Many employers are welcoming retirees back to their workforces to counter what some are calling the ‘Great Labour Shift.’

As the coronavirus pandemic shifts the labour market in favour of workers, employees across the globe are taking the opportunity to rethink where and how they work.

In 2022, more than 50 million U.S. workers quit their jobs. While Canada isn’t seeing nearly the same levels of resignations, Canadian employers were actively seeking to fill more than 950,000 vacant positions in the third quarter of 2022, down 3.3 per cent from the second quarter, according to a December 2022 report by Statistics Canada.

Read: 75% of employers expecting hiring challenges in 2023: survey

Due to these labour shortage challenges, employers are enticing retirees back on a part-time or semi-retirement basis or as a consultant.

Bringing retirees back

For older employees, career development is an important part of how employers can structure jobs to return value back to their organizations, says Lisa Taylor, an associate fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University’s National Institute on Ageing and founder and president of Challenge Factory and the Centre for Career Innovation.

Interests often change as employees go through different life stages, she adds, noting retirement is a good time for people to re-evaluate their talents. “The talents that set them on a career path may be totally different years later, [as does] the marketplace. New jobs [may be] available because [of new] technology. Remote working provides options that didn’t exist in the past.”

At Fluor Canada, many retired employees have returned to the company as contractors, says Terri-Lynn Levy, the organization’s human resources manager of benefits, wellness and HR information systems. The flexibility of this type of work provides autonomy, she adds, and allows these individuals to put their skills and expertise into practice.

Read: Just 25% of employers offering semi-retirement arrangements: survey

By the numbers

• Just 25% of Canadian employers offer semi-retirement, despite the growing number of employees retiring.

23% say retirements are one of the main reasons they expect increased employee turnover in 2023. Among companies that offer semi-retirement, 33% report an increase in the number of employees choosing semi-retirement over the past two years.

53% of employees who retired in the past two years were younger than age 65, while 27% were younger than 60.

When KV Aulakh, owner of HR staffing firm Express Employment Professionals, recently took a shuttle from a car dealership in Barrie, Ont., his driver was a retiree who found the new position more amenable to his lifestyle. It was an easy transition, he notes, adding employers have myriad opportunities to bring retirees back to work.

To start, it’s important for employers to determine where they need the help and why, he says. For example, are they bringing a retiree back to their previous position because there’s a need for that role and the individual is happy to return to it? Or is there a skills shortage in a specific area in which these individuals can be trained and are ready to learn something new?

Modelling knowledge translation

While some people argue that re-introducing retirees to certain industries could disenfranchise younger employees due to lack of upward mobility, Taylor disputes this notion.

“Career development only becomes limited when we have systems and structures in our employment structure that are actually broken.”

Read: How can employers turn the ‘Great Resignation’ tide?

Employers in the health-care sector use knowledge translation, she notes, which acknowledges that younger and older generations have mutually beneficial information. According to studies, when older workers use their experience and skills in their roles, youth unemployment drops because they often pull junior employees in to do the work with them.

Taylor believes there’s limited value — and certainly minimal return on investment — in dumping these workers on special project teams or mentorships. Instead, she suggests employers re-engage them in a role that meets their needs, uses their talents and advances the company in a meaningful way, unlocking an enormous amount of productivity.

“It’s not just how can we keep them longer, but what should they be doing so that it’s better for them and better for the company? That’s where movement starts to happen . . . [and employers will] start to generate new streams of revenue or reduce costs [while] retaining older workers.”

Lauren Bailey is an associate editor at Benefits Canada.