Economic trends and personal demands have prompted many accounting and finance professionals nearing retirement to rethink the timing of this life-changing transition: A recent Robert Half survey found that nearly four in 10 (38 percent) of chief financial officers are more uncertain about when they’re going to retire than they were five years ago.
For many firms, this news is likely a relief. Nearly 60 percent of finance leaders polled for another recent survey by Robert Half reported that finding skilled financial professionals is a challenge. If you’re offered the gift of extra time with a seasoned worker who would like to delay retirement, be sure to make the most of it. Here are some tips:
Initiate the transfer of knowledge
Find ways for a veteran staff member to impart as much valuable knowledge as possible to others before she leaves. For example, arrange for the employee to mentor one or more junior staff members. Consider asking the worker to serve as an “in-house consultant” on projects where teams would benefit from her specific insights and experience. Also, have the employee update her job description, and perhaps, create a “get started” kit for the person who will eventually take over her role; the kit could include, for example, pertinent contact information for key clients and insight into their expectations and communication preferences.
Make succession planning a priority
When an employee does eventually retire, will you need to fill his job — and if so, who will take his place? If no one is waiting in the wings to assume a critical role in your firm once a worker retires, waste no more time in identifying a potential candidate. It can take months — even years — to develop talent for a leadership position. Ideally, the person serving in the job currently will assist in grooming a successor. And if you discover you don’t have anyone in the organization who could assume the role, start making preparations for a candidate search. Consider asking the retiring worker to help evaluate potential hires, as well.
Support a smooth transition that benefits both sides
Ask the staff member who is postponing retirement to keep you apprised of her plans, so the firm can be ready to fill her role when the time is right. Also, discuss alternative work arrangements — for example, perhaps the employee would like to work part-time or as a consultant. These options will allow her to continue contributing to your firm in a meaningful way while you take time to train or hire her replacement.
Something to keep in mind
Just because a seasoned employee says he wants to put retirement on the back burner, it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll spend the remainder of his career working for your firm. Because skilled and experienced accounting and finance talent is in such high demand, but hard to find, this professional may have his pick of opportunities elsewhere. So, be sure retention is always on your mind. Continue to provide competitive compensation and rewarding assignments to all employees, including those you may mistakenly view as “on the way out.”