Recruitment solution: Bring back retirees

August 11, 2010

The biggest obstacle to growth for most AEC firms today is a shortage of skilled professionals. “The workforce shortage in the AEC industry has no immediate end in sight … The issue is serious and one that firms cannot assume will correct itself over time.”

That's from Kay C. Godwin and Karen W. Winters, Fellows of the Society of Marketing Professional Services, in “The Looming AEC Workforce Shortage,” published by the SMPS Foundation ( The authors warn that there is no quick fix to the crisis, but there are some initiatives you can take—particularly with regard to the 77 million baby boomers who are starting to become eligible for Social Security.

Herewith some suggestions from SMPS and the Conference Board's “Employer-Practices Locator,” a valuable Web-based database of examples of how all sorts of employers are addressing the challenges of the “mature workforce”:

Flexible schedules. E/A firm Stanley Consultants, Muscatine, Iowa, offers employees individualized phased-retirement options, such as four-day weeks, one-day weeks, and full-time on occasional projects. A/E firm Flad & Associates, Madison, Wis., offers flex schedules to retain older architects and engineers. Drug maker Hoffman-LaRoche offers compressed work schedules, job sharing, and telecommuting to retirees. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management offers similar programs to entice MWs (“mature workers”) to stay at work or return to the job.

Flexible workplaces. Retail firms like Borders, Home Depot, CVS, and child-care provider Bright Horizons give MWs the option of working in different parts of the country, depending on the season. If you have offices in multiple locations, or clients who are spread around the country, this could be a great option for your firm.

Phased retirement. There are many forms of phased retirement. Bon Secours Richmond Health System offers MWs the option to collect pensions while continuing to work part-time; to retire, wait 90 days, and return to work (while still getting retirement benefits); or to earn health benefits if they work 16 hours a week.

Short-term projects. Southern Company, the biggest electricity utility in the Southeast, created a “Retiree Reservist Pool” to help cover short-term critical needs. Beer brewer SABMiller also brings back skilled craftsmen for short-term projects.

One more idea: Use a “senior placement” agency. Boeing uses Indianapolis-based YourEncore Inc. to recruit MWs for highly technical projects. Principal Financial Group rehires retirees through its “Happy Returns” program, via Manpower staffing service. Using an outside agency to rehire retired employees (usually after 90 days) is legal, but your HR department should check the latest regs on this.

Last but not least, don't forget the love. A study by Marjorie Armstrong-Stassen for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons found that retirees rated factors like respect by others in the organization, appreciation for a job well done, and recognition of their experience, knowledge, skill, and expertise as going far to bring retirees back to their old stomping grounds.


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