The Near-Retirement Workforce

There’s a lot to be said about the “working in the business” as opposed to “working on the business” debate.  According to the theory, people spend so much time working “in the business” that they leave themselves almost no time to work “on the business.”

As a result, the future of the company suffers.  This is especially the case when it comes to assessing your workforce, especially those employees who are close to retirement age.  However, failing to conduct such an assessment—and to conduct it on a periodic basis—can have a negative impact on the future growth and prosperity of your company.

Gone forever

If you have employees who have worked for any substantial length of time—think 20 years or more—those employees are valuable in more ways in one.

Not only do they have the skill and experience cultivated by 20 years on the job, they also have extensive knowledge of your company and how it operates.  As a result of this combination of extensive knowledge and experience, many (if not most) of these employees form the bedrock of your organization.

And if they retire soon, they’ll be gone forever . . . and they’ll take what they know with them.

So in the interest of making sure that their departure doesn’t derail the company, an assessment needs to be conducted.  That assessment should include the following action steps:

  • Identify all members of the workforce who are conceivably within the age of retirement.
  • Decide which ones hold the most value in terms of their knowledge and experience.
  • Determine which employees would be the best candidates for 1.) Acting as a mentor for new employees (possibly their own eventual replacement), and/or 2.) Continuing to work for the company as a consultant or contractor upon their retirement.
  • Meet individually with these employees and inquire about their plans.  (It’s important during these discussions to convey to the employees their worth and emphasize the fact that you’re not trying to hurry them out the door.)
  • Suggest—if you believe the time is appropriate—your plans for making the employee a mentor or eventually offering them work on a contract basis following their retirement.  If you don’t believe the time is appropriate, make a note to broach the subject at a later date.

The consequences of inaction

Is this a time-intensive endeavor?  Yes, it is.  However, it’s also a crucial issue currently facing companies of all sizes, an issue that’s only going to become more urgent with the passage of time.  By addressing the issue now, and doing so in a pro-active fashion, you’ll reduce the chances that you’ll be forced to react to the consequences of inaction.

It’s often difficult to find time to “work on the business” . . . but this is one instance in which doing so will make it much easier to “work in the business” later on.

We encourage your participation and comments.

Also, please feel free to forward this blog to your friends and colleagues and to come back often.


Stacey Jerrold