Turnover & Retention

Sustaining Your Talent Pool in the Midst of a Workforce Crisis

As the workforce continues to age and individuals in the “baby-boomer” generation begin to retire,  employers may be faced with a workforce crisis – there are more positions to fill than available, qualified employees to fill them.  This presents a challenge to employers – how to keep positions filled with qualified individuals? One solution is to encourage employees to participate in bridge employment.

What is Bridge Employment?

“Bridge employment is defined as the pattern of labor force participation exhibited by older workers as they leave their career jobs and move toward complete labor force withdrawal” Bridge employment can include part-time positions where the employee continues to work in the organization, part-time positions in another organization or self-employment. Bridge employment may occur in either the same career or a different field entirely.

Can We Keep Our Valued Employees Involved?

Understanding what factors lead employees to pursue bridge employment is the key to maintaining the talent pool. Organizations should seek out employees displaying these “staying” characteristics. These characteristics include:
  • Individual characteristics related to age, education, and financial stability. Retirees who are younger, educated, healthy, and financially stable are more likely to participate in bridge employment.
  • Job related factors such as work stress and job satisfaction. Retirees who experience less job stress and higher job satisfaction are more likely to participate in bridge employment.
  • Retirement planning in relation to how much an employee has contemplated and/or made plans to retire.  Employees who have thought more about full retirement are less likely to participate in bridge employment.

Practical Implications

Employers faced with the dilemma of losing valuable employees should devote resources to developing “staying” characteristics within their organization. Redesigning or sharing jobs, providing more flexible work arrangements, helping older workers with their family care needs, allowing telecommuting, offering employee assistance programs and alerting employees to the option of bridge employment throughout the retirement planning process can decrease stress and increase job satisfaction. Creating an older-worker-friendly environment by providing older employees with opportunities to grow professionally, avenues for maintaining good health, strategies for managing stress and positive experiences to increase job satisfaction will result in sustaining the talent pool in the midst of the workforce crisis.

Interpretation by:

Elizabeth Allen

DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Wang, M., Zhan, Y., Liu, S., & Shultz, K.  (2008). Antecedents of Bridge Employment: A Longitudinal Investigation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93 (4), 818-830.