Human resources expert suggests potential retirees (and their employers) might find value in staying on the job a while longer

Contributed photography / Merri Mai Williamson
Contributed photography / Merri Mai Williamson

Travel. Start a business. Spend more time with friends and family, especially the grandkids. Volunteer. Allow a hobby to consume more of your time.

More than likely, one (or all) of these is on your wish list of things you want to do when you retire. Ahhh, the dream.

For some, the dream will be realized sooner rather than later. How soon depends on a number of factors. However, one consideration might "throw a monkey wrench" into the works.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that employers will see an increase in the number of older adults who will remain in the workforce between 2020 and 2030, with nearly 40 percent of adults (ages 65 to 69) remaining employed by 2030. This calculation is 33 percent higher than in 2020, when the financial circumstances of the older generations changed, requiring some retirement plans to be put on hold.

For some, delayed retirement may seem like more than just a "monkey wrench." But maybe, just maybe, there is a silver lining.

Faced with a talent shortage and difficult recruiting efforts, employers are more amenable to catering to the needs of the older generations. More flexibility in scheduling, as well as remote work opportunities, are two advantages, which will certainly get the attention of baby boomers and even a few traditionalists; and why not take advantage of their tenured experience and knowledge? It's a win-win, right?

The simple answer is "maybe."

First, as the retiree-want-to-be, make a list of what is most important: What do you really need right now in your almost-golden-years? It is critical that you know yourself and what it will take for the scales to tip in your direction. What will it take for you to stay in the workplace?

Before you answer those questions though, allow me to voice a warning: You cannot ask for too much. Be reasonable. Put yourself in the employer's shoes and determine what they could easily say yes to, without compromising their mission and goals at the end of the day.

And that leads us to the employer's perspective.

As the employer, it is imperative to know what you need to satisfy your objectives. A thorough analysis of the knowledge, skills and abilities required for your open positions will establish what type of individual might be most effective. If the data indicates that it is possible to have flexibility in scheduling or work environment, then your staffing troubles might be over.

It is as good a time as any to also suggest that the older generations have a wealth of information which could be shared with the less-experienced team members within your organization. This practical intelligence (also referred to as tacit knowledge) is gleaned over a lifetime of personal situations and professional experiences; and it can optimally be shared with others in the way they learn best -- by seeing or watching, listening, reading or taking notes, and by doing.

Of course, the employer must set the stage for a successful transference of a baby boomer's wisdom. Otherwise, the younger generations may not be receptive and might even feel compelled to shoot the messenger. You must establish the right atmosphere, to garner the greatest return on this investment.

But this investment has an expiration date. After all, the older generations have been dreaming of and working towards retirement for longer than the youngest generation has been in the workplace.

At some point, these seasoned workers will retire; and employers must hope that they have weathered the current staffing storm and are better positioned for the future. This includes a more prepared workforce with talented staffers, who have absorbed a lifetime of experience from the exiting retirees.

The bottom line is, take advantage of those seeking retirement. The older generations still have much to contribute, because they have been there and done that!

Merri Mai Williamson has worked in human resources for more than 30 years and holds two national certifications at the highest level. She is the founder of two Chattanooga businesses: Application Researchers, a background checking service; and a human resources consulting firm, HR Master Consultants. Williamson has been a member of Southeast TN SHRM for over 20 years and is a past-president of the organization. Southeast TN SHRM (formerly known as SHRM Chattanooga, shrmchattanooga.com) is the Chattanooga Chapter affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.org), whose mission is to create better workplaces in where employers and employees thrive together.