What's Your Job Doing to Keep You from Retiring?

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-09-28 Print this article Print

Home Depot may not be the first company people think of when they think of organizations that aggressively recruit older workers, but that's usually before they hear about its Snowbird program.

Snowbirds, a term for Americans of retirement age who head south for the winter while living up north in the summer, aren't exactly considered ideal job candidates by most employers. Yet, Home Depot saw the knowledge and presence of these employees as essential to their business, and created a program that adapted to their schedules.

"From partnering with the AARP, we learned that there are more and more workers who do not want to retire. So, we've made an effort to blur the retirement age at our company. We believe that if you really love what you do, you're not 'working.' You're getting paid to do what you enjoy," Marlon Sullivan, senior director of staffing for the Home Depot told a panel audience at the U.S. Chamber's ICW (Institute for a Competitive Workforce) at its annual Education and Workforce Summit, Sept. 25, in Washington, D.C.

"Our message to them is 'you can work for us for as long as you'd like to.'"

According the Bureau of Labor statistics, 16.2 percent of the work force was comprised of employees aged 55 and older in 2005; by 2050, this number is slated to grow to almost one-fourth (23 percent).

A survey released on Sept. 25 by Monster.com found that organizations weren't adequately prepared for the impending "brain drain" brought on by employees who retire. They knew these shortages were looming, but only 23 percent had plans in place to identify the knowledge that needed to be protected.

Among other pieces of advice, the survey recommended that employers create incentives to keep their older workers around.

The Home Depot lets their most knowledgeable older workers become SMEs, or subject matter experts, and leverages them to lead and train others. It doesn't just help the company plan for their retirements, it makes their jobs more interesting.

Westinghouse offers flextime, alternative work schedules and telecommuting, and it also lets older workers get out of their cubes and the routine of their day-to-day jobs and mentor younger workers.

Is your workplace doing anything to make the job more appealing for older workers? Or, are they pulling an EDS?

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