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 ")