Jim Emerman Executive Vice President, Encore.org

Jim Emerman Executive Vice President, Encore.org

Maybe because it’s my personal cause célèbre — not to mention my full-time job, as executive VP at Encore.org, a national nonprofit that aims to channel the skills of people in and beyond midlife for the greater good — but I’m always asking people what they’ll do next, if they plan to retire. Even when their plans include some time off, many people want to stay engaged with the wider world and make a constructive difference — and also recognize the need for continued income, even if it’s not their current full-time salary.

But too often, the conversation hits a dead end right there. As much as we like the idea of a ‘second act,’ few of us have given much thought to what our own second act might actually be. Retirement can look more like falling off a cliff than stepping onto a launch pad.

It’s unfortunate that companies large and small don’t offer much help to their employees in planning life beyond retirement. Often, assistance is bare-bones: a brief financial seminar or potential tuition reimbursement. But few corporations offer a structured program to help retirement-eligible employees negotiate the transition.

That’s the conclusion of new research by The Conference Board and Encore.org, which surveyed 91 employers to find out how they helped employees with these transitions. The answer: Not much.

Only 25% of employers do anything at all. Of those, only one in five — or 5% — have anything resembling a structured transition program.

We asked why companies don’t do more to help their employees move into their next chapter. The overwhelming reason: The transition to post-company life simply wasn’t a strategic priority.

Well, maybe not yet. But, as the report indicates, it should be — especially for companies that employ older workers. With Baby Boomers moving into what’s been considered the traditional retirement years, companies will soon confront very real challenges in managing their talent — both the employees they seek to retain and those who are ready to move on.

One of the most prominent benefits to companies like Intel, HP, IBM and a company called YourEncore (created for a consortium that includes P&G, Boeing and Eli Lilly), which have transition-planning programs, is a better toolset to develop and manage talent. These tools yield employees who are more engaged as they approach retirement, with a clearer sense of what can follow. In their second acts, they serve as ambassadors for their companies in the community, and they inspire loyalty among employees whose future second acts might be decades away.

Encore.org presented this research at our Encore2014 conference. The conversation included human-resources leaders from the corporate and nonprofit sectors, who agreed that transition-support programs were valuable resources. Last month, I joined Julie Wirt, Intel’s global retirement design manager, in a Conference Board webcast, where you can learn how Intel views the program and what it took to set it up.

One of the Encore 2014 panelists, Lisa Taylor, founder of Challenge Factory, shared a useful analogy. Growing up in a town laced with railroad crossings, Lisa learned that when a car is stalled on the tracks and a train is approaching, you should, perhaps counter-intuitively, run towards the train. That way, you’re less likely to be hit by flying debris.

With the “oncoming train” of changing workplace demographics barreling down the track, companies that run towards the train, anticipating the needs of employees who are looking for their next chapter, will avert the “flying debris” — and come out ahead, by retaining valuable talent for whom incentives make a powerful difference.

As Amber Wiseley, Intel’s Retirement Design Strategist for the Americas, noted at the conference, companies need any tool they can get their hands on to manage talent and make sure their workforce remains as motivated and productive as possible in a time when every dollar spent comes under scrutiny.


Jim Emerman
Executive Vice PresidentEncore.org
Guest BloggerThe Center on Aging & Work at Boston College
Email: jemerman@encore.org