Reports From The Front Lines # 5

Reports From The Front Lines #5


In early January my good friend and past Business Navigator client, Tom Rechtin, gave me an assignment to deal with a dilemma he and his employees faced. In these economic times many will not be able to retire at 65 and according to a Wells Fargo study the new retirement age is 73. Tom has more than a few employees at age 61. What should he do about this situation?

I posted the following on several group sites including: National Comfort Institute’s “Performance Talk” and on discussion pages with, Consulting Over Fifty–Where Gray Matters & Experience Counts , HVAC Jobs,Sales,Marketing,Management Acceleration Group , HVAC Professionals , Lennox Industries Employees and Alumni and  NATIONAL WHOLESALE PLUMBING, HEATING & HVAC GROUP .

One of my clients has an install manager, CFO, Service techs and installers who are 61 years old and can’t afford to retire at 65. The company has a 401k.
Some employees have worked for Tom 45 years and he has been their only employer.
They live in a small town, some on the same street as Tom.
The dilemma Tom faces is that with age comes decreasing productivity, entrenched behavior and resistance to change. On the other hand loyalty, goes both ways.
I’m including the link to the Retirement Survey that Tom sent me. <>  
Is anybody else facing the same issue?
I’m looking for suggestions that could help Tom and others facing this issue.

The first comment I received was this:

“He should show some loyalty of his own and keep this guy till he is ready to retire….this guy stayed with him thru thick and thin for over 40 f—ing years and he is looking at his decreased skills? Does he think he’s Bill Belichick looking at Bernie Kosar? Get real.”

The second comment stated:

We started to make changes and the first ones to huff and puff were our older employees.  After all, they get there check regardless if we make a profit or not and this was no longer acceptable to the owners. 
The owner of any company is in business to take care of their customers, treat employees fair and to Make a Profit.
Changes must be made to stay on top of these issues constantly or the other companies will put you under.
It is also the responsibility of each employee to help make it happen.  If not, then who is working for who? It is all about teamwork.
If the team is not willing to work together get a new team before it is too late.”

Oops, I thought, guess I have to add some clarification. So I posted:

I really appreciate your comments.
A classic description of a dilemma is to imagine a hallway with only two doors, one at the north end and one at the south. At the north end of the hall crouches a saber tooth tiger in front of the door and at the south end stands a fearsome warrior with a whip and sword. These are the only two ways out of the hallway.
The closer we get to the tiger the better the warrior looks and the closer to the warrior the better the tiger looks.

Frank, you clearly have shown the sense of one end of Tom’s hallway dilemma. You are right, the business has to survive and prosper and if an employee is a significant barrier they should go.

Keeping an employee who may cost more than we can afford could harm the company, but letting a loyal friend go could significantly negatively alter his life.

It becomes even more complex when other realities enter in:
1.       Tom’s company is stable and mildly profitable and not in great danger.
2.       The 61 year old employees are good people who work hard
3.       Over their 45 years working together deep relationships have formed. They grew up together, played baseball, went fishing, attended church, watched their kids and then grandkids grow.
4.       Many live in the same neighborhoods, some next door to Tom.
5.       They did a lot of things right. Savings plans and 401k. Retirement plans. But the economic reality is that many who planned to retire at 65 have to work until 72.

I received twenty-eight responses; many were passionate and highly detailed. Some (eight) were highly critical of Tom and his approach to business.

Twenty responses were very supportive of Tom’s dilemma and some offered very practical and useful suggestions.

One of the responders said this: “I think this is a great question and with the baby boomer generation starting to retire…it will become as big an issue today as whether my age bracket will even have social security tomorrow! My advice is this.”

I’m going to continue to research this very real problem.

If any of you have any further comments, please let me know.

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