How to approach the tricky topic of retirement with staff

How should managers engage and motivate soon-to-retire staff – those who may think they deserve to take their foot off the pedal?

by Peter Crush

Britain might well boast record numbers of older (65 years +) workers, but since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s also been the case that more people are deciding to retire early. The average age is now 59 with one-in-four deciding to call it quits at this relatively tender age (source: ONS).

But while seeking adventurers-new is exciting for the cadre of the soon-to-be-free, for leaders, managing those in the final years/months of their careers can be something of a headache. Do they allow their staff to naturally begin to ‘wind-down’, or do they demand they contribute just as intensively as their younger peers? Would making allowances be seen as unfair to others that are much more hard working, and how should the subject of retiring even be broached? It’s a veritable minefield.

“I’ve seen for myself that people can start to ‘coast’, as they start to enter the final few years of their careers,” says executive coach and author Dr Joan Van Den Brink. “This presents issues for managers because they need to engage them and get the most from them, and provide older staff with fulfillment. But what’s also very obvious is that if they ignore the needs of this group, managers may be unwittingly setting the tone that their older staff matter less to them. This can be particularly the case if they give younger staff more interesting projects or projects that are more obviously more career advancing – and thus directed to younger people.”

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