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Stocking the retirement pool

By Chuck Green | January 3, 2014
Stocking the retirement pool

About 30 per cent of the workforce at AltaGas Ltd. consists of employees over the age of 50 – meaning retirement isn’t so far down the road for a hefty number of those whose talents the company values highly.

The impending loss of that rich reservoir seemingly had the potential to pose a major quandary for the organization. However, perhaps not surprisingly, instead of accepting that inevitability, AltaGas sought a way to maintain a relationship with those soon-to-be-former employees who were similarly interested in maintaining contact with the firm.

The strategy

Facing the risk of losing these employees’ wealth of knowledge and abilities, in 2011, AltaGas introduced the Retiree Resource Pool, which provides the opportunity for retirees to continue to make meaningful contributions to the company in the years following retirement by acting as temporary relief or project-based resources on an as-needed basis. The program is designed to provide temporary assistance to ease the workload pressures while offering viable options for retirees “to balance the enjoyment of retirement with opportunities to stay connected and to remain a contributing member of the AltaGas team,” says Michelle Dulmadge, Manager, Talent Development and Employee Relations.

The pool offers workplace balance and some work flexibility for retirees, and it can augment their retirement income and balance it around the activities they want to pursue in retirement, she says. Furthermore, it’s a chance for them to stay connected and use their knowledge of the organization to provide meaningful contributions and stay in touch, and mentor and train other employees. “It’s a win- win for everyone,” says Dulmadge.

The program, although successful, has not been without some challenges. AltaGas had to address the fact that those employees who’d spent years with the company had little desire to update their resume after their final day of work. The lack of updated information made it more difficult for AltaGas to effectively match the temporary roles with the individuals. AltaGas resolved the matter by developing what it calls a skills checklist. The checklist enables retirees interested in temporary ad hoc work with the company to describe their experience and skills without filling out an application or additional paperwork.

“If we’re looking to bring in a temporary contractor, we can identify someone from the retiree pool instead of, for instance, bringing in someone from an outside agency,” says Dulmadge.

The results

While the company has not experienced a significant number of retirements since the program was introduced, perhaps 50 per cent of retirees have expressed interest in the pool, with the others interested in the full practice of retirement, says Dulmadge. “We’re starting to see a trend of people who are looking for greater work/life balance and work-hour flexibility as they ease into retirement, or those who are choosing to postpone retirement past age 65,” she says. As that momentum becomes more firmly entrenched, she believes that participation in the pool will grow even further.

Looking forward

Dulmadge says AltaGas is in the process of establishing the pool among a number of its subsidiaries. “I think we’re going to have to be more nimble in terms of meeting the needs of an aging workforce and anticipate that the pieces we’re laying down today are helping us build for what probably will be a greyer pool of retirees in the future.” As that momentum becomes more firmly entrenched, she believes that participation in the pool will grow. As it does, “we’ll welcome back even those who retired predating the pool and who might reach out to us.”

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