Top 10 Ways for Motivating Returning Retirees at Work

Roy Saunderson

Roy Saunderson

Over 5,000 boomers are retiring everyday this year and more startling is the fact that many of these individuals have C-suite experience. Whether their reasons are economical or professional…many of these seniors will elect to return to the workforce as consultants. But what does it take to motivate returning retirees who had strong careers as leaders and may now be returning as an important but much less significant player? Doug Poretz, Co-Founder & Chairman of NuuKo, a new online marketplace helping C-level consultants stay engaged and companies who want to find them, offers his insights on how we can tap the wisdom of these great workers and keep them enthused in our workplace.

  1. Money may not be the biggest driver. Although many returning leaders are coming off the golf course and into the office to generate more cash, that won’t be the reason for all. By creating a challenging assignment and mining their expertise for all it’s worth, you might be able to extend length or expand the role by creating contingency fees or incentive bonuses based on achieving target goals and metrics.
  2. Age is in the eyes of the beholder. Think senior level not senior age and be very careful to avoid any actions or words of age discrimination or even referring to an individual as a former “retiree.” Most of these returning leaders will be more capable than most of your middle management pooled together.
  3. Formally acknowledge their experience. You are aware of their contributions and exceptional talent but your younger bosses may not be. If they don’t tweet, you have to be sure they meet! Arrange an informal gathering so everyone is aware that your returning-retiree consultant has a vast wealth of expertise, knowledge and contacts to draw upon. Respect this and honor what they bring to the workplace by having them tell a few anecdotes associated with relevant initiatives that even the younger folks will be familiar with.
  4. Create a value proposition. Since these mature and returning employees bring so much to the table sit down with them and negotiate the best way they can provide the most value to the company. Many retirees may need to extend benefits that come with “employee-employer” while others are only looking to consult. Find out so you can most effectively negotiate a win-win working arrangement.
  5. Set clear mandate and goals. Running a department as an employee-leader is much different than running an initiative or project as a consultant-leader. Because the retiree is coming into a reporting environment, it is important to sit down together and work out how the work assignments will get done and quantified. Establish realistic yet challenging goals and execute them.
  6. Give them problems to chew on. When these workers were leading departments and companies they were recognized for their skills in problem-solving, generating revenues, or fostering innovation. During pauses in the engagement they don’t want to loaf around with basic duties. Give them your most challenging projects and problems to work on and then get out of the way.
  7. Draw upon the “making a difference” factor. Many returning retirees have tried and rejected the concept of 100% leisure time. They want to be fully engaged and involved. They have come back to work because of their values. Focus their assignments on how they can make a difference and deliver a solid contribution.
  8. Even elderly execs have egos. Individuals coming back to work after retirement won’t get the top of the org chart titles like they once had. They have been used to traditional roles. Thank them often, have one-on-one feedback sessions, and connect the dots with the difference their work is making.
  9. Partner with their expertise. The best way to work with someone with as much expertise, value and knowledge as a leader of a previous organization is to partner and learn from them. This could be the most powerful on the job training an employee could have in working with such a mentor. Keep regular and open communications and help the returning worker integrate into the organization with the expertise of their day…not by being required to learn the tech of today.
  10. Find out what they miss the most. Different structures and organizational cultures will produce different norms of behaviors. George Norsig, Co-Founder & CEO of Nuuko, reminds us that whether it’s a private office or parking space or the logistics of daily briefings or weekly conference calls, discovering some of these previous practices and preferences may reveal one or two actions that can be replicated and are a sure-fire way to demonstrate appreciation and respect. For more info on how to become or engage a retired C-level exec, visit Nuuko at

[ Article by Roy Saunderson ]

Roy Saunderson is President of Recognition Management Institute, a division of Rideau, Inc. (, a global leader in employee recognition & rewards programs. Saunderson is author of GIVING The Real Recognition Way and host of Real Recognition radio and can be reached at Follow him on twitter @roysaunderson.

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