A lot of workers are at retirement age, but employers aren’t sure when, or if, they will

Employers anticipate instability over losing experienced, skilled workers, and anticipate difficulty in replacing them.

A vast majority of employers have employees at the age to retire, but face uncertainty because they aren’t sure when they will do so, according to a new survey from global risk management firm Willis Towers Watson called The 2018 Longer Working Careers Survey. Respondents included 143 large U.S. employers employing a total of 2.9 million employees.

Eighty-three percent of these employers had a “significant” number of employees at or nearing retirement. Despite that, only half (53%) of those companies had a “good understanding” of when those employees would retire.

Employers are worried about the inevitable brain drain – 80% of employers view older workers as a vital part of their success. Retirement will mean the loss of their experience and skill – 48% are concerned about the loss of institutional knowledge, and 50% expect it to be challenging to find workers with similar skills to replace them.

While employers are concerned with what they’ll lose with older workers’ retirement, they also acknowledge that their staying – and delaying – retirement equally causes complications, most notably on the cost of benefits. Nearly 50% of employers said they were worried benefits costs would rise because of employees delaying their retirements. 41% of employers said that workers who delay their retirements will increase wage and salary costs.

According to the survey, employers are most often using the following plans to manage employee retirements:

  • Wellbeing: Retirement planning programs (66%), modifying work conditions (36%)
  • Flexible employment: From moving positions (30%) to offering part-time employment (27%)
  • Consulting: 49% offer retired employees work as consultants
  • Phased retirement: 10%

But not everyone’s ready to retire – data shows that a top reason people stay on is that they need to save more, and more recent research says 53% of Americans over 60 are postponing retirement.

“Older workers are clearly a sought-after resource, and our research shows there is a definite supply of employees who would like to work into their 60s or beyond,”said Lauren Hoeck, director of Retirement at Willis Towers Watson. “We believe employers can effectively draw on the expertise of older workers, and this opportunity will require careful management.”

Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.