Engage Older Employees

Engaging Older Staff Employees – Motivating Coasting Pre-Retirees

I Do Just Enough Work To Get By.

What do you do when your employee approaching retirement is mailing it in?  Coasting and disengaged.  But they have important work to do before they retire. How to engage pre-retirees?  We’ll examine 3 approaches and show you which is most effective.  Then when you are faced with engaging older staff employees, you’ll be poised for effective action.

The Situation

You work as a manager at a manufacturing company. One of your direct reports, Scott, has announced that he is retiring by the end of the year. He has had a responsible and complex role in the manufacturing process. It’s important to transition seamlessly to Scott’s replacement.

While it was nice of him to give ample notice so that you and your company can make a smooth changeover, unfortunately, Scott has been taking a bit of a victory lap. His coasting is not difficult to notice. He does not appear engaged, and seems more often to just go through the motions more recently.

Retirement Countdown

There’s a lot of transitional planning for Scott to help with, such as selection of a replacement, training that person and turning over his files and other information. But Scott is being quite resistant to tackling these tasks. You really need his help, but you are growing impatient as time winds down.

Keys to Motivation

As a Q4 motivating and involving leader, which of the below 3 personal benefits would work with this short-timer’s Q2 uninvolved behavior?

A.  Since Scott is beyond normal influence, offer a solid monetary incentive if he will agree to be a temporary consultant after his official retirement to complete these tasks.

B.  Appeal to his ego — he can solidify his good reputation at your company and establish a legacy before he leaves by successfully completing these tasks. 

C.  Because he has the upper hand, you really can’t influence Scott to shake his Q2 apathy. You’ll have to transition to a new person without his input. 

How to Manage Older Employees

In terms of engaging older staff employees, how to do this for those wondering how to survive work until retirement?

Dimensional Model of Behavior

Offer a Monetary Incentive

A principle of Q4 leadership is that because organizations have a finite amount of tangible incentives to offer, leaders cannot simply dispense these to employees to motivate them, especially for conventional tasks. Therefore Choice A is not the best option.

If you do this with Scott, it sets a terrible business precedent. What happens when other employees want extra perks or conditions to be motivated to carry out normal responsibilities? Also, waiting for Scott to retire before training his replacement could hurt business, and what if he becomes unavailable?

Use Benefits and, if Need Be, Consequences to Motivate

While it won’t be easy to influence Scott to change his Q2 demeanor, Choice B is your best option. 

How Might It Work?

Scott has been a successful employee over a long period of time to get where he is. This is your foothold for bringing him out of his doldrums. Have a conversation in which you probe his feelings about his accomplishments at your company. 

Don’t Lecture — Probe!

Ask him to evaluate how his department or the company would or would not suffer if his replacement is not as capable and well-trained as can be. Also, ask open questions about how his reputation may suffer if his colleagues perceive him to be sloughing off, hurting his department’s productivity after he leaves. This could affect their future raises, bonuses, and expansion. 

Consequences and Benefits

Your discussion will be even more effective if you fashion some consequence and benefit probes that help clarify: “Scott, if you don’t help your replacement succeed, what will the outcome be for meeting manufacturing goals?” (consequence)  

“If your colleagues feel you let them down at the end, how will you be regarded after you leave?” (benefit) “How will a successful transition that you lead cap off your whole career here?” 

There’s no guarantee this approach will work, but it recognizes that successful leaders take on the challenge of influencing their direct reports to do their best work — even if they are almost out the door. 

Scott is Not Going to Change. Do the Project Yourself

Choice C is out for the same reason as Choice A. You are giving up on your role as a leader, and the quality of the transition will suffer. If you can motivate Scott to get engaged, that will be your most successful option. You owe it to yourself to give this approach a good try.







Beyond Engaging Older Staff Employees

Congratulations. You are now an authority on engaging older staff employees. What’s next?

If you’d like more leadership resources, our Learning for Leadership page offers an exciting collection of information. You’ll find 40 additional leadership case examples, white papers, and even a virtual advisor with tips on how to deal more effectively with a difficult colleague!

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