Retirees Are Re-entering the Workforce: What It Means for Employers

Some retirees who voluntarily left the workforce are now returning. Learn about the benefits of hiring or rehiring them, and how to best transition them back to work.

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Retirees Are Re-entering the Workforce: What It Means for Employers

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a mass exodus of employees quitting their jobs, also known as the “Great Resignation.” Research shows that the top reasons people left their jobs in 2021 are low pay and no advancement opportunities. Retirement-aged employees, as well, found themselves heading for the door.

The Employee Benefits News website says, “Retirement-aged employees were the first to go when COVID began.”  As employers sought to cut costs to cope with the economic fallout from the pandemic, many decided to begin with retirement-aged employees.

However, the labor market has struggled to recover, and employers are scrambling to fill the staffing hole opened up by the Great Resignation. Now, they are turning to retirees (who they previously let go) to help plug the gap. Note, as well, that some older workers who voluntarily left the workplace are now returning. In a recent study, 20% of retirees said their previous employers asked them to return. What’s more, 34% considered returning due to available job opportunities stemming from the labor shortage.

Read on to learn the benefits of hiring or rehiring retirees, and how to reacclimate them to your workplace.

In a recent study, 20% of retirees said their previous employers asked them to return. What’s more, 34% considered returning due to available job opportunities stemming from the labor shortage.

Benefits of hiring or rehiring retirees

Observers say that retirees returning to the workplace is positive for the labor market. It’s good for business, too.

Here are some advantages older workers bring (according to research):

  • Skills and experience. Retirees know their way around the workplace, and have honed their skill set over time. This means you spend less time and money training them. In some industries, especially those requiring a high level of dexterity, it can take a long time for employees to master the technical prowess needed for the job. You can significantly shorten that time by hiring skilled, experienced older workers.
  • Commitment and reliability. Older workers remain in their jobs longer, and bring a strong work ethic to the workplace. They don’t job hop as much as their younger counterparts, and are less likely to take days off.
  • Culture add. Rehired retirees are a natural culture add because they already know and once conformed to your values and norms. Generally speaking, older workers bring a certain maturity to the workplace that aligns with a positive culture.
  • Confidence. This is a key trait of high-performing employees, and older workers tend to have it. They are confident in their knowledge, skills, and abilities. This quality can rub off on younger employees and inspire them to accomplish their goals.
  • Training and mentorship. Older workers can help to not only train inexperienced employees but also mentor them. They can also assist with cross-training so that your company will be better prepared for staffing shortages.
  • Diversity. By hiring older workers and retirees, you indicate your support for a multigenerational and age-diverse workforce.
  • Customer connection. Rehired retirees may find it easy to connect with your customers because they already know your products/services, target audience, and brand.

Additionally, research shows that older workers attract more business, are integral to the business brand, and typically can overcome the perceived technology gap.

How to ease retirees back into the workplace

Some retirees go back to work because they need the money to pay for living expenses or travel and leisure activities. Others just want to work because they find it more meaningful than staying in retirement.

If you’ve decided to hire or rehire retirement-aged individuals, it’s important to do so in a formalized, thoughtful manner. Below are some tips.

Obtain an understanding of why retirees are returning to work. This allows you to gauge their needs, plus develop a plan to help meet those needs where possible. Some retirees go back to work because they need the money to pay for living expenses or travel and leisure activities. Others just want to work because they find it more meaningful than staying in retirement.

Be clear about the requirements for the role. Even if the retiree is a rehire, you still need to inform them of the duties, responsibilities, and expectations for the role. You should also have a thorough onboarding strategy for acclimating each new hire or rehire to your workplace. 

Keep personal and medical needs in mind. As people age, they incur more medical challenges. Therefore, older workers may need more flexibility in their work schedule to accommodate their medical needs. Older people also tend to have more specialized travel needs. According to one study, “Older workers with a disability were less likely to drive alone to work and more likely to carpool or work from home.”

Have a training plan ready to go. Provide all of the training and resources the newly hired or rehired employee will need to get the job done. If a retired employee is returning to your workplace, the amount of training depend on various factors, including the job requirements, how much knowledge the employee has retained, and the employee’s current competencies.    

Encourage a respectful, supportive work environment for older workers. Extend a warm welcome to them on their first day and do everything you can to make them feel like part of the team. This includes prohibiting ageism in your workplace.

Have your administrative ducks in a row. This means being prepared to process all paperwork relating to the newly hired or rehired retiree. You will need to ensure the employee is paid on accurately and time and that everything is copacetic with their benefits. An integrated time/labor, onboarding, HR, benefits, and payroll solution can speed up the administrative process while keeping accuracy intact.

Include older workers in your engagement and retention strategy. If employees are not engaged in their work, they are a flight risk — regardless of age. That said, while you should make every effort to keep older workers on board, you should also have an exit strategy for when they decide to leave your workplace for good.

Pay attention to relevant laws

When hiring or rehiring retirees, you must adhere to applicable employment laws, some of which include provisions for older employees. Employment laws to keep in mind include the following:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • Older Worker Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA)
  • Employee benefits laws
  • State and local wage-and-hour laws
  • Federal and applicable state and local payroll tax laws

Hire smartly

There are many benefits to tapping into the retiree pool — including a more experienced, reliable, and diverse workforce. However, it’s also crucial to have a well-thought-out plan for bringing them back to the workplace. An integrated solution like Zenefits can help you smoothly transition retirees to your workplace while making regulatory compliance a priority.

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