Talent defies age. The proof of the pudding lies in the age-wise list of Nobel Laureates, which interestingly reveals that the number of winners goes up with age. Then why should organisations limit professionals through a retirement age?
Well, if not the developed countries, India has a set retirement age that almost all organisations abide by. However, a lot of businesses are now realising the benefits of not replacing seniority and of gaining from their years of experience and expertise instead. That is why, companies now prefer to either retain or hire retired professionals beyond their normal term, as part-time/contractual advisors or consultants.
With increasing awareness and availability of medical and wellness facilities, people are now more conscious of their health. Not surprisingly, the last two decades have witnessed an enhanced life-expectancy ratio. This implies two things — that India Inc. needs to rethink the retirement age, and also find out alternative routes for taking advantage of the seniority and expertise of talent approaching the mandatory retirement age.
Ravi Mishra, regional HR head — South Asia & Middle East, Birla Carbon says, “Over the last decade, organisations have started outsourcing talent for certain kinds of services, often termed as contract labour (blue collar) or consultants (white collar). But the existence of consultants or advisors began rising only in the last few years as organisations are now readily looking at retaining or extending the service terms of talent nearing retirement.”
There’s no denying that contractual arrangements to retain the talent and expertise of people who have been associated with successful businesses is mutually beneficial to individuals and organisations alike. Highlighting a few of these benefits, Mangesh Bhide, technology HR head, Reliance Jio Infocomm says, “Retired doesn’t mean ‘not useful’! If the subject matter expertise is contemporary and yet flows from the advantage of vast experience, such employees can be a boon to any organisation. They can act as a preventive support, halting predictive mistakes and saving from reinventing the wheel. Since no 'typical' expectations are involved, such people can call a spade a spade.”
On the contrary, sometimes it so happens that senior leaders nearing the retirement age get more involved in the supporting activities of their subordinates. As a result, they spend lesser time in really engaging as required at their level. Often, their real or desired work hours for the organisation are actually lesser compared to what they devote in a full-time job, which they completely forego once they reach the retirement age.
“When a certain individual’s required engagement is only four to five hours a week, but the person is a full-time employee for an organisation, it is more beneficial for the company to look at a customised VRS if the person is nearing retirement. For example, if employees are reaching the retirement age in five years, the organisation can offer to pay them a good percentage of the total package for those five years on a pro-rata basis, while agreeing with them to stay available for the organisation as and when their service or expertise is required for those five years,” Mishra shares. Such contracts are mutually beneficial as the organisation gets to save on some cost, while engaging their best talent beyond their retirement.
Bhide feels that, “Tacit knowledge is retained within the organisation and if asked to coach/mentor a successor, such talent can hugely benefit the organisation and save it from going into the hands of the competitor. Such talent can certainly help in building the CoE of that particular function,” he adds.
Consulting or advisory roles are also a great way for the senior and experienced professionals to lend their expertise to multiple organisations instead of one, thus gaining more exposure and experience. Mishra shares that more than 90 per cent of Indians now want to work even after their retirement age.
Organisations can look at different arrangements or contracts with such people depending on their roles, capacities, time devoted and level of complexity of jobs. For instance, some people who do not deal with highly confidential information in the organisation can be offered lesser pay and allowed to work for other organisations with a ‘non-disclosure of information’ agreement. On the other hand, those who deal with such confidential information in their jobs can be offered more benefits to agree to stay exclusive to the organisation for their services.
For successful and mutually beneficial relationships with the wise and old in an organisation, it is very important that relevant conversations should begin a few months before they approach retirement, as this helps their smooth transition into new capacities.