Work+Life Flex as a Retention-Retirement Strategy? Yes, Say More Retirees and Companies

Recently, I was brainstorming with the CFO of a client about how to more accurately reflect the cost of regretted turnover in the operating numbers of individual business units.  His industry as a whole is experiencing intense competition for talent, so he wanted to figure out how to make the loss of a valued employee felt more directly by his line leaders.

As we spoke, he kept his focus on younger employees.  Then I suggested, "What about including regretted retirements in that calculation?"  He stopped and thought about it, "You know that’s something we might want to consider."  This organization already has used flexibility to stay connected with employees who had "retired"—some were consultants, others worked part-time.  And now the CFO was thinking about the loss of a professional who retires in terms of regretted turnover calculation.

The idea of using flexibility to strategically retain talent that would otherwise walk out of the door in retirement, was the focus of an excellent segment on NPR by Judy Martin, entitled "Workers, Employers Adjust to Phased Retirement."  Martin interviewed an IBM employee who reduced her schedule instead of retiring fully, and uses her extra time to play in a band!   Last week, The New York Times ran a number of stories discussing "working" flexibly in retirement. 

Clearly, there’s an awareness building that work+life flexibility is a strategy we all need to use, but it still isn’t a natural part of how we think about work and retirement.  We tend to make it about moms or younger employees, and in the process overlook a very important use of flex. 

One of my faithful readers, forwarded a posting from the Time Goes By blog entitled "This New Land of Old Age," a new book by Dr. Robert Butler called The Longevity Revolution—The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life, that looks at "the historically unprecedented shift in age distribution…" and challenges us to rethink many of our core attitudes and assumptions about aging.  Here’s an excerpt:

"The stereotype equates aging workers with nonproductive drains on society, but, ironically, older workers who remain productively employed are most likely to remain healthy and able to contribute to society than those who retire..."

It’s easy to focus the work+life fit debate primarily on attracting and retaining "young people."  And, yes, that is one very important objective.  But we need to keep pulling back the lens.  We need to remind ourselves that this is a strategic imperative for attracting and retaining all talent, including employees at the other end of the demographic scale—soon to retire Baby Boomers.

What do you think?  How do think Baby Boomers will redefine retirement, and what will that look like for all of us in terms of how we think of flexibility in the workplace? 

(To learn more about some of the financial considerations of working in retirement, check out the Wall Street Journal article by Toddi Gutner, "Pitfalls of Working in Retirement")


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  • Granville Sawyer

    Working flexibly in retirement should start with a clear understanding of what each employee is really good at, his/her core skills and talents, and what he/she has done and is doing well, how core skills and talents have been successfully applied. This is important because there’s no reason to assume that we will or want to keep doing what we’ve done on the job. There could be other ways our talent can be used more effectively. This will result in baby boomers redefining retirement based on an entrepreneurial evaluation of their skills and talents using tried and proven concepts of entrepreneurship. This only makes sense when we consider that the baby boom generation represents the greatest cache of skill, talent and experience in history of this country. This is a tremendous business opportunity! So why not exploit it using proven business principles? This will be done using the principles of Entretude ( to develop new and innovative opportunities for boomers to continue contributing to society for years to come. Take a look at the website to see how it can help you plan your future.

  • John Agno

    In recent years, the vast majority of Baby Boomers have told pollsters that, unlike their parents, they plan to work in retirement, they need continued income, and they want greater flexibility in phased retirement jobs. A survey of 1,000 Americans -- conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International - - was the first to ask those in their 50s (Baby Boomers) and 60s (Pre-Boomers) what type of work they aspire to, what they want to accomplish through this work, and why they want to do it.

    Survey results show that Boomers and Pre-Boomers want to do work that helps others, now and in retirement:

    Two out of the three types of work mentioned most often were jobs in education and social services. The third was retail.

    Want careers that are about people, purpose, and community: 59 percent say staying involved with other people is very important in attracting them to a job in retirement. 57 percent say it's very important that the job give them a sense of purpose.

    More at:

  • sam cusano

    I think that the "transition" to a new life stage is a critical issue for all baby boomers. We are living longer and staying healthier, and many of us want to continue to have a sense of Self Value. That comes from continueing to be productive in some way, and volunteer work is not always the answer. We want another shot at a career, most likely something we did not do before, that is productive and provides a sense of "worth".