Employee retirement is a natural part of the lifecycle of a workplace. Just as new employees join your team and perhaps begin their careers, others phase out of a full-time career while they’re with you. It’s important to celebrate outgoing coworkers’ character and accomplishments as they begin to facilitate their transition into a new life phase, and your organization begins its transition to life without them. If you want ideas for each step of this process, here are some reliable ways to make your coworker’s retirement memorable.
The Retirement Experience
To send off your coworker well, you should first understand the gravity of this change in their life. One’s retirement is a time for mixed emotions.
Retirement Is Not Always by Choice
Not everyone goes into their retirement by choice or when they envisioned doing so. Injuries or chronic physical limitations force people to quit before they’ve lost interest in their work. Your company may incentivize retiring earlier than the retiree intended to. Or workers choose to depart to care for a sick relative. This is one of many reasons to commemorate a retirement well—your coworker may be in a confusing life stage that’s peppered with happiness and regret and in need of support and closure.
Retiring Can Be Painful Under Any Circumstances
Even if the retirement is by choice, the experience is painful because retirees leave behind friends, their working phase of life, and the fulfillment of their job, while their coworkers lose a long-time colleague.
When someone retires, it’s often after years, decades even, of relationship-building with those around them. When they leave, they are no longer in close contact with those friends. Their social circle begins to shrink, which is a difficult reality.
Leaving a Life Stage Behind
Additionally, employees who retire leave behind the working phase of their adult life. This, like other times of transition, is an opportunity for reflection. As people reflect, especially later in life, they may come to regret earlier decisions or simply lament that they won’t get past time back. For a retiree, they may lament that they won’t be productive and that they’ll lose purpose after leaving their organization.
Retirements Affect Staff Too
It’s not uncommon for long-tenured employees to become fixtures of the workplace. Their decisions define the company culture, and it won’t feel like the same place without them. Their absence creates a cultural void and disrupts work processes. It takes time for staff to adjust to their departure.
Plan a Retirement Party
Given the gravity of a retirement, you should consider what you can do to ease people’s entry into their post-work life. Throwing a thoughtful retirement party is an especially good way to make your coworker’s retirement memorable.
Compose a Going-Away Card
Be sure to write a genuine going-away card for them. Talk up their character. Be specific about how they have influenced you as a person and as a professional. Reminding them of stories communicates that you will carry part of them with you after they go. Another option is to have your entire team sign one card. This allows them to have everyone’s names in one place to remember them well into the future.
Don’t Surprise Them
Your coworker has also earned the privilege of knowing about a retirement party beforehand and giving some input. Don’t surprise them; instead, ask them what type of celebration they would prefer. Some won’t mind a big party with them as the focal point, but more reserved employees will want the spotlight off them and to casually spend time with people. Remember, a beloved employee’s retirement is an emotionally fraught time for everyone, but the person and their preferred method for saying goodbye should be the priority.
Give a Personal Retirement Gift
When you plan the party, decide on a gift that fits the retiree and their time on the job. Lean toward a personal gift. Make a quilt with a teacher’s former school mascot. Buy a USMC retirement plaque for a marine leaving the corps. Have a retiring pastor’s favorite Bible passage written in beautiful calligraphy and framed. Whatever their career, there are many opportunities for creativity. Consider making a gift yourself if you feel able. These gifts are deeply meaningful and lasting reminders of their time working and the people who made their time sweet.
Highlight Their Accomplishments and Impact
A retirement party is also an ideal venue for highlighting what people accomplished during their time. Making a video is a touching way to do this. Include pictures from the beginning of their employment to the end and interview employees to discuss the value they added. During these interviews, you can give space for colleagues to relate inside jokes and retell funny or meaningful stories of the retiree’s time. These structured commemoration videos let people say all they want to without worrying about forgetting something during a toast the day of the party.
Make the Transition Simple
The transition from work should be a smooth one. The last thing a retiring employee wants is to have their final impression of their company dictated by a drawn-out and bothersome separation. Get them to complete necessary benefits and insurance paperwork before they officially leave so there are no issues in the future. This way, you won’t need to hound them in the future.
Check in With Them Later On
Keeping up a personal and corporate connection with the retiree is another deeply meaningful gesture. People want to know they’re remembered and valued, so try to contact them when they’re away from the daily life of their former workplace. Go out for coffee or have them back as a company guest. The slightest connection will help the retirement transition feel more gradual.
Ask Them About the Future
As they prepare to leave, talk to people about what their retirement will look like. If they are not retiring by choice or saddened by the life change, this gives you an opportunity to commiserate with them if they’re open to your encouragement. If they’re primarily excited, though, they’ll jump at the chance to brag about where they’re traveling and what retirement will mean to them. Who knows, these conversations may open the door for you to keep in contact with them in the future. Overall, showing an interest in their future will help them feel like you’re interested in their whole person.