After 36 hectic years as a
primary care physician, Michael Mandel was looking forward to a laid-back
retirement crammed with lots of golf and volunteering.
Then the phone rang.
The CEO of Richmond,
Va.-based St. Mary’s Hospital, a sister division and next-door neighbor to
Mandel’s practice, asked if he’d be interested in a job as the facility’s
medical director for care management. He would advise doctors on dilemmas such as
whether Medicare patients should be admitted to the hospital overnight for
observation or longer term.
So, for the past three
years, Mandel has been putting in 32 hours a week and enjoying a
semi-retirement that mixes a healthy allotment of golf with the rewards of a
“No way did I think I’d be
working at 70 years old,” Mandel says. “But the job has worked out so well.”
Faced with a wave of Baby
Boomer retirements and a worsening labor shortage, many employers are trying to
hold on to their older workers, persuade some to return after
retirement and even recruit those retired from other companies. They’re
offering flexible arrangements that include part-time schedules and phased
retirements that gradually reduce hours. And they’re often receptive to
“If you have good employees,
you want to keep them,” says Jacqueline James, co-director of the Boston
College Center on Aging and Work.
Older workers are often
branded as burned out and not technically savvy, says Peter Cappelli, a
management professor at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. In fact, he says,
they have lower rates of absenteeism, less turnover, better job performance and
adapt well to new technology.
More firms accommodate older workers
The share of employers with
strategies to retain and recruit older workers is still limited, partly because
of the biases, James says. But it’s growing and expected to pick up as the low
3.9% unemployment rate intensifies worker shortages.
Last year, about a quarter
of U.S. workers said their employers accommodated flexible work arrangements,
up from 19% in 2015, according to a survey by the Transamerica Center for
Many firms are weighing such
policies. “I don’t know of a single company that isn’t trying to retain older
workers more actively,” says Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer for the
Society for Human Resource Management, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade group for
The efforts are pronounced
in industries with large shares of workers approaching retirement age,
including health care, manufacturing, insurance, accounting and engineering. To
address worker shortages, 35% of manufacturers encourage potential retirees to
stay on, according to a 2018 survey by the National Association of
Americans are working longer
Since a growing portion of
workers are putting off retirement, the companies have a ready labor pool. More
than half of Americans expect to work past age 65 or don’t plan to retire,
according to the Transamerica survey. They're healthier and living longer. And
many need the extra income after enduring long layoffs in the recession, James
says. Also, the Social Security retirement age has been rising. About 20%
of Americans 65 and over are working or looking for a job, up from 15.4% in
2006, according to the Labor Department and AARP.
Mandel, the Richmond doctor,
was approached about the medical director position as part of an initiative by
the Bon Secours Virginia Health System, the parent company of both his
practice and St. Mary’s Hospital. For years, the non-profit has asked many retiring
nurses and pharmacists if they wanted to work part-time, and about a year ago
it expanded the offer to workers in all occupations, says Jim Godwin, Bon
Secours’ vice president of human resources.
Bon Secours, which employs
about 14,000, currently has 1,200 job openings, double the amount five years
ago, he says. Over the past year, 142 employees have retired, and about a third
of its staff is over 50.
Nurses over 55 who no
longer can withstand the job’s physical strains are becoming part-time
instructors and patient discharge coordinators. Accounting managers
are downshifting to part-time staff accountants. To coax older workers to
stay, Bon Secours modified its pension benefits so employees aren’t penalized
for working part-time in later years, Godwin says.
About a quarter of the
potential retirees who are offered jobs accept them, he says. “It’s making a
huge difference,” he says, allowing Ben Secours to maintain services
it otherwise might shut down because of low staffing and revenue.
Older employees generally
have a more refined bedside manner than their younger counterparts, Godwin
says. “They’re more likely to knock on a door before entering a patient’s
Mandel was enticed by the
position in part because of its financial benefits. “Like everybody, I had
concerns about — did I have enough (money to retire)?” He says he’s earning
close to his former salary while putting in about half the hours.
Avoiding the near-constant stress
He still wears a white coat
over dress clothes but has shed the tie and is making do with a smaller office.
“I get to interact with the doctors,” he says. "Everybody at the hospital
knows me … I feel like I’m still contributing.
Yet he doesn’t have to deal
with the near-constant stresses of a private practice. “If you stop, you fall
behind,” he says. Now, “I can have a cup of coffee, talk to a doctor, have
something to eat, go back to work."
He works from 7:30 a.m. to
3:30 p.m. four days a week, leaving enough time for golf and making him feel
sort of retired. “I’m not punching a clock,” he says. And the income
lets him help his children and grandchildren with expenses.
Such efforts also help
companies transfer decades of knowledge to the next generation of workers.
Furniture company Herman Miller allows employees to phase in retirement by
paring back hours over six months to two years while they mentor their
successors and do special projects.
Some retirees are coming back
Other companies are luring
retirees back to the office. At Michelin North America, based in Greenville,
S.C., 40% of employees are eligible to retire each year. So the company
launched a Returning Retirees Program that employs 160 former workers in
Mark King, 58, a former
human resources and labor relations manager, retired to Charleston,
S.C., last July for about four months, spending his days running, biking
and kayaking. But “I missed being around people to the extent I was
before,” he says. So he accepted the company’s offer for a three-month gig
transitioning employees of one subsidiary that was sold and a
second that was combined with another firm in a joint venture. For
the next year, he’ll oversee talks with a union ahead of contract negotiations.
“It’s very good for me to
keep engaged,” he says.
Marquis Yachts of Pulaski,
Wis., gets an average five to 10 applications for each of its 25 job
openings, down from about 30 several years ago. Recently, the yacht
maker sent 300 postcards to former employees, inviting them to come back
part time. Ten were hired, including two retirees.
“They just pick up where
they left off,” Human Resource Manager Sasha Wesolowski says.
Some companies are bringing
on workers retired from other firms. In insurance, 25% of the workforce is near
retirement age but only 4% of Millennials have expressed interest in the
field, according to studies by McKinsey, the management consulting firm,
and The Hartford, an insurance company.
That led Sharon Emek to
launch a staffing agency that places retired insurance executives in part-time,
Retire from the office, not work
Baby Boomers “don’t
necessarily want to retire from work," says Emek, CEO of Work At Home
Vintage Experts (WAHVE). “They want to retire from the office.”
Contributionship, the nation’s oldest insurance company, has hired some of its
own retirees as well as WAHVE recruits to work from home as customer service
reps and claims adjusters.
“They have the skill set,
they have the knowledge, they don’t need to be retrained,” says Kathy Rosati,
a human resources executive for the company.
One of the customer
service reps, Demeta Draughon, 54, of Gun Barrel City, Texas, retired briefly
when she was laid off from her insurance job in Dallas three years ago. She
didn’t want to work full time or face another 90-minute commute, especially
since she and her husband have a healthy nest egg and retirement
benefits and their house is paid off. But, she says, “I couldn’t just sit
and do nothing.”
Now, she’s working 20 hours
a week from her home in a T-shirt and shorts, answering billing questions
and helping customers make payments. She has time to take her mother to
afternoon doctor appointments and some extra spending money.
“When elderly people don’t
understand something on the bill, you know you can help them,” she says.
“It makes me feel like I’m useful.”
for the original article from USA Today.