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Unretired: Return to the Workplace
Can the Unretired Help the Labor Shortage?
Employers across the US are seeing are seeing an increase of “unretired” workers. These quietly returning professionals could be a stopgap for an industry desperately short on personnel.
Whether they were furloughed, laid off, offered early retirement or simply quit, many senior industry professionals opted to retire in 2020 and 2021. The common refrain we heard at the time was, “I saw this company through 9/11, through the Great Recession, through all the recent technological innovations – I’m just not up for yet another disruption. Let the next generation give it a go.”
Why are so many coming back now?
Inflation’s affect on savings is the first motivator to comes to mind but that may not be the complete picture. Joblist’s 2022 Job Market Report included an, admittedly, small survey of roughly 500 “retired” job seekers. They found that only 27% said they were returning to work out of financial concerns (21% citing inflation and 5% the stock market).
Most of the unretirees (60%) said they were “looking for something to do.” Moreover, the surveyed group had an exceedingly positive outlook: 52% said they were “happy” to return and 42% said they were “excited.” Only 20% said they were “nervous” while 5% chose “stressed” and 4% “frustrated.”
Is this good news for employers?
Possibly. Our industry, like many others, lost tribal knowledge when so many senior employees left in 2020. According to Joblist, the pandemic caused more than “two million premature retirements” in the US. This returning wave could offer companies a second chance to retain that valuable know-how by partnering the unretired with less experienced coworkers.
Certainly adding candidates back into the job market will relieve some of the pressure for straining hiring managers. Joblist CEO, Kevin Harrington, commented to Forbes senior contributor, Joseph Coughlin: “Could be good news for employers. Retirees are an overlooked talent pool that companies can and should engage in order to combat labor shortages.” But the survey also brings up some complicating factors for employers to consider.
- Schedules. 79% of respondents said they were only looking to come back part-time. Only 6% said they were on-board for full-time work again while 16% said they were open to either. This preference for more flexible schedules makes sense but could challenge management in setting responsibilities, territories, schedules and compensation.
- Rusty. Many professionals saw this when furloughed workers returned in 2020-21. When you haven’t been working for a few years, it will doubtlessly be difficult to get back into the swing of things. Companies will need to plan for this in their training and on-boarding process.
- Age discrimination. It shouldn’t happen but it does happen. Coughlin brought up concerns affecting older jobseekers: “How do you write a resume with several decades of varied experience? How to prepare for an interview with someone your child’s or even grandchild’s age?” He is optimistic, however, hailing the unretired as “pioneers” who are “inventing something that is neither our current idea of retirement or of work. They are quietly creating something else — a new life stage altogether that sees the retirement age of today as a mile marker, not an exit.”
- Long-term solutions. Bringing back the unretired is a potentially beneficial stop-gap but it isn’t a long-term solution. 51% of the unretired say they want to stay at least three more years, 14% one to two years, 2% for less than a year while the remaining 33% are unsure. The generational change cannot be stopped, only delayed. This opportunity calls for a two-pronged approach: Employers who bring on senior professionals and continue hiring and training the next generation will set themselves up for success.
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