Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Generativity Track: A Transitional Approach to Retirement

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Generativity Track: A Transitional Approach to Retirement

Article excerpt

The United Nations designated 1999 as "The Year of the Older Person," which acknowledged that the global population is aging at an unprecedented rate. Population aging is emerging as a preeminent worldwide phenomenon. (1) In the United States, the "Baby Boom" generation, those nearly 80 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, begin to reach age 65 in 2011. This generation, which was created as a result of the high birthrates following World War II, has become increasingly prominent in terms of both absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population. This generation now represents the largest demographic group in the United States.

The reality of the potential impact of the retirement wave of the Baby Boom generation has been largely ignored or discounted by many human resource professionals. Demographic data, however, is very reliable data. While not an exact science, the long- term trends in the labor force composition can be predicted quite reliably. The publication of the report Workforce 2000 in 1987 provided a perspective on the impact of women, immigrants, minorities, and slowing population growth on the future workforce. (2) The resulting debate from this report was a major contributing factor to the subsequent identification and justification for the growth and expansion of diversity programs in organizations to address the growing importance of non-traditional groups in the workforce. While the study also addressed the "aging" of the population, the political and organizational response has been less intense. However, this population bulge of the Baby Boom generation is quickly moving through the organizational pipeline. The human resource profession will be required to develop programs and strategies that address the aging of the population with the same intensity as it has correctly done with the other impacts of the changing complexity of the composition of the workforce. One of the biggest challenges facing the human resource profession is to determine how their organizations will be affected by those who are eligible or who will soon be eligible to retire. By the year 2000, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of workers over the age of 55 will increase by more than 50 percent.

The Changing Nature of Retirement

Retirement is often viewed as a long-awaited life event for which the individual has been anticipating and planning for many years. However, the demographic, cultural and worldwide competitive challenges that organizations must confront have created an increasing array of challenges both for the midlife/pre-retirement population and for the organizations for which they work. This article will explore the impact of retirement on both individuals and organizations, but will focus on describing the appropriate responses from the human resource community in addressing this growing reality.

Much of the literature on retirement comes from the fields of gerontology, labor economics, and from sociologists who focus on the effects of retirement on quality of life, physical and mental health, and mortality. (3) This focus, however, rarely addresses retirement from the perspective of the organization and of affected employees. As a consequence of workforce and workplace changes, however, increased attention must come from the human resource profession. The nature of retirement itself is changing. Traditionally, retirement meant the end of working after a full-time career job. However, that pattern is dramatically changing, as retirement no longer means simply transitioning from full-time work to no work at all. (4)

The Changing Employment Relationship

The contemporary workforce is confronting a different employment relationship than existed in the post-World War II era. For many who entered the workforce in the 1950s, the idea of a lifetime career with one employer, with the expectation of upward mobility and the intrinsic and material satisfactions of seniority, was very appealing. …

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