The New Retirement: 4 Ideas to Help HR With Its Mature-Age Employees

By Lindsay Witcher

Mar. 15, 2018

Not only are people working longer into the traditional retirement years, but the vision of retirement and what it means to retire is evolving altogether.

Such factors are creating challenges for HR leaders who are now tasked with finding ways to help mature-age workers discover the next phase of their lives while developing initiatives that allow the organization to utilize the talent and experience of workers who hold years of vital knowledge.


HR leaders are seeking creative retirement programs for their mature-age employees designed to help those who want to remain in the organization but in a more flexible capacity. They also are providing assistance and support for those who have decided to transition out of the organization to pursue the next phase of their lives in a way that allows them to continue to find meaning and purpose. Employees are finding they are no longer tied to the traditional retirement model.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the expected retirement age is now 66. However, the actual average retirement age is 63, representing a gap between when employees think they are going to retire and when they actually do. Part of this gap may be explained by the fact that mature-age workers are not actually retiring in the traditional sense, but are seeking ways to find purpose and meaning, and are looking to remain engaged and productive well past the time they are employed full time.

Many organizations help employees plan for retirement to a certain extent, whether it’s offering 401(k) or transitional retirement plans. However, the new era of retirement means that employees aren’t just leaving your business to go fishing or sit on a front porch.

They become your consultants, company references and brand ambassadors. To ensure that positive relationships are established and nurtured with these industry-influential individuals, HR leaders must shift their thinking to focus on new policies for career transition in the retirement age — those that are beneficial for employees as well as for the organizations that offer them.

A few of the most common alternative career paths for mature workers include entrepreneurship, entering the gig economy, volunteerism, philanthropy or joining a board of directors. Employees are looking to enrich their second phase of life with substance and meaning. This new vision of retirement requires job connections, career mapping and career transition services.

Here are four new ways to look at the old idea of retirement.

  1. Believe workers are never out of date. Avoid thinking that one particular path is the optimal one for every employee of traditional retirement age. When employers begin thinking outside the scope of normal, it’s possible to usher in new ways and opportunities for experienced workers to deliver value to the organization and find the next steps in their life paths. Avoid making assumptions about employee retirement age. More and more mature-age employees are continuing to work well past traditional retirement for the financial benefits as well as the personal satisfaction of working. Don’t give up on investing in employees and their journeys. Businesses that place a higher value on mature workers’ industry knowledge, maturity level and business perspectives will be the ones that reap the benefit of all that experience. Think about every employee as an individual and be ready to support each person.
  2. It’s about the journey, not the destination. While retirement parties and gold watches were traditionally viewed as rites of passage, they might not be what motivates your current mature-age employees. Regardless of generation or age, it’s been proven that employees place the highest value on finding meaning and purpose in their work, opportunities for professional growth, forming relationships with the colleagues they interact with every day, and compensation. HR professionals can enhance this employee experience by focusing on every aspect of the journey, from recruitment to the retirement experience. To provide a well-rounded employee experience, your investment shouldn’t be made solely at the end of the journey. As any financially savvy person would tell you, investing small amounts along the way will create a greater profit than investing large amounts toward the end of the investment period. When you provide support at every phase — such as continuing education, career coaching, flexible schedules, financial opportunities and career transition services — employees will gain the skills required to perform at their best for your organization. In addition, you will have made a commitment and investment in a person that will most likely benefit your company and your brand now and in the future.
  1. Flexible strategies are the greatest gift. Try gifting flexibility instead of a gold watch. As with any successful HR process, you need a plan, no matter how flexible you think you can be. Just because there is no “normal” doesn’t mean you can’t leverage a creative retirement program designed to engage workers and assist them in designing and planning a positive and productive late career and future retirement. The key is creating a plan without limitations or pre-set expectations, giving you the ability to remain flexible with each individual employee while providing some structure and guidance along the way. Most HR departments don’t have the bandwidth or personnel to design and execute a comprehensive creative retirement program on their own. With the right tools and resources, employees considering a creative retirement option will find the support they need to make a seamless transition. It’s often worth the time and resources to partner with a vendor dedicated to deploying creative retirement strategies, such as a contemporary outplacement services provider.
  1. Enlist a dedicated career coach. What can a career coach offer that your HR team probably can’t? Typically, career coaches can assist employees with in-depth retirement self-assessments designed to surface unique requirement motivators and critical considerations. Career coaches are a critical component to thinking outside of the retirement box. The more customized and creative the strategy, the more beneficial to the individuals and the employer.

For employees to get the most out of a career coach, leverage coaches who are experts in the employee’s field or future field. The coach should also maintain an open mindset and the ability to think beyond the scope of “normal” retirement. As mature-age employees consider alternative options like serving on a board of directors, entering the gig economy or volunteering their time, a career coach can bridge the gap by focusing in on helping employees carry their applicable skills from their current job to their next venture.

While these four ideas set HR professionals up to assist mature-age employees, they should really be applied in greater depth to the entire workforce. Focusing on creating a holistic experience for individual employees pays dividends for the employee and employer. Whether your employee is 72 or 22 or somewhere in between, don’t overlook the unique advantages they bring to your organization — and find ways to invest in their journey.

Lindsay Witcher is senior director global practice strategy for outplacement provider RiseSmart. Comment below or email

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