How to Conduct the Early Retirement Interview - Sample Departure Forms

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How to Conduct the Early Retirement Interview - Sample Departure Forms

An early retirement consists, for an employee, in starting to receive a reduced pension before reaching legal retirement age, by (partially or fully) ceasing his/her professional activity. In Switzerland, the legal retirement age is set to 65 years for men and 64 years for women, while the minimal age for an early retirement is set to 58 years.

An early retirement generally takes place under one of the following circumstances: 1) when the company assumes, for diverse reasons, that the employee is not able to cope with his/her tasks in a satisfactory way anymore, or 2) when the employee decides to put an end to his/her career. The early retirement’s consequences at personal and organizational level, as well as the way the interview should be conducted will both depend on the situation we are in.

The 1st case is the most frequent due to repeated economic crises, market globalization and the underlying constant technological evolution, the cost of social insurances, etc. Seniors thus often tend to be looked down on in the professional context. Given all this, an early retirement may represent an adequate option, not only for the company, but also for the employee. The latter will however have to be persuaded that this decision is well-founded.

Please note that an early retirement (whether total or partial – in the case of a reduction of working hours) may also be jointly decided by both parties, in which case the ensuing interview should not present any significant difficulty. A stress should however be put on the concrete support that can be provided to the employee (aids, AHV/AVS allocations, help with the pension fund’s procedures, etc.).

TOOLS

In case the early retirement is not desired by both parties, the organizational and/or personal consequences can sometimes turn out to be significant. In order to mitigate – if not suppress – possible side effects, the reader should be reminded of the general rules that apply to exit interviews (guidelines), as the situation would be very similar to that of a dismissal interview (guidelines). The same tools may thus be applied, namely:

PRACTICE
 
The retirement of an employee who has reached the legal retirement age is a management act that generally does not entail any significant operational or relational issues. Both the employer and the employee are usually content with the situation and its consequences. In the contrary, an early retirement can occur at an inopportune time and thus​ strongly destabilize the employee or the employer. As mentioned above, there are two possible cases:
 
I. The early retirement is decided by the company: In the case of a forced retirement, the employee may feel betrayed and abandoned. He/she may be lead to question his/her personal worth and values. Indeed, the stronger and more intense the relation to the employer is, the more the employee links his/her worth to his/her work. The separation may thus lead to a sense of loss of one's identity and social bearings.
 
Some practitioners agree on the fact that the exit interview, in the case of an early retirement that is decided by the employer, is often more difficult to conduct than a dismissal interview.
  • Proposals for the conduct of the interview:
  1. Give the person the freedom to express his/her feelings (sometimes the person is aggressive)
  2. Show understanding
  3. Quickly come to the concrete support the company will provide: aids, AHV/AVS allocations, help with administrative tasks, etc.
  • Remark on communication: In this case, the discussion should be oriented, at some point, towards the discussion of the employee’s values. The latter will indeed be impacted, and his/her sphere of autonomy should thus be strengthened. He/she may thus be encouraged to focus on his/her private life or associative activities, such as politics, humanitarian work, sports, etc.

The strengthening of the personal sphere should contribute to preserving the employee’s dignity and social identity: although contrary to an optimal financial welfare, the situation will allow him/her to enjoy more freedom. The effects of the job loss will thus be limited to its economic impact; it will leave the employee’s integrity, self-image and social role mostly intact.

II. The early retirement is decided by the employee: When it is the employee who decides to leave the employer, the latter may be left unprepared and show hostility, especially if the move was not expected. Here again, the interview may contain several issues that are sensitive both for the employer and the employee.

The issues linked to the employee’s loss of identity and social bearings, however, will be less pronounced – if at all present. The discussion will be less focused on the employee’s personal values.

  • Proposals for the conduct of the interview:
  1. Give the person the freedom to express his/her feelings
  2. Show understanding
  3. Expose the possible concessions the company is ready to make
  4. Expose the different alternatives the company offers (internal mobility, lesser workload…) and try to reach a “win-win” agreement
  5. Expose the concrete support the employer can provide
  • Remark on communication: This situation can sometimes lead to a conflict between the employee and the employer. Such conflicts may be solved in a friendly manner by trying to find a modus vivendi.
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