Tapping into the Great Unretirement

Tapping into the Great Unretirement | Kathleen Duffy

Tapping into the Great Unretirement

A New Strategy to Expand Your Talent Pool.

Michael Jordan. Cameron Diaz. Jay-Z. Tom Brady. These are just a few of the celebrities who’ve announced their retirement, only to return once more to the workforce.

Unretiring is nothing new for athletes and performers. But I’ve been intrigued to notice that unretiring is no longer reserved for the rich and famous. And that trend is creating an opportunity for the hiring professionals with whom I work.

In 2021, at the height of the pandemic, slightly more than half (50.3%) of U.S. adults 55 and older had left the labor force due to retirement. But now, for a variety of reasons, many of those same individuals are choosing to reenter the labor market. AARP reports that among individuals who were retired in 2021, 1.7 million (or 3.3%) are employed again.

This newly emerging (or reemerging) talent pool presents a significant opportunity if you’re struggling to find top talent. These are workers who can begin contributing very quickly; their skills and knowledge, sometimes acquired over decades, are a valuable resource for your teams. Many chose to step away from the workforce specifically because of the pandemic, and are now able to resume part-time or full-time work. 

Inflation has also been a significant factor. With rising prices, many retirees have discovered that their retirement income is no longer enough to cover their ongoing expenses. The Stock Market’s volatility means that pensions and retirement funds have weakened, and may no longer offer the promise of financial security for those who retired early.

Even before the pandemic, many employers had recognized the potential of tapping into the talent and expertise of adults who were looking to re-enter the workforce after an extended absence. The state of Utah has invested in building out its “returnships,” offering training, skills, and mentoring to help workers rejuvenate their professional experience and move into key roles. Major employers around the globe — big names from Accenture to Ziff Davis — participate in paid return to work programs for so-called “relaunchers.”

These “relaunchers” are the heart of the Great Unretirement, and their numbers are growing. CNBC found that 68 percent of recently retired workers would consider returning to work, and 94 percent of those who left the workforce but did not officially retire would also be willing to move back into the workforce for the right opportunity. 

There are a few unique strategies that I share with my clients who are interested in targeting talent who are part of this trend. This talent pool doesn’t require extensive training or career development. Instead, hiring professionals should focus on messaging around three key benefits:

  • Flexibility: Your ability to attract top talent returning to the workforce will depend on your ability to promise flexible hours, remote or hybrid work options, and the opportunity to choose part-time or full-time employment.
  • Extended time off: A real game-changer for attracting top talent amongst this group is the option of extended time off, whether to travel and pursue passion projects, or for the security of knowing that they will be able to take time to care for family members or children whose education may be paused if new COVID variants force schools to close.
  • Comprehensive health benefits: For those workers who are not yet eligible for Medicare, healthcare coverage is a significantly meaningful benefit.

I can’t imagine a more welcome response to the tight labor market than the availability of such a large talent pool. Smart recruiters are beginning to recognize that “retired” may just be a temporary status for their next top candidate.