Living longer has been throwing up challenges for HR professionals for many years and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Unaffordable defined benefit retirement plans were an early casualty; increases in State pension age continue with age 75 being the latest prospect for anyone born after 1961. In parallel the changing demands of employers in our digital world have combined to create a new class of employee – the Reluctant Employee.

We’ve all met them, long serving and well liked, despite all the changes they continue to adapt to the challenges of continued employment – but their motivation is waning.

What’s the issue?

  • lack of control – their world continues to change about them. Starting out they had a set of expectations about what later life might hold. Often vague, they anticipated an orderly progression – their parents would die, their children would leave home and around the age of 65 they would ‘retire’. But life haven’t worked out that way. Increasing life expectancy means the parents (and even grandparents) are still around. Their children are taking their time leaving home and while Reluctant Employees may cling to the idea of retiring at 65 the financial challenges of paying for an active retirement appear increasingly insurmountable.
  • What next? Putting financial consider aside there is also the question of what they will ‘do’. One lament we hear frequently from the octogenarians we work with today goes along the lines ‘If I had known aged 65 that I would be alive, fit and well in my mid 80s I would played a little less and done something more constructive”. Reluctant Employee hear this and heed it. Added to which there may well be little choice – their declining pension prospects mean that they will have to remain economically active.

The role of HR?

Talk about it. Often this is an unspoken issue, Reluctant Employees feel guilty for thinking this way. Yet it is not their fault that the world around them has changed. By talking about the changes openly you can remove the sense of isolation and allows the underlying concerns to be addressed.

Talk money. EML’s work shows that, for the majority, financial concerns are not a real issue but are without doubt a Reluctant Employees biggest worry. Providing help and assistance to allow them to establish realistic projections of their income and expenditure going forward can make all the difference. From our work providing individual coaching we often find clients ‘disregard’ huge elements of their finances. Their biggest fear is the cost of funding a nursing home, yet they disregard the funds tied up in their biggest asset!

Take practical steps Progressive employers have already devised a range of initiatives to address these issues. Including:

  • Putting in place transitional arrangements. The move from full time employment to full time retirement can be as much of a shock for employers as employees. In the digital world trusted relationships are increasingly valuable. Consider retaining older staff on a part time consultancy basis. Their strong client bonds can smooth the way as younger staff struggle to take over the role.
  • Use grey hairs to good effect – some employers – B&Q and Tesco in retail, have created roles specifically designed for post retirement employees. Their previous experience and excellent interpersonal skills have proved invaluable.

As an HR professional Reluctant Employees are yet another challenge