HR Expert: Unretirement - The next HR trend
My client is a big supporter of succession planning. They have a reasonably low turnover rate, and are proud of the fact most of their senior management have risen up through the company and have long service with them.

Recently, however, things have started to change. Rather than retiring as planned, more of the senior leadership are asking to reduce their days and hours. Why is this, and how might my client manage this within their business?

Recent analysis of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest labour market data found economic activity levels for people aged 50 and over are at their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic, and it would appear your client is experiencing this first hand. Such is the trend it has sparked a new term ‘unretirement’.

The biggest increase was in men aged over 64, whose economic activity levels increased by 66,000, or 8.5% in one year. For females in the same age group, there was a 6.8% increase by 37,000.
Further research has shown that 32% of retired workers would consider returning to work at some point or were already working again after retirement. There are a number of different reasons why workers are keen to ‘unretire.’ For the majority, they said they would return for the mental and social stimulation that working provides. Others say they want to top up their pensions.
Similarly, as the cost of living continues to soar and people struggle with ongoing increases in household bills, many are coming out of retirement, or delaying full retirement by cutting hours, to put themselves, and their families, in a stronger financial position.

There are significant benefits to be had from employing from this group for your client. They can act as mentors for other employees, sharing their knowledge and helping with overall employee development, and in that way can be utilised to offer a longer transition under your client’s succession plans.

It is important your client recognises the varying reasons why staff are unretiring and puts measures in place to directly meet their needs and expectations. For example, if an employee returned to the workplace to boost their social interaction with others, offering them a homeworking arrangement would be ineffective and unlikely to be successful. Instead, placing them in a high-traffic area within the workplace, or giving them a role which involves high levels of interaction with others, will ensure the person remains motivated and satisfied, so more likely to perform well for the organisation.

For those considering retirement, but haven’t yet confirmed they wish to leave their position due to the stresses of non-work life, your client may want to pro-actively implement measures to support this transition. For example, introducing a phased-retirement policy as part of wider flexible working benefits.

This allows employees to gradually decrease their working hours and responsibilities, whilst still being on hand to support handovers and the development of those moving into their role. Such an arrangement can be equally beneficial for both the employer and employee.

Employees remain engaged since they understand and are keen to meet the organisation’s key goals. In turn, employers remain satisfied with the level of productivity and co-operation. More organisations, your client included, may wish to leverage the benefits a phased retirement can bring and introduce policies to this effect.


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