What the Boomer generation looks for in a sunset career.

There’s been a trend across many industries lately in which members of the Boomer generation hit retirement age and leave the workforce only to return after a brief time out of the office. There are many reasons why some individuals choose to keep working past retirement age. But whatever the underlying factors are, the big question organizations are asking themselves is: how can we accommodate these post-retirement employees while also cultivating new talent?

Qualities to look for in the returning workforce.

Post-retirement hires can be an appealing prospect for many organizations in that they have a valuable skill set and yet their professional ambitions are driven much more by being productive vs. getting ahead. While younger generations are often driven by personal grow, career advancement, acquiring new skills, and taking on more responsibility, the returning workforce is much more about doing a good job – today.  For employers, this means that the returning workforce can offer a combination of high competence and low turnover.  As one of our clients said to me, “they can be counted on to show up and work in a predictable, low-drama sort of way”.

Among the reasons that many Boomers are compelled to return to work is a desire for social connection. They don’t need a new career, yet they miss the day-to-day interactions with colleagues.  The need by younger members of the workforce to keep climbing the career ladder also brings the headaches and stress that accompany that ambition. The returners want to contribute, but not necessarily lead or deal with the stressors that career advancement requires.

Attached to this is a sense of being able to work more on “my terms.” Work may not be something they need to do out of economic necessity, but it may be something from which they derive more personal satisfaction.   It is common for post-retirement employees to seek out jobs that appeal to them on an emotional level. They may have spent their career in an entirely different field, and this is their opportunity to devote their time and energy toward something they love.

Is this the new normal?

We’ve yet to see how long this trend will last, or if it will pass on to the next generation by choice or out of economic necessity. However, there are signs that retirement may mean something different for future generations. For instance, younger generations already view work as moving from one gig to the next. As these generations age, they will think less about going “back” to the workforce, and view these careers as the next “gig.”

Organizations will weather these shifting generational expectations best if they can learn how to address the dynamics of operating in a gig economy. In the meantime, by embracing post-retirement employees, employers can benefit from the expertise, dedication and stability these ‘returners’.  And an unexpected benefit may be a multi-generational workforce that are all driven by a desire to contribute – for as long as is makes sense to the employee to be there.

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