Money & Life: 5 tips to manage retiring employees - Michelle Gibbings

In a recent article featured in Money & Life, Michelle offers her five tips to help employers better manage the process for employees retiring from the business, to ensure it’s a smooth transition.

When a valued employee leaves, years of knowledge and expertise can walk out the door.  This is particularly the case when an employee retires after many years of service.

While much is written and discussed about the importance of employees planning for retirement, the same goes for the employer.

The employer needs to actively manage the process for retiring employees to ensure there is a smooth transition, the employee leaves feeling valued and there is minimal disruption to the business.

The following are my top five tips for how to manage retiring employees.

1. Value experience

Don’t under-estimate the importance of having an age-diverse workforce. With age comes wisdom and experience, and so your older workforce brings a raft of skills and knowledge to the table.

Older workers can feel vulnerable as they see and hear stories about age discrimination in the workforce. Help them feel valued and be careful of overt questions or statements which they may interpret as you trying to get them to leave before they are ready and wanting to retire.

2. Plan ahead

It pays to have a proactive and planned approach to employee retirement. This starts with understanding each employee – as an individual – and knowing their retirement plans. This conversation needs to be conducted sensitively, so that the employee doesn’t feel like they are being pushed out the door.

If there is little trust between the employer and employee, the employee may be reluctant to express their plans for fear that it may jeopardise their current and ongoing employment arrangements.

In contrast, when an employee feels valued, they are more likely to trust their boss’ intent and therefore, be more willing to share their plans. With this in place, it’s easier to work towards a smooth transition, with the employee working collaboratively and productively to help manage the transition.

3. Be flexible

As part of this process, be open to having a range of options available that may help the employee transition, for example, from full-time to part-time working, or semi-retirement to full retirement.

Work with the employee to understand their needs and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of all the options, along with the associated pay and benefits that attach to each of the arrangements.

By talking through the options, you’ll uncover what works for the employee and what works for the business in relation to the type of work the employee currently performs. There may need to be adjustments to the type of work based on the hours they are wanting to work leading into retirement.

This open dialogue helps the employee make an informed choice based on their lifestyle desires and financial commitments. It also ensures that the agreed arrangement accounts for the business’ needs.

4. Gather knowledge

Once an agreed timeframe is in place for retirement, work through the knowledge and skill transfer that will be required. This can take a while, so ensure there is adequate time devoted to this step.

It is beneficial to actively involve the retiring employee in this process. They have worked in the role and so it makes sense to get them to document the process, including highlighting where key files are stored and the relevant systems and techniques that are used. It can also be useful to get them to outline their ideas for improvement and any key learnings.

Where relevant, involve them in training or mentoring the person who will be taking on their role. There may also be opportunities to have both employees work side-by-side for a time. The approach taken will depend on specific circumstances and the personalities of the people involved.

5. Put dignity first

Above all else, ensure the retiring employee is treated with dignity.

Our identity and sense of self is connected with the work we do, so there is a big identity shift when someone decides to retire. This can be a challenging time, and so it is very helpful for the employee that on entering this phase of their working life, they feel as though they have some control and autonomy over how it plays out.