Many organizations during the recent downturn were focused only on immediate survival. Among the changes in the business climate over the last eight or so years is aligning skills and experience to support the new business operation strategies in a climate of transition. Organizations often have given little attention to how the business climate affected employees both financially and emotionally, and frequently missed how employment relationship has changed — and not to the advantage of the employer.
Given that, for a large segment of the working population, employer loyalty has taken a huge hit, the employer must determine a new game plan. It will be more than buying loyalty, engagement and dedication. That requires trust, which requires time as well as the money.
Step 1: Stabilize and analyze
To stabilize the employee base, especially those with business legacy knowledge that can become a resource for bringing newer staff up to speed after they’re hired or to fill the gap in the mean time, leaders may want to work with long-service employees. It requires an understanding of their needs so that they can be integrated with organization needs. This may also mean helping them figure out their own game plan.
In effect, leadership needs to do the analysis of what they need, what they have, what they could lose and how long it will take to replace or upgrade skill sets — and all on a workable timeline. Most businesses can do this if they have a strategic plan and can dedicate a concerted effort to figure this out. The other important ingredient involves the size of the requirements involved with those who are thinking about their next phase.
Step 2: Learn about ‘phase 3 living’
Stepping back a few years, people talked a lot about retirement. Just getting there was a primary goal in life. After working for an organization most of a lifetime, they would stop working and collect a pension. Today it is much more complicated; we have begun to recognize all the elements that influence “retirement.” In reality, preparing for this phase of life is actually so much more than just having “enough” money. It is truly a new phase that must be understood and organized.
The employer must also understand the various considerations or become mired in a wait-and-see mode much like the business owner who was missing opportunities because he or she took a wait-and-see approach during the recession. Sitting on your hands is not getting ready for the future. If you anticipate, you can find opportunities.
There are multiple elements of planning for Phase 3 living:
- Psychological aspects of job change. How much of the individual’s identity is wrapped up in what they do, how they do it and who they are associated with? How much of this changes with the loss or change of work?
- What does the employee visualize as the controlling aspects of their life going forward? Do they have a “bucket list” or a picture of what life will look like? Is it complete and have they got the means in place to make it happen? This may mean money, but it is likely to be so much more.
- One of the critical aspects of Phase 3 is where the employee lives. They may still be living in a house bought in consideration of work locations or raising a family. The house may not be desirable now and other housing factors may be under consideration, such as climate or recreational activities.
- Family matters may still be a strong consideration in the third phase of life, but perhaps in a different way than when the employee was younger. Do they have strong geographic ties because of tight family relationships, or have they scattered? Do they have parents who need support, or have they had a child or grandchild move in with them because of economic or family restructuring? There are also social changes with family relationships. The perceived standard family of Dad the breadwinner, Mom the homemaker, and two or three kids in a stable environment almost doesn’t exist, if it ever did.
- A critical element of phase 3 is staying connected — on a family, social, community and technical level. The job may be a critical part of these processes.
- Now add elements of how does the employee’s health or that of other family members play into Phase 3? Wellness and management of the aging process clearly has to be considered, from diet to exercise to special needs care. All of this can be wrapped into cost of care and insurance for health care.
- Falling right behind these issues are the various support programs of the employer coverages and Affordable Care Act. The employer can be instrumental as a decision-maker in this arena, and it certainly has an impact on employee retention.
- Do not forget a critical component of the Phase 3 support: Social Security. Timing can be critical and needs consideration as a couple, if that is in the mix. Employers may not directly control this but providing education can influence decisions.
- Consider the issues of employer pension, 401(k), 403(b), IRA, Roth IRA, annuities, etc.
- Consider insurance such as life, disability and long-term care. These last pointsmay also raise the issues of nursing homes or transitional housing arrangements.
- The tax man must still be paid so a little planning with wills, estate trusts and all the other matters to avoid probate, state and family interactions can be beneficial.
- There are still issues involved with managing “The Final Frontier.” Religious and family/non-legal family issues often surface during the period. This organizes such delicate matters as hospice, cremation, burial, as well as the legal issues of HIPAA, medical directives and who decides to end life.
There are multiple opportunities for the employer to play a role in the employee’s Phase 3 planning and can serve as an effective tool to retain skills by working the employee plans into a mutually beneficial model.
Ardon L. Schambers is a principal of P3HR Consulting & Services.