Retiree Re-Staffing Can Help Ease the Coming Brain Drain Crisis

Apr 16, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

What’s old is new again, as companies rediscover retiree re-staffing as a way of retaining the experience and skills of their Baby Boomer workers.

“Companies are losing way too much experience with the retirement of the Baby Boomers,” says Greg Doersching, founder of Bullseye Recruiting Process. “Some companies are sucking that experience back in on contract. They don’t have enough people to replace all of that experience.”

Doersching told Top Echelon that retirees will be the “contract candidate pool for the next five to 10 years, especially in areas like IT and Engineering.”

Cathy George, owner and founder of C.G. & Company in Odessa, Texas, says retiree re-staffing has been picking up steam in West Texas as the pace of hiring there has quickened. Previously it was mostly smaller firms that would rehire their retirees, but now, she says, the big service providers have entered the picture.

Besides simply finding enough talent to fill all the jobs, George says an almost even bigger challenge is housing the new workers. “There’s plenty of work, but no place to live,” she says, which is another reason the petroleum industry in the area is rehiring retirees.

Nationally, older workers are expressing a desire to re-employ after they retire. A survey by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder polled 878 employed, full-time 60+ year old workers, finding that 57 percent of them planned to look for another job once they retired. And that retirement is not far off. Almost half (49 percent) plan on leaving within four years.

While the median age of the U.S. workforce is now a bit over 42, some industries have a workforce much older. The average age of employed chemists, for instance, is 49. CENG, an owner and operator of nuclear power plants, says right on its careers page that the average age of energy workers is 50, with perhaps half of them likely to retire by 2020. Even the restaurant industry workforce is getting older. Ten years ago, the average age of managers was about 29; today it’s 37.

The Great Recession, which was thought by many — including Boomers themselves — to have so depleted their retirements funds and savings as to require them to delay retirement for years, now appears to not have had as big an impact. A new MetLife study found that 45 percent of the 65-year-olds are fully retired; 14 percent are retired, but work part-time or occasionally. “On average,” says the study, “Boomers who have not yet retired plan to do so by age 68.5.”

With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every single day, the potential impact on employers is significant, and, in some industries, critical. The Society for Human Resource Management, in a joint study it did with AARP, found 72 percent of HR professionals describing the impending brain drain as a problem or a potential problem. But only 5 percent have implemented specific steps to address the talent loss.

Many companies have taken some actions to prepare. Training and succession planning are the most common, though fewer than half the surveyed employers have done at least that much. But 30 percent have hired their retirees as consultants or temps; 24 percent have extended offers to work part-time to their retirees.

Short of an economic disaster, the march out the shop door is going to accelerate, which explains the growing interest by staffing companies and some independent recruiters in attracting retirees. Their pitch is appealing: flexible schedules, temporary and part-time work, variety, and no impact on any retiree benefits.

“They can work six months on a contract, and then cruise around in their RVs to the local casinos,” says Doersching. “Their houses are already paid for, and their contract assignments provide them with income.”

The pitch to employers is similar: no long-term commitment, flexibility, and, as more than a few staffing firms point out, by going through a third party to rehire their retirees, a company can retain experienced workers without jeopardizing their retirement benefits. (These rehires are legally employed by the staffing firm, and not their former company, thus avoiding complications with pensions and benefits.)

Cathy George, whose firm is mostly executive search, said some of the bigger petroleum and industry servicers have policies or benefit plans that prompt them to use staffing firms to rehire their retirees. “A lot of the majors out here are doing that,” she says.

Debbie Fledderjohann has been blogging about this developing trend for more than a year now. Writes the president of Top Echelon Contracting, “By bringing older workers in a on part-time, consulting or contract basis, employers can gain or retain these workers’ knowledge, while the workers can supplement their income and remain active on a more flexible basis so they can enjoy other activities and time with family.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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