February 28, 2009

Internal Recruitment: Turning Necessity Into Opportunity

The shock of the recent stock market correction and resulting financial losses are still reverberating throughout the workforce. Given the new economic reality, many of us will need to work well past the time we thought our 401Ks and other retirement accounts would support us. What does this mean for America and is it a "bad thing?"

Of course, losing money is rarely viewed as a "good thing." However, for those who will now need to work longer, either full time or part time, there are likely to be increasing opportunities to do so.

Part of the need for ongoing work lies in population demographics. The "Baby Boomers," 77 million strong, were followed by a "baby bust" of only 46 million Generation X'ers. Therefore, for every five workers retiring, only three will be coming though the ranks to take their place. Although industry leaders have long been aware of this demographic challenge, they have done little about it. Traditionally, talent need has been addressed through external recruitment, but that will clearly be insufficient for today's situation. Internal recruitment, exploring the current workforce with the goal of retaining employees past traditional retirement age, will become an important complementary strategy.

Aside from economic necessity, what benefits will a mature worker derive from ongoing work? And, if the economy does turn around, will retirement-aged people leave in droves regardless of industry needs?

Historically, the record of post-retirement careers has been brief, approximately 2.3 years. That is due to three principal factors: the continuation of traditional job skills without regard to acquiring new or different responsibilities; a psychological desire for a "marker," because mature workers want recognition for life stage achievement; and a chance to reflect on potential changes in the mature years to reassess whether personal interests are aligned with career responsibilities.

In response to these points, consider the following.
First, potential post-retirement employees can benefit from better self-knowledge through personality assessments, such as the Birkman Method. This information will help them select the parts of their responsibilities they wish to keep or develop further and which they want to give up, either because they cause them stress or that they are least aligned with their current interests.

Second, even with the information derived from the personality assessment tool, many individuals may still want a period of reflective time to separate the traditional work years from their new life stage. This period may be organized similar to an academic sabbatical with a guaranteed return date for employment, if desired.

Third, others may wish to downscale their time commitment, but without the loss of authority or leadership which has traditionally accompanied part-time work. In the past, this was often not possible.

The convergence of these two factors, an expanding need for skilled workers and an unprecedented loss of retirement capital, will create a new working class of mature workers.

Therefore, we may expect the following outcomes. Skilled workers and administrators will continue past retirement age, but will still want a high level of responsibility, even if part-time. In addition, employees will discover a new sense of creativity and motivation through personal customization of career responsibilities. And finally, intellectual capital will be conserved, flowing from senior staff to younger employees.

Surveys conducted five years after retirement have consistently found that 40% of respondents were happier when they were working. With a creative approach to the new working retirement, this stage of life may well become a source of profound satisfaction and continuing productivity.

Source: Best Management Articles by John Trauth

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