Imagine for a moment you are a new employee, in the early stages of your career, and have joined an organization with a long corporate history and a fairly large cadre of long-serving employees less than 10 years from retirement eligibility. You are excited to be there... filled with optimism, potential, desire to make a difference... make a mark for yourself... anxious to meet others who share your enthusiasm, and with whom to build towards the future.
Then you start noticing an interesting set of behaviors.
There are regular retirement parties and receptions hosted by the organization. There are also parties for long years of service; fifteen years, twenty five years etc. Human Resources announces regular retirement preparation seminars. There is an organizational preoccupation with knowledge risks associated with departing employees. You hear about many spontaneous after-work get togethers of small groups of long-serving employees, often meeting with recent retirees to stay in touch and celebrate their new "lives." In elevators, hallways, in the cafeteria you hear snippits of conversations about retirement. There are retirement conversations in the social talk before and after formal meetings. You overhear conversations where people say "I'll be glad to get out of here.. " "I can't wait to retire.. "Only X days!"
Of course, in the context of broader corporate culture, there are often many more signs of what is becoming uppermost in the minds of many.
So, as a new employee, how does this make you feel? Is it a motivator, or demotivator? Do you see it as an opportunity, or a reason for escape? Is it a sign of the early stages of organizational renewal, or the later stages of organizational decline?
Ultimately, I don't think there is any value in attempting to prevent retirement coming to the forefront of many organizations - it would be too much like a fish trying to swim upstream. But what would have value is to consciously devote more focus on the new employee.
- looking carefully at the characteristics of different generations and what they seek in the work environment and employee / employer relationships
- recognize that the definition of "retain" in "attract and retain" will mean different things in the very near future, if it doesn't already
- craft a challenging - ENGAGING - work environment that helps maximize their value, contribution, and voluntarism while they are in the organization
- build opportunities and work process that support the collaborative co-creation of new knowledge with co-workers, and the capture of vital foundational knowledge as a seamless part of the process
- consistently recognize the value of ALL employees, not just the upcoming retirees, whether explicitly or implicitly.