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Survey Report

Working late: Managing the wave of U.S. retirement

How employers are dealing with longer employee careers

December 19, 2018

Employers face a new set of challenges and opportunities due to delayed employee retirements. Willis Towers Watson research reveals employers’ concerns and what they’re doing to help manage and support longer careers.

The first U.S. Longer Working Careers Survey Report uncovers the actions employers are taking to support aging workforces, delayed retirements, phased retirements and knowledge transfer to incoming employees.

Our findings are based on the responses of over 140 large U.S. employers across industries collectively employing 2.9 million workers.

Employers are turning to a variety of strategies for managing employee retirement patterns:

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Flexible employment options


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Retirees as consultants and contingent workers


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Phased retirement programs



Key findings

Despite the importance to their company’s productivity, employers admit limited understanding of when their employees plan to retire. The demographics of the U.S. working population illustrate that the pace of their departure is increasing: 83% of employers report a significant number of employees at or approaching traditional retirement age (65).

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81% think it is an important business issue for the organization to manage the timing of employeeretirements
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53% have a good understanding of when employees will retire
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25% effectively manage the pace and timing of employee retirements

Despite the importance, employers express limited understanding of when their employees will retire

U.S. employers are increasingly concerned about the staffing challenges they could face from erratic retirements. We asked survey respondents why the orderly retirement of employees is important:

Employer concerns

Progress bar: 83%
Ranked transfer of knowledge within the organization as their top concern
Progress bar: 60%
Pointed to concerns over workforce productivity
Progress bar: 33%
Cited roadblocks in promoting younger employees
Progress bar: 20%
Reported keeping older workers on the payroll

Whether through formal programs or case-by-case interactions, having transition options for pre-retirees can lead to productive and important discussions — where employees and their leaders discuss the range of retirement possibilities to find middle ground.

About the survey

The 2018 U.S. Longer Working Careers Survey was completed by 143 large U.S. employers between July and August 2018 and reflects respondents’ 2018 challenges and strategies. Respondents collectively employ 2.9 million employees and operate across all major industry sectors.

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Working late Managing the wave of U.S. retirement PDF .8 MB
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