Have you ever been on the edge of your chair listening to a really great presentation, so interested and engaged that you can’t wait to hear more – but all of the sudden it ends abruptly and you find yourself wondering ‘was that really it’?
For many retiring employees, the last days of their traditional full-time job are just like that – they end abruptly with little satisfaction and no sense of closure. It leaves them feeling like there should have been more.
As large numbers of our workforce prepare for retirement from their traditional full-time employment in the coming years, organizations have an incredible opportunity to first, help employees approaching retirement make smooth and satisfying transitions, and second, make sure that their organization is left stronger after the retirement.
To achieve these two important objectives, HR professionals and senior leaders need to take five steps:
Step 1: Help to Facilitate the Decision to Retire
For many employees, making the decision to leave can be overwhelming, and something that is put off as a result of fear or of not knowing the right time to retire. While HR professionals and leaders have to be cautious about asking employees for details about their specific retirement plans, organizations can encourage employees to explore the retirement option by offering formal programs that help employees consider and plan their retirement transition.
Step 2: Help the Employee Plan their Legacy
Once an employee makes the decision to retire, it is important for them to consider and execute a plan that allows them to leave their desired legacy. During this phase of retirement planning, which takes place while the employee is still working, many employees benefit from personal coaching and access to tools that help them reflect, decide on how they want to be remembered, and identify tactics for achieving their goals.
Step 3: Co-create the Future
Retiring employees often have significant insight about what the organization could and should look like as they are transitioning to retirement. Involving retiring employees when possible in decisions regarding successors, re-structuring, or re-defining roles can yield powerful outcomes. It also allows the retiring employee to feel that their insight will continue to positively impact the future success of the organization after they are gone.
Step 4: Capture the Knowledge
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when employees retire is to fail to capture the mission-critical knowledge employees hold. HR professionals need to take an active role in leading the retiring employee and their manager through an exercise well in advance of the retirement date to: 1) identify mission-critical knowledge that must be transferred; and 2) identify and implement a clear and measurable plan for transferring the knowledge to the right people in the right way.
Step 5: Provide Support for the First Months of the New Reality
While retirement often seems like a dream come true, the reality is that many people struggle once they leave their organizations to find purpose and the type of connection with others that they had when they were part of a team. To help people land successfully in retirement, more organizations are beginning to offer retired employees access to personalized coaching or support services that teach the individual how to navigate the next phase of their life successfully. That may include helping the retiring employee start a consulting practice so that they can continue to work part time, or perhaps teach them about working on boards so they can continue to leverage the knowledge and experience that they gained throughout their career in a professional environment.
Thinking about how they want to be remembered is not only important for the retiring employee, it is also a critical activity for all organizations. HR professionals need to consider how they want retiring employees to think of and speak about their organization after they leave, and ensure that they have the programs, processes and support in place to achieve those goals.