The ‘disconnect’ between boomers and employers

What you can do now to shape your own future

Suzanne Armstrong, president of Life’s Next Steps, a program helping soon-to-be retirees plan for the future, examines recent research showing a disconnect between active Canadian boomers, who want to remain engaged with the workforce rather than retire completely, and Canadian employers who remain slow to tap into the nation’s vast and valuable boomer talent pool.

A recent survey conducted by Toronto career consultants Life’s Next Steps reveals a troublesome gap between the goals of Canada’s ever-ambitious boomers and their employers.

Our Fall 2008 survey of more than 900 boomer employees across Canada revealed:
•60% wish to continue working into retirement in some way;
•Only 30% have a “lifestyle plan” in place for retirement years;
•81% would take advantage of retirement planning assistance if provided.

With a little help from their employers – many facing current or future talent shortages in practically any industry you care to name – today’s active boomers are ready and willing to remain in the workforce to varying degrees.

Unfortunately, the survey also shows that only 5.9% of employers – or about one in 20 – today offer any kind of lifestyle planning to these older and able boomer employees.

It is worth noting as well that our survey was conducted just as Canada’s economy took a dramatic turn for the worse, forcing many boomers at the retirement threshold to seriously revisit the question of full retirement amid new financial worries.

All things considered, it should be clear to employers right now that there is a considerable talent pool of experienced boomers waiting to help out on the workforce planning front. And there is no doubt that employers will need help in that area.

Consider new research from the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in which many firms polled say they recognize boomer retirements as somewhat of a threat to their business in terms of staffing and doing business, yet relatively few are doing anything to connect with the many boomers interested in staying on the job and easing any labour crunch.

According to the HRPA’s Fall 2008 survey:
•44% of firms called the retirement wave “somewhat of a threat” or a “big threat” to meeting future business objectives;
•more than 75% said they are less than fully prepared for the departure of boomers;
•78% have not surveyed older employees on their retirement plans.

Taken together, all of these statistics spotlight what I would call a serious “disconnect” between Canadian employers and their older employees: Boomers want to stay connected to the workforce but employers seem indifferent, even while recognizing future staffing issues.

What is the message if you are nearing the threshold of retirement and hoping to stay connected to work? My advice for getting a better handle on the future you want is simple:

•Map out a specific plan that shows exactly what your retirement will look like. Ask yourself how you will spend your time and devise a detailed month-by month, year-by year roadmap for your future;