MetLife recently published a report detailing the results of their survey of employers’ concerns regarding the issues they face related to the retirement of a growing number of older workers.
As recently as five years ago, concerns about the pending retirement of aging Baby Boomers were prevalent. Dire predictions regarding “Brain Drain” from the workforce were widespread. Today we know that these predictions were a bit premature, however, still relevant. Because of the economic recession, older workers are more apt to stay put past the time many expected them to retire. They are attempting to shore up their embattled retirement nest eggs through prolonged work.
Against the backdrop of changing retirement plans and economic recession, MetLife surveyed 240 retirement plan sponsors at companies with 1,000 or more employees in order to better understand employer attitudes toward older workers during the current economic crisis.
The resulting report indicates that a new model of retirement is emerging. Traditional forms of retirement involved clear-cut boundaries between work and leisure. Abrupt retirements with a fixed career end-date were the norm. Today the burden of retirement security has shifted onto the individual worker away from the company, represented by moves from employer paid defined-pensions to employee funded 401Ks.
A more gradual approach to retirement has emerged as a response to the shift in retirement burden and to the current uncertain economic climate. Employees are no longer seeking an abrupt break in work because they are facing a fair riskier post-retirement future than generations before them. 401Ks are proving to be risky investments and substantial drops in their value have led many to prolong their worklife in order to ensure economic security into the future.
On the employer side, however, the fear of a knowledge drain from a mass retirement among baby boomers is the primary worry. Very few employers have planned for knowledge transfer to during periods of high frequency retirement. Yet, the MetLife study found that 74% of employers are primarily concerned about it. Nearly two-thirds of employers believe the knowledge drain is going to hurt their productivity.
Employers approach to managing the retirement related transitions have been piecemeal and very limited. Employers who have taken steps related to managing an aging workforce have used retraining, telecommuting, flexible/seasonal employment, technology-based tools, and retirement planning seminars to help.
For more information see the report at http://www.metlife.com/assets/institutional/services/cbf/retirement/EmergRetireModel-Study.pdf.