Man And Woman Playing With Water Hose

Retirees will be coaxed into unretirement to fill workforce gaps

Is the tranquillity of retirement under threat?

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
3 minute read
Man And Woman Playing With Water Hose

They once formed a highly experienced part of the workforce, were exceptionally loyal, displayed a strong work ethic and had well-developed networks and leadership skills.

Now they have joined the silver brigade, age wave or grey army.  

They are our retirees, who have chosen to clear out their desks for a life of lawn bowls, golf, walking the dog and long leisurely lunches.

In the middle of a jobs boom, where getting the right staff for the job is proving increasingly tough, the tranquillity of retirement is under threat.

Indeed, retirees are increasingly being coaxed back into the workplace to fill vacancies as the economy bounces back from the pandemic.

Ask employers about the current challenges of getting staff into jobs and the stories flood forth.

The complaints include that while hundreds might apply for a vacancy, many do not have the required knowledge and experience. Others are not considered to be serious job seekers.  

There is also a growing trend for those who are invited for an interview to ghost employers by not returning their calls or failing to show up at the interview, even if they had agreed to do so.  

It appears fashionable, too, for some job seekers to accept a role only to have an abrupt change of heart just days later – most likely because of a better offer from another employer.

This is where the retirees come into play.

The benefits of attracting those who left the office world some time ago to return to work represent a win-win for employers.

Employers require reliable staff for short and part-time roles while retirees are interested in opportunities to top up their financial resources or receive an injection of social stimulation.

Apart from their experience and maturity, retirees invariably require little or no training and minimal support or supervision. 

And when it comes to flexibility, many are happy to work when the employer has specific needs and return to retirement if and when work dries up.

That flexibility is a boon for bosses seeking to build a fast-moving and highly adaptive workforce at the same times as keeping costs downs but skill levels and experience high.

However, bringing retirees back to the workplace requires bosses to approach recruitment in a different way.

Retirees are not desperate to return to the workplace and will not drop everything to take up a work assignment.

Often, retirees will only take on a role if it does not disrupt established or fixed routines like babysitting the grandchildren, completing a regular shift of volunteering in a community organisation or continuing weekly long lunches with long-term friends.

It may be unlikely, too, that a retiree will cancel a four-week grey nomad experience to take up a 12-week full-time stint back in the office.

The bottom line is the work needs of retirees are unlike those of other employees. 

While retirees will be flexible to a point, it is often a case of work being able to accommodate their retirement lifestyle – and not the other way around.

Consider, too, that if bosses are especially keen to attract retirees back into the workplace they should recognise many older workers are attracted to roles which allow them to share their decades of experience and expertise with others via mentoring or coaching roles.

And we should not dismiss the fact that allowing retirees to work from home or other remote locations will be a major drawcard for many.

A call for retirees to return to our workplaces for just some of their precious time represents a largely untapped resource for businesses of all shapes and sizes.   

Not only will periods of unretirement benefit employers but society will be enriched by the retirees’ experience – and the entire community will receive a financial dividend if seniors are better placed to meet their day-to-day living expenses.

Employers require reliable staff for short and part-time roles while retirees are interested in opportunities to top up their financial resources or receive an injection of social stimulation.