SUMMARY: Plan ahead to capture the knowledge and expertise that may be lost when employees retire from your organization. Taking these steps can also help employees retire with a greater sense of pride and accomplishment.

Retain knowledge

Rather than waiting for an exit interview, and about three months or more before retirement, there is an opportunity to capture the knowledge and expertise of your employees through a simple series of questions. These questions could be asked by the leader or by the person who will take on the role that is being vacated by the soon-to-be retiree.

The questions are intended to help the retiree remember some of the high points in their career, as well identify the various skills and knowledge they have acquired along the way. This can increase their sense of pride, as well as help provide a sense of closure for this stage of their lives.

The idea is for the information to be used by the organization to assist and inspire those who will follow in this or similar roles.

You can create your own retiree interview template (see interview framework below) or use our Retiree Interview Form.

Working in isolation can present many challenges, including:

  1. Be sure that the person asking the questions has some knowledge of the retiree’s current role.
  2. Ensure the interviewer will demonstrate appreciation and respect for the accomplishments of the retiree.
  3. With each question, follow up with “And what else?” This supports the retiree to go beyond superficial answers.
  4. If possible, the interview should be held in a private space where there will be no interruptions.
  5. If unable to meet in person, consider video conferencing before telephone.
  6. If absolutely necessary, the retiree could submit their answers in writing. This is not ideal because the retiree is less likely to feel appreciated. This may feel like just another task to serve the organization.
  7. With permission, the interviewer may want to record the conversation and transcribe it later. Most smart phones and laptops now include an app to record audio. This can allow the interviewer to be more engaged in the interaction with the retiree.
  8. The following is some suggested wording to introduce the process to the retiree. It can be sent out in advance with the questions you will be asking:

    Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. We value your insight and want to capture some of this before you leave us. We would like to arrange an interview with you that explores all of your work experiences and contributions, beginning with your first job. This will allow us to learn from you and share your wisdom with those who will follow in your footsteps.

Interview framework

Below are questions and discussion points you can use or modify to create your own customized interview framework:

  • Please describe your work history, beginning with your first job.
  • List the skills you acquired over your entire work history.
  • What were the greatest successes or accomplishments in your entire working history?
  • What were the greatest challenges you faced at work? How did they help you grow as an individual? What advice would you have for other employees facing similar challenges?
  • What were you working at when you most enjoyed work? What was the work environment like then?
  • How can we improve our work environment as we move forward?
  • Describe the characteristics of the co-workers with whom you most enjoyed working. This can help others understand what is valuable in working relationships.
  • Describe the characteristics of the leaders with whom you most enjoyed working. This can help improve or inform leadership strategies.
  • What have been the most significant changes in work culture since you started? Which changes were for the better? What do you wish hadn’t changed?
  • What changes do you believe could benefit this organization?
  • What would you say are your greatest personal and/or professional strengths today?
  • Who in our organization do you think would most benefit from being mentored by you before you retire?

Support transition to retirement

The interview can significantly support the retiree to reflect positively on their work history and benefit the organization by capturing their knowledge. Other strategies can also be used to support a successful transition to retirement:

  • If practical, and, if there is interest, consider setting the retiree up as a mentor for others in the months before their retirement date. Doing this before they actually retire helps them feel that they are passing on their accumulated knowledge and may contribute to a sense of closure.
  • Consider offering the opportunity for retirees to mentor on a volunteer basis after retirement. This allows for retention of the social connections that exist in the workplace as well as a sense of purpose for the retiree.
  • Consider offering a graduated retirement where the number of hours worked reduce incrementally over time. This allows the retiree to begin exploring life with less work rather than it happening all at once.
  • Offer resources or services that can assist employees with understanding the impact of retirement on their financial future. This is something that should be done well ahead of planned retirements. Organizations can offer financial planning sessions on a regular basis for future retirees.
  • Ensure that the retiree understands their current benefits package and what will change after retirement. If possible, provide an opportunity for a discussion rather than just providing materials.
  • Suggest the employee consider completing the Retiring Well form. This can help the retiree imagine and plan for a mentally healthy retirement.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Retirement Planning
Provides discussion on types of retirement income, saving for retirement, how much money you will need and managing your finances. Information courtesy of Government of Canada.

Canada Pension Plan - Overview
An overview of how the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) provides contributors and their families with partial replacement of earnings in retirement.