HomeEmployee ExperienceEngagementTapping into tenure: Re-engaging retirees to fill skill shortages

Tapping into tenure: Re-engaging retirees to fill skill shortages

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The trend of retirees re-entering the workforce is on the rise, presenting both opportunities and challenges for organizations. By understanding the motivations and preferences of retirees, businesses can develop targeted strategies to re-engage this valuable demographic.

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Retirement has traditionally been seen as a time for rest and relaxation after years of hard work. However, recent trends indicate a significant shift in this paradigm, with an increasing number of retirees expressing a desire to re-enter the workforce. This change can be attributed to various factors such as personal reasons, financial needs, and a desire for fulfillment. In this article, we will explore strategies for re-engaging retirees based on the available research and data.

Retirement trends

Retirement trends among the baby boomer generation indicate a steady increase in retirement rates and a growing interest in re-entering the workforce. According to a primary source, as of 2021, 50.3 percent of adults in the U.S. over the age of 55 reported being retired, representing an increase from 48.1 percent in the third quarter of 2019. Furthermore, the retired population of individuals aged 55 and older grew by 3.5 million between 2019 and 2021. While specific data on the number of new retirees since 2021 is unavailable, these statistics highlight the significant shift in retirement patterns and the increasing number of retirees seeking re-engagement opportunities.

Motivations for retirees’ return to work

Understanding the motivations behind retirees’ decision to return to work is crucial in developing effective strategies for re-engagement. Various factors influence this trend, including personal reasons, financial needs, boredom, loneliness, enjoyment of working, inflation, and fear of outliving savings.

Approximately 1.5 million retirees reentered the workforce between 2021 and 2022. This statistic demonstrates the growing interest among retirees to remain active professionally. To better understand their preferences, it is important to explore what appeals to retirees about returning to work and who might be the easiest to entice.

Preferences and demographics

A staggering 96 percent of returning retirees report being approached by their former employers to come back to work, and 59 percent of those returning are in remote positions. They show a strong preference for flexibility, with 53 percent seeking a remote position and another 27 percent desiring a hybrid role. Additionally, 65 percent of returning workers express a desire for full-time positions. The return-after-retirement trend is especially popular in the tech industry, which accounts for a hefty 44 percent of retired re-hires.

Strategies for re-engaging retirees

1. Flexible work options

Offering flexible work arrangements, including remote, part-time, and freelance opportunities, can be a compelling incentive. Retirees often seek greater control over their schedule and location, allowing them to balance work with personal commitments.

2. Utilizing experience and skills

Capitalizing on retirees’ wealth of knowledge and experience is a win-win situation. Providing opportunities for them to utilize their skills in meaningful roles not only benefits organizations. It also gives retirees a sense of fulfillment.

3. Bridge programs

Implementing bridge programs that facilitate a smooth transition from retirement to re-employment can be effective. These programs can offer training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to retirees, helping them adapt to the changing work landscape.

4. Targeted recruitment

Identifying and reaching out to retirees who possess the desired skills and experience can yield positive results. Former employees who left on good terms could be particularly receptive to returning, given that a significant percentage of them are asked by their previous employers to come back.

Potential pitfalls when re-engaging retirees

Hiring retirees can be an enticing option for organizations looking both to fill empty roles and to tap into a wealth of experience and knowledge. However, it is important to be aware of the potential pitfalls that may arise when bringing retirees back into the workforce. Preparing in advance can help employers get the most out of their talent strategy. As a bonus, most of these action steps will make your company stronger overall, whether or not retirees return.

1. Health and physical limitations

Retirees may face certain health and physical limitations that can impact their ability to perform certain tasks or work extended hours. It is crucial to assess their capabilities and provide suitable accommodations to ensure their well-being and productivity.

2. Resistance to change

Retirees may have become accustomed to a certain work culture or practices during their previous employment. Introducing new technologies, methodologies, or work dynamics may be met with resistance or reluctance to adapt. It is important to provide adequate training and support to help retirees navigate any changes in the workplace.

3. Time horizon conflicts

They may have different motivations and priorities compared to younger employees. They may also be less interested in long-term career development or advancement opportunities. Returning retirees may also have limited availability for long-term projects. Staff projects wisely and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to talent development.

4. Generation gap and team dynamics

They may have a considerable generation gap with existing employees, which can lead to differences in communication styles, work preferences, and attitudes. It is essential to foster a harmonious work environment that encourages collaboration and understanding across different age groups.

5. Skills obsolescence

Depending on the retiree’s industry and the length of their retirement, there is a possibility that their skills and knowledge may have become outdated. Organizations need to assess the relevance of their expertise and provide necessary training or resources to bridge any skills gaps.

6. Retirement mindset

Retirees may still carry a retirement mindset, which can result in a lack of ambition or willingness to take on challenging assignments. It is important to set clear expectations and provide opportunities that align with their aspirations and the organization’s needs.

To mitigate these risks, organizations should establish clear communication channels, provide ongoing support and training, and carefully align the expectations and goals of retirees with those of the organization. By doing so, organizations can effectively harness the valuable skills and experiences that retirees bring while overcoming potential challenges.

The role of retirees will continue to grow

The trend of retirees re-entering the workforce is on the rise, presenting both opportunities and challenges for organizations. By understanding the motivations and preferences of retirees, businesses can develop targeted strategies to re-engage this valuable demographic. Offering flexible work options, leveraging their expertise, and implementing bridge programs are effective ways to tap into the talent pool of retirees and create a mutually beneficial relationship. As the retiree population continues to grow and evolve, organizations must adapt their recruitment and retention strategies accordingly.


Amy C. Waninger is the CEO of Lead at Any Level, where she helps organizations that promote from within so they can keep their employees—and keep them engaged, which results in lower turnover costs, greater innovation, and higher productivity. She is the author of eight books, including Surviving the Labor Crisis. Learn more at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com

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