The term “phased retirement” is used far too loosely to cover employer practices as diverse as one-off deals between a manager and a favored employee and the widely used strategy of “terminate/rehire” older workers as contractors. True Phased Retirement may be a less familiar term that envisions a time-limited reduction from a full-time to less than full-time role. It means enabling a modified or reduced schedule as part of retiring from a full-time position. Our approach to phased retirement programs assumes:
To achieve the goal of retention of valued employees beyond “retirement age” or as their perception of desirable work changes, we recommend to employers that:
- The options have to be diverse enough to appeal to a range of employee profiles
- Each retiree’s work needs to be systematically re-prioritized to align with reduced schedules
- A clear plan for knowledge transfer and mentoring has to be well-designed and executed
- Mutual Respect skills training/coaching are invaluable for maximization of the employee and manager experience
In exchange for employees meeting these requirements, a mutually beneficial and respectful approach will:
- Assure extended employment on a flexible and/or reduced schedule
- Provide prorated benefits with no structurally negative impact on pension terms
- Encourage the elimination of low-value work and systematic engagement in mentoring
Typical steps in our projects include:
- Pre-retiree research Leader and manager interviews and employee focus groups enable the design of a customized program to maximize satisfaction and retention in a cost-efficient way.
- Creative comp and benefits design We collaborate with an internal cross-functional team on a rewards redesign with fairness, proportionality and neutral pension impact at the core.
- Work redesign To address the employee worry that phasing workers could end up working full-time on reduced pay and manager concern that critical work might not get done, we modify and deploy a tool and process for collaborative work redesign. It is an essential element of our standard proposal process.
- Transferring knowledge We bring to the hope of knowledge transfer a collaborative tool and process that requires managers and employees to work together to define outcomes, timelines and metrics for the desired transfers. This tool is also required in the proposal process.
- Superior communications The messages introducing the program need to be clear and effective across multiple channels and describe a voluntary and selective, not mandatory program. We adapt proven materials to prepare managers to explain and employees to understand the program.
- Online guidance and training There are many “moving parts” in these programs. We develop easily accessible, online one-stop shops for understanding the program and using its tools well. Deeper skills training and coaching can be customized and delivered.
A Phased Retirement Success Story from
This well-designed initiative retains key talent and transfers knowledge
In the US, over 3,000 of biopharmaceutical AbbVie’s 29,000 employees were eligible to retire. Having spun off from parent company Abbott, it placed a premium on retention of its highly skilled, technically unique workforce and turned to a phased retirement program as part of its strategy.
In the face of manager skepticism, we assisted in the development of a voluntary, manager-approved approach that included annual enrollment, a formal proposal process with a knowledge transfer and work redesign plan. We helped develop manager and employee communication tools that contributed to a smooth rollout.
Participants in the program could reduce to 80% time, take an additional 5 weeks of vacation with a full-time schedule or reduce travel or supervisory responsibilities in their current positions. Benefits were prorated in all cases and pension benefits were kept intact. Over 260 AbbVie employees have participated in the program in the past 4 years and in internal surveys, managers and employees reported high levels of satisfaction.