Mandatory Retirement. Are we guillotining valuable talent or making way for the next generation?

Retirement in the employment market is closely tied to date of birth as distinct from normal performance based criteria, e.g. expertise, experience, motivation, punctuality, attendance, loyalty and risk of leaving the organisation. There is a lot written about how we are living up to 20 years longer than our parents/grandparents. This is bringing about changes that will impact us all irrespective of where we are in our life cycle.

For people in their early to mid-careers, they are going to have to fund this increased burden on our healthcare and welfare systems through their taxes. I would suggest that they are also going to have to think about their own futures and how to influence the changes required particularly in the employment market to respond to these changes.

But there is also the issue of full employment and a shortage of talent across the world economies that is not going away.

Are we missing a trick here with our current predominant retirement model and discarding a significant talent base. In line with living longer healthier lives our ability to perform and contribute to the organisation in many cases goes well beyond standard retirement age. It is also important to be aware of the needs of people who feel they have a lot to contribute and have a strong desire and need to be using their talents and be valued well beyond the current retirement age.

In my experience as an executive recruiter I meet people at all stages in their careers. Broadly speaking there are two categories of employment, i.e. people who work for themselves (self-employed) and people who work for an organisation (employed).

A significant distinction between these two categories is those who are employed by an organisation generally have a mandatory retirement date while the self-employed do not. The impacts on mandatory retirement can be very challenging and the impact on the person and their families can be devastating.

What this means is that for an employed person once he/she reaches a certain age, their value to the organisation and by extension their value in general changes i.e.  goes to zero or diminishes significantly purely based their date of birth.

My main point of this blog is that, the usually very clever employment market, which invests so much time and effort in getting the best talent into their organisations and getting the maximum output from these employees is potentially cutting talent out of their organisations based purely on age.

Some people are at the peak of their powers in terms of contribution to the organisation and personal fulfillment when they are required to retire. This can have a very negative impact on all aspects of their lives which apart from the waste of talent is going to potentially lead to ill health on the part of these people which will be a burden on the economy.

I will do a separate blog on some of the horror stories of high achievers who have really struggled with the” Hero to Zero” experience of retirement.

My question is, is the current age-based model doing us all a dis-service and why do we view people differently if they are employees versus self-employed in terms of attitude to age.

The case can be made around the requirement to make way for the next generation to come through and there is something in that. If the system gets clogged up due to lack of progression, then that can create problems.  But age is a very crude basis for deciding who is the best person to do a role.

I think we all have something to gain be bringing about changes in relation to how we value people at all stages but particularly as they progress to the latter stages in their career. Some of the changes will be practical but some will be attitudinal.

If say James Taylor (one of my favourite artists) was coming to Dublin, I will be happy to pay for the tickets and the travel to go and see him. I am not going to mark him down or dismiss him as an entertainer because of his age. I will judge him on the quality of his performance. Why would it be any different for any of us.

In this blog I am just starting a conversation. I am learning from speaking with people of all ages that this needs to change and there are good case studies from Germany and Japan where market necessity brought about positive changes.

Let me know your thoughts.

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