To contend with ongoing labor shortages, businesses are increasingly tapping a vast source of talent: retirees.
The onset of the pandemic hastened the retirements of many 60-somethings, who are now considering a return to the workforce--much like the boomerang workers, who, after quitting their jobs during the Great Resignation, have returned to their previous employer. For businesses looking to fill open roles, this population of experienced talent presents a solution. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, non-farm payroll employment increased by 199,000 in December, well under forecast, a shortfall that is partially tied to the lack of workers. The unemployment rate declined to 3.9 percent.
Retirees who return to the workforce do so mostly because they want to, not because they have to. Besides their good attitude, they're liable to be a quick study, since they've already worked for you, says Carol Fishman Cohen, founder and CEO of the career re-entry training company iRelaunch. "They also have a mature perspective, they're in a relatively stable time of life, and they tend to be very enthusiastic about returning to work."
But do provide an environment in which they can thrive, says Christina Gialleli, director of people operations at the learning technology company Epignosis. She suggests tailoring your onboarding process, so they prioritize transitional guidance that can update employees on general policies and expectations that may have changed since their last time in the workforce. Another tip: Fashion returning employees' day-to-day so they're getting what they want out of the job. They're helping you out, remember.
Here are two other ideas for helping ease your formerly retired employee's return to work:
Establish a training process.
Companies that are committed to hiring retired professionals can benefit from establishing a more formalized training process, says Cohen. That may look like an apprenticeship that turns into full-time employment, or direct hires with customized transitional programming that helps them adjust back into the workplace. The training process should provide new employees with a "safe space to ask questions and express concerns," Cohen says. This can also give a company valuable insights into the effectiveness of its onboarding process as a whole.
Create a sense of community.
Don't underestimate the buddy system. People who are reentering the workforce can benefit from having an assigned contact--another employee who isn't their direct manager--to help them with any questions that may arise post-training, Cohen says. These contacts should understand that their "buddy" is returning to the workforce after a break, and should be briefed on any information that may be helpful for them to support that reentry (like company protocols and technology the employee will be expected to use). Managers should also establish regular check-ins with these new employees to help them in the transitional phase as well.
One of the benefits of having multiple generations in the workforce is the opportunity to transfer knowledge in both directions, Gialleli adds. "An effective way to connect varying perspectives is by having empathy and trying 'reverse mentoring,' which allows different generations to exchange knowledge," she says. "And also allowing returning retirees to mentor younger colleagues can serve as a powerful tool, since these employees have decades of experience to draw upon."