Retirement – the business risk that is never mentioned?

26 September 2016 By Northern Lights

Retirement – the business risk that is never mentioned? image


Retirement.  Is this one of the biggest unspoken risks in a business?

In the last year I have been to a number of reunions, celebration dinners and parties and noticed that the conversation is increasingly revolving around retirement.  Since I am planning my next 20 year career, these conversations have come as a shock.

While I am pleased for the individuals mapping out their own 20 year retirement plans, the thing that is really hitting me is how retirement stops business leaders from developing.  In a way, you might say that is the flipping obvious.  But I am not sure it is obvious within businesses and I am absolutely certain that no-one is addressing it well.

First, what are the problems?

I wrote some time ago that there seems to be an acceptance that any business leader over 50 is too old to get into social media.  Our client, Pat Chapman-Pincher has been concerned that boards don’t understand technology and are not managing it.

To me, this is like saying that it’s OK if a chief executive never uses the internet or let’s his/her PA handle all their emails.  If you ignore technology, social media, the internet then I honestly believe you are not managing and asking the right questions in your business.  You are remote from what is happening with your customers, employees and future recruits.  You can dive into the detail of your finances but you are not challenging and checking how your business engages with the world.


So when I am chatting to these business leaders at dinners, I am shocked when someone who is three years off retirement says “Well we can still get work from our traditional methods, so I don’t need to worry about all that.  I will see myself out without having to learn all this new stuff.”

They have been happy to ignore what is going on in the world for the last five or more years and will continue to do so for the next three years.  A period of nearly ten years when they have not been learning, thinking, understanding about what is happening and driving through change is a terrible disservice to the company that has given them so much?  Including their comfortable retirement.

Who is managing this risk?  The people who should be alert – chairmen, boards, others in the leadership team – are all in this together.

The other side of retirement is their internal impact.  I have been helping senior managers in a number of companies – developing their leadership skills.  I am really shocked to see how a director or partner boss who is retiring puts the careers of their teams at risk.  They no longer champion individuals for promotion, ensure they are doing and meeting the right people, driving through change.  They are really decent people but their focus has gone.  Their mind has moved onto barges across France or climbing Machu Picchu.

I was recently talking to an HR director who said that senior managers with gold-plated pensions can be the most difficult group to motivate and engage with in the business.

Of course, while so many leaders are not grasping technology, as I write we have a business leader in our office being coached by a colleague on how to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I know he hates it at the moment, but he knows he has to make this leap for his business.  I am full of admiration for all those who open their mind to the new and do the hard slog of understanding and using new technologies.  It is hard – we know, we have gone and continue to go through the pain ourselves – but we all have to do this is we want our businesses to survive.

I have decided that our next ebook should be for business leaders to explain the essentials and help them to understand and take some first steps.  I am still determined to make a difference on this!

What tips would you offer business leaders, have you stories to share, what should I cover?  And is retirement an issue in business?

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Written by Northern Lights