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Phased Retirement Mentoring: How to Retain Knowledge Across Generations

May 08, 2018 by Josh Hrala

Implementing a phased retirement incentive can help your business in many ways. One of the biggest benefits, though, is that it allows your business to retain vital knowledge that the retiree has learned over the course of their long careers. However, to pull this off, you need to implement a phased retirement mentoring program to foster that transfer and train your organization’s future leaders.


Looking to implement a phased retirement program? Check out our guide:

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By having retirees and future leaders work together, you can ensure that your organization will stay on track as a senior staff member makes their exit. It stands to reason that late-career workers have come to know their role like the back of their hand, understanding all of the nuances of their tasks.

Future leaders, though they may be brilliant in many areas, will still need to know this information if they aim to fulfill these roles successfully. At the same time, retirees can also learn from younger leaders, too. It’s a win-win for both staff members and also a way to keep your business moving into the future.

Let’s get into some details.

What Is Phased Retirement Mentoring?

Phased retirement mentoring is an aspect of your phased retirement plan that aims to help foster knowledge transfer between the retiree and the staff member that will be taking over the role. It helps pass vital information to the new leader while also benefiting the outgoing retiree.

Mentoring is often thought of as a one-way street, though, which is not the case when it comes to phased retirement mentoring.

It’s easy to see how a future leader can learn a lot about their new role from the person who has operated in that role for so long. However, the retiree can also learn a lot from the younger staff member that will be stepping in, too.


Well consider this. Millennials – the largest generation currently working – have, for the most part, chosen careers that give them a sense of purpose and have lived online for most of their lives. This gives them a toolkit that is perfect to help Baby Boomers – the generation that is currently hitting retirement age – find new part-time or full-time roles doing things that they may have put off over the course of their careers.

Basically, as we have said in other posts, Baby Boomers and Millennials – despite being at odds with one another on many subjects – want the same thing: to feel a sense of purpose from their day-to-day lives. In fact, that’s a very human need, one that exists across all generations.

What seems to have happened, though, is that Baby Boomers have put off this want/need and have instead dedicated much of their lives to work, thinking that they will be able to pursue these passions in retirement.

Now that retirement isn’t what it used to be, Boomers are looking for ways to earn some money while also living out their passions. Millennials, with their tech-savvy job hunting skills, can help Boomers fill this void.

At the same time this is happening, the Boomers can help Millennials understand what it takes to be great leaders, great workers, and great business people. They can impart all of that knowledge that they have gained throughout the years onto the younger generation.

This is obviously good for both Boomer and Millennials. It’s also amazingly impactful for your organization because it keeps things marching forward while also paying close attention to those who are making their exit. After all, some of the retirees have worked for organization for decades. It doesn’t make sense to not help them when they are making such a huge move.

How Does Phased Retirement Mentoring Work?

But how do you offer a phased retirement mentoring program? How can you get these two generations in the same room?

Well, that comes down to starting a great phased retirement incentive in the first place.

As a refresher, a phased retirement program is an incentive that your later career staff members can take once they hit retirement age (65 in the US), which allows them to step down gradually over the course of a few months to a few years.

Basically, it elongates the transition out of full-time work and into retired life, giving the retiree and the organization time to make sure all of the bases are covered before the transition is complete.

For your organization, as we have said before, this allows you to make sure that you have a staff member in place to take over for the exiting retiree. For the retiree, it allows them to discover what they want to do after they make their exit.

Adding a phased retirement mentoring program to your retirement program allows the process to go even smoother because it helps both parties make the switch and understand what problems may spring up.

What Is HR’s Role in All of This?

So, we’ve covered the benefits of a phased retirement mentoring program and how they are typically aligned within a standard phased retirement incentive, but what role do you – the HR leader – have in the process?

To be honest, it largely depends on the people involved and how well they get along. It also depends on your organization, the length of your retirement plan, and many other aspects.

In other words, you have to be the judge as to how much you are involved. If everything is going smoothly and both parties have taken to each other, meeting without your involvement, great. If not, you may need to step in and facilitate meeting times or come up with an iron-clad schedule for the process to unfold.

HR needs to first implement the phased retirement policy, though. From there, the next step is find the right candidate to take over the role. Phased mentoring programs are designed to have internal candidates move up and fulfill the soon-to-be-vacant role. An outside candidate could be used, but may run into problems.

Once that is all figured out, HR can help the mentoring process by setting up times for the two people to meet and discuss things, providing introductions and icebreakers to get the mentoring process underway.

If all goes well, the two individuals should – after awhile – open up to each other. If they do, the mentoring process will go off without a hitch. If they are resistant, though, it may take more on HR’s part to ensure that the knowledge is transferred that the future leader is ready to step in once the retiree fully makes their exit.

As you can see, the benefits of a phased retirement mentoring program largely depend on the willingness of both parties involved. We recommend that the mentoring program be optional for the retiring staff member. Usually, the retiree will want to help the younger candidate because if they have worked this job for years, they want whoever takes over to succeed. Sometimes they won’t care, though, and forcing the issue may make things worse.

In the end, it all depends on your corporate culture and those involved in the process. The benefits, if done correctly, though, are vast and a mentoring program should be at least brought up and attempted.

The Final Takeaways

We covered quite a bit here today. Let’s do a brief rundown of what we talked about.

What Is Phased Retirement Mentoring?

A part of the phased retirement process where the retiree and their replacement talk about the role and learn from one another. The current workforce is seeing a lot of Baby Boomers making their exit and a lot of Millennials filling the vacant roles. These two generations can learn a lot from each other when it comes to work and life.

How Should I Implement Phased Retirement Mentoring?

Mentoring should you be added to your phased retirement plan. If you have yet to start that process or want to learn if it is the right thing for your organization, check out our guide:

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What Are the Benefits?

Mentoring programs have benefits for the company and those who are involved. First, it helps the company retain knowledge and specific skill sets that may disappear when a retiree makes their exit. It allows the vacant job to be filled appropriately and for the individual taking over to fully know the role before they have to perform in it.

Secondly, it helps both workers develop personally. Baby Boomers can learn a lot from Millennials and Millennials can learn a lot from Baby Boomers, allowing both to lead better, more enriched, lives inside and outside of the office.

What Is HR’s Role?

HR is the facilitator of the whole process. They oversee the phased retirement program alongside any mentoring needs.

When it comes to specifically phased retirement mentoring programs, HR can help by setting meeting dates, providing icebreakers, and keeping the whole thing moving in the right direction.

How much involvement HR needs to have in the mentoring process largely depends on the individuals and your workplace culture.

Want to learn more about how to help your senior staff members retire? 

retirement lifestyle planning
Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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