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Capture the Intellectual Property of Retiring Employees

5/10/21

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Authored by: Martha McClain, HR Consultant

How many Baby Boomer employees (those born between 1946 and 1964) will be leaving your organization in the next five years?

When retiring employees clear out their desks and walk out the door for the last time, they often leave with fond memories — as well as vast amounts of intellectual property stored in their brains.

Unfortunately, few organizations take the time to "debrief" retiring employees. Increasingly, companies are rethinking their approach and deploying innovative work arrangements that provide for the transfer of invaluable intellectual capital before employees retire. This can include:

  • Four-day work weeks,
  • Work from home arrangements,
  • Job sharing,
  • Part time work, and
  • Consulting and special project assignments.

Slowly easing retiring employees toward the exit sign can ensure that your company retains its intellectual property, as well as help employees smoothly transition into the next phase of their lives. With a proactive plan, important information and processes can be conveyed effectively from retiring employees to those remaining.

But that's not all – here are some additional considerations:

Phasing retirement can avoid compromising relationships with customers and clients. Understanding their expectations and responding accordingly can make the difference between financial success and failure.

Employees often establish long-term relationships with customers and clients that are based on trust and mutual respect. When an employee with decades of experience leaves an organization, the effect on the customer base can be dramatic. People inherently dislike change. If a connection with an employee is suddenly broken, customers may take it as a sign to move their business elsewhere.

Delaying the expenses of hiring and training. Finding suitably qualified candidates for vacancies can be time consuming and costly. Once a candidate accepts the position, the challenging process of integration begins.

Depending on the size of your company, teaching a new employee the company's processes and technologies can take months or sometimes years. That's assuming the employee doesn't leave for a more promising opportunity before their training is complete. If that happens, the process starts over, often to the frustration of staff members who are asked to train yet another new employee.

Keeping retiring employees engaged is far less costlythan it might have been in previous decades. People are living longer, healthier lives. With medical advances and increased awareness of the dangers of certain lifestyles, life expectancy continues to increase for most segments of society. As employees expect to live longer, they are taking better care of themselves. Healthier employees result in lower health expenses and less sick time taken.

At the same time, technological advancements make it easier than ever for your most experienced employees to work from home, either full-time or part-time.  Furthermore, many people don’t necessarily want a leisurely retirement where they don't work at all.

An additional benefit of retaining tenured employees is they generally spend less time on social media and the Internet than the younger generations. According to various studies, businesses are losing billions of dollars a year as a result of employees spending work hours online. While older employees may still use social media, it generally doesn't control them. Older generations are less likely to spend hours updating their statuses and tweeting at work.

Bottom line: Offering pending retirees a phased exit plan authorizes them to gradually prepare for retirement while allowing employers to maximize the value of their efforts and knowledge — often at lower effective salaries. If structured correctly, alternative work options won't limit the potential for younger employees to advance. In fact, such arrangements may actually accelerate the advancement of younger employees, as they are able to fully incorporate the lessons learned from the previous generation's experiences.

For any questions related to this article or Human Resources Consulting in general, please contact Martha McClain at mmcclain@vlcpa.com or 800.887.0437.