially older women) hold enormous purchasing power and regularly complain of being underserved and neglected.

  • Case study: Insurance company AVIVA suddenly discovered in 2018 that at least a third of its employees were eligible for retirement. They had never calculated the numbers before. Most of my clients don’t. Do you know how many of your colleagues are ready to retire?

TWO: Expand them. Many companies no longer invest or develop employees over the age of 50. In addition, many people at this age no longer think about investing in themselves. Workplaces are teeming with unconscious ageism, one of the latest “isms” to be widely accepted and largely invisible. It is also largely absent from current diversity and inclusion programs. A director mocked the 55-year-old official who met him for his annual development review, saying the conversation “wouldn’t take long.” If you want to retain your staff throughout working life and careers, you will need to adjust career management to incorporate lifelong learning and interesting and varied career options.

  • Case study: US Pharmacy CVS has launched a Talent is Ageless program to explicitly invite workers of all ages to continue to learn and grow. Their “discover you!” The training module invites mature employees to put newly acquired skills and knowledge into practice.

THREE: Kill the cliff. Traditional retirement is a shift from 100% employee to 100% retired. Overnight. Modify the model and give older employees a range of flexible employment options that may decrease over time. Older workers hold a lot of knowledge and expertise, but many may not need so much money anymore – nor are they ready for 24/7 work cultures. Motivation and commitment to a later career may have more to do with sharing mastery and mentoring future generations than with climbing the fat pole or collecting a year-end bonus. Make sure your incentive structure is age appropriate. Merely extrapolating the linear “up or down” career models that are still often the default ignores a huge – and growing – talent pool.

  • Case study: Unilever launched a program called U-Work to adapt employment models to three different ages hungry for more flexibility: millennials, perennials (over 50) and parents. They created an internal “gig” economy model with flexi-security. People keep their jobs and their benefits, but take on projects – for a while.

It’s ironic, in this age of longevity, where people over their 50s only reach their 40s, that so many individuals and businesses think they are ripe for retirement. The result is a massive drain of experienced talent.

We may regret this loss in the years to come. We may be less likely to reverse it.

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