25 February 2020 By Victoria Tomlinson
I had a thought provoking – and sad – conversation with an HR director of a professional firm recently. We are doing a workshop for partners to help them think about their future – unretirement, if you like.
Like many firms they are starting to help partners some years ahead, not just in the last year as they are about to leave.
What is the rationale? She said, “My goal is to help partners achieve an elegant exit. When I have used this phrase before, partners think I am talking about achieving a good compromise agreement and payout. That couldn’t be further from what we are aiming for.
“I want to help partners visualise what their future could be when they leave here and have a plan to work towards, in a really positive way. Too many partners stay on too long – not because they love the work or necessarily even need the money. But purely because they can’t work out what else they might do.”
There is a lot to think about in this. I admit the bit about the compromise agreement was a surprise, but the rest was not.
When we did our conference 18 months ago – which was the model from which we developed our corporate workshops for executives – one FTSE director emailed us afterwards saying, “Genuinely moved me to action to change that which is not making me happy. It’s a big step to understand that I don’t want to do nothing, but I equally don’t want to keep doing what I am doing! There is a next step which does not have to be retirement. Few big personal decisions to make over the next couple of months but thank you for facilitating an enlightening day.”
And a director of a FTSE bank emailed saying, “It’s the first time I have walked into a room in recent times when I didn’t feel I was being written off. Instead you just said, right here are a whole bunch of opportunities. Go out and make the most of them. It was really energising and got us all smiling and thinking!”
As we have focused on this market, a few themes are emerging
So what does an elegant exit look like? Here are our thoughts – and we would love to hear what others think. I refer here particularly to senior people in organisations because we have so much experience here. However, the more we work in this space, the more we see these issues apply to all employees
As the HR director said above, the key is to help people visualise a new future, have a plan and work towards it and focus on the beginning of something new and exciting – rather than hanging on or becoming bitter about leaving their comfort blanket of the last 30 years.
None of this is easy and we don’t pretend to have a magic wand. The hardest part of this is for senior people to find the time to think about themselves when they are in 24/7 careers. But, as a number of directors said at one event, this is a time for people to be a bit selfish and focus on themselves. Actually, by doing that they should bring new energy, ideas and contacts to benefit their company as well.
Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.