Welcoming Back Formerly Retired Workers Can Help Ease Your Labor Crunch. Just Don’t Forget the Buddy System

To counter the persistent labor shortage, companies are increasingly taking advantage of a great source of talent: retirees.

The onset of the pandemic has hastened the retirement of many 60-year-olds who are now considering a return to the workforce — much like the Boomerangs, who have returned after leaving their jobs during the Great Resignation to their former employer. For companies looking to fill open roles, this category of experienced talent offers a solution. According to US Department of Labor statistics, non-farm payrolls increased by 199,000 in December, well below expectations, a shortage partly related to a labor shortage. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent.

Retirees who return to the workforce do so mostly because they want to, not because they have to. Besides their good behavior, they’re likely to be a quick study, because they’ve already worked for you, says Carol Fishman Cohen, founder and CEO of career re-entry training company iRelaunch. “They also have a mature perspective, they’re in a relatively stable period of life, and they tend to be very excited about getting back to work.”

Providing an environment in which they can thrive, says Christina Gialili, director of people operations at learning technology company Epignosis. She suggests customizing your onboarding process, prioritizing transitional guidelines that can inform employees of public policies and expectations that may have changed since they were last in the workforce. Another tip: Employees are refashioning day by day until they get what they want out of the job. They help you, remember.

Here are two other ideas to help make it easier for a formerly retired employee to return to work:

Create a training process.

Cohen says companies committed to hiring retired professionals could benefit from creating a more formal training process. This may sound like an apprenticeship that turns into full-time employment, or direct assignments with customized transition programming that helps them adjust back into the workplace. The training process for new employees should provide a “safe space to ask questions and voice concerns,” says Cohen. This can also give the company valuable insights into the effectiveness of the onboarding process as a whole.

Create a sense of community.

Don’t underestimate the buddy system. Cohen says that people who return to the job market can benefit from having a designated contact — another employee who is not their line manager — to help them with any questions that may arise after training. These contacts must understand that their “companion” is returning to the workforce after a rest period, and should be made aware of any information that may be useful to them to support re-entry (eg company protocols and technology the employee is expected to use). Managers should also conduct regular check-ins with these new employees to help them with the transition as well.

Jalili adds that one of the benefits of having multiple generations in the workforce is the opportunity to transfer knowledge in both directions. “An effective way to connect different viewpoints is through empathy and an attempt at ‘reverse mentoring,’ which allows different generations to share knowledge,” she says. “Also, allowing returning retirees to mentor younger colleagues can be a powerful tool, given that these employees have decades of experience to draw from.”

Leave a Comment