senior assignees

Having Faced Economic Crises, Senior Execs Find Work in New Age of Unretirement

Retirement is giving away to unretirement, as senior members in the workforce, even executives, realize they prefer to stay on in the workplace instead of just collecting their retirement pay and sailing off into the sunset. Unretirement means staying active in the workplace, either as a fulltime or part-time employee. It can also mean putting up one’s own business. Unretirement, unlike the common concept of retirement, is a picture of productive activity that still puts money in the bank and a roof over one’s head.

There are several good reasons that have changed their motivation. First, according to CBS News, many of these late Gen-Xers and early Baby Boomers who are in their early 50s to mid-60s had gone through a lot of economic crises the past decades. The savings and loans crisis in the 1990s was followed by the dot-com bust in 2000 and was capped by the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that sent the whole world reeling.

These battle-hardened corporate warriors have come to grips with uncertainty and want to prepare for a future where they may not be earning as much as in their younger years. They are realizing that their combined savings and pension may not be enough to give them the kind of lifestyle they are still enjoying right now while employed.

The figures confirm this: the Bankers Life Center for Security Retirement report, as cited by CBS News, says that the median income in a U.S. family fell by 39 percent from 2007 to 2010.

Second, as Forbes illustrates in another report, many of these so-called retirees finally want to engage in work or activity that they are passionate about. Many of them had worked in jobs that were second choices because they had bills to pay and kids to send to college. Now that those kids are grown and their home mortgage has been paid for, these 50something workers are finally doing work that they find personally meaningful and enjoyable. Some of them roam the world as travel consultants, others do volunteer work in non-profit, and a few hold part-time jobs as teachers, artists, translators, and tour guides. The more entrepreneurial unretirees turn their expertise like wealth management, immigration law, and marketing strategy into paying consultancies.

The “unretirement” phenomenon is not just happening in the United States but all over the world, as technology prolong seniors’ lives while opening them up to vistas of learning and opportunity they never considered before.

While many assignees will come from the millennial talent pool, global mobility specialists can take advantage of this unretirement phenomenon to add skilled, seasoned workers to their company. Many senior expatriates or assignees have a lot of executive experience that can help steer other companies away from hard times or strengthen them to meet the emerging challenges of the day. They may also exhibit those skills that are becoming rare in a predominantly young job market: patience, perseverance, social and cultural adaptability, resilience, people skills, and customer service orientation.

These are the ways how global mobility specialists can take advantage of the silver-haired talent that is looking forward to a few more years of work:

  • Foreign expatriates or assignees who may be interested in a less hectic work week may make a good fit as consultants or trainers. They may ask for a lesser compensation package than a younger assignee with a full workload in return for flexitime, travel options, and just the chance to spend time in America. Many of them might take a pay cut just for the chance to close to game-changing economic hubs like New York City or Silicon Valley in northern California.
  • The more active senior assignees can still be recruited for senior executive functions that call for leadership in an organization’s transformation or re-invention to cope with a more globalize economy. Their experience enables them to provide a stronger and more powerful vision that can make the company more competitive in the international arena. Their hands-on approach and time in the trenches give them the ability to guide the rest of the organization entering a more complex global setting with a confidence and sensitivity that more homegrown leaders do not have.
  • Build an active database of senior talent who you can always call on to fill certain consultant roles as the organization requires them. With a steady stream of competent, committed assignees who had been around the block and can bring more to the table because of it, you need no longer worry every time one of your millennial assignees keeps saying he wants to move on.