From Retirement to Retail: How Employers Can Support Successful Returns to Work

The economic fallout from the pandemic has had a profound impact on the labor market and society. Worker shortages across industries have created a challenging scenario for countless businesses as they rush to fill job vacancies while still ensuring the satisfaction of their existing staff and customers. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the current rate of participation in the labor force is 62.6%, down from 63.3% in February 2020.

Over the last few years, there has been an increasing trend of re-entering retirees in the workforce, after more than 3 million adults 55 and older went into early retirement during the pandemic. Plagued by economic hardships in today’s financial climate, many of them are now taking jobs in essential services like retail. Returning to work after retirement can be a challenging experience, and it is imperative for workplaces to provide these employees with the necessary tools and support to facilitate a smooth transition and a feeling of belonging.

Here are four tactics retailers can implement to set re-entering retirees up for success and address their individual needs:

  1. Build an inclusive work environment: A multigenerational workforce is a valuable resource, where each generation can learn from one another and transfer skills and knowledge through mentorship. To maintain inclusivity, managers in multigenerational workforces should anticipate the diverse needs of all employees — from Gen Z to Baby Boomers. For instance, the level of training required for an older worker may differ from that of someone who grew up in the digital age, which is why employers should provide proper education and clear communication around technology processes that exist in the workplace. Businesses can streamline the new hire process by adopting user-friendly onboarding software that allows staff to organize all documents, contracts and employee details in one location.
  1. Offer flexible work arrangements and benefits: Providing older workers with flexible schedules is imperative, as they may have health concerns or caregiving obligations that require such accommodations. In a recent AARP study, 79% of older workers said flexible work hours are a job requirement for them. To support the well-being of their employees, businesses should also consider providing benefits such as health insurance and wellness programs. Additionally, offering retirement planning can help employees prepare for their later years, while age-friendly workplace policies can make the elderly workforce feel appreciated and valued.
  2. Utilize technology to eliminate bias in hiring, scheduling and pay: Businesses can eliminate bias across the employee lifecycle through technology and best practices. For instance, AI-based hiring tools can evaluate candidates objectively, based on predetermined criteria such as experience, education and skills, without considering their demographic background. To ensure equitable scheduling decisions, smart scheduling software can consider factors such as employee availability, workload and skills. This eliminates potential biases and ensures fair scheduling practices. Additionally, technology can aid in ensuring employees are compensated fairly based on their skills and experience, reducing pay disparities based on gender, race or other factors.
  1. Leverage technology for increasing employee engagement: Considering today’s tight labor market conditions and the rise of mature workers unretiring, it is critical that they feel welcomed and appreciated by their employers. Retailers can implement team performance and staff engagement software that assesses employees based on their skills, experience, and contributions to the company to establish a positive work environment that acknowledges and rewards the hard work of all employees, regardless of their age. By leveraging technology for good, employers can recognize top performers and offer support to employees who may be facing challenges, ensuring all employees have an equal opportunity to benefit, regardless of their age.

Respect, recognition and appreciation are fundamental to every employee in the workplace, including re-entering retirees who make up a significant portion of the labor force. By facilitating a smooth transition, retail employers can ensure that these workers’ invaluable experience is preserved, their professional standing is maintained, and they do not become the forgotten employees of the economy.

Silvija Martincevic is the CEO of Deputy, a global platform for managing hourly workers. She is an experienced global executive with a strong track record of building and scaling global businesses and teams. At Deputy, she leads a team whose mission is to simplify shift work and create thriving workplaces in every community.