Posted on 30 January 2008
By Mark Miller
Bob Lew retired a couple years ago after working for 25 years as an emergency room physician. He was just 51 years old, but after all that time in the ER, he was ready for a break, and he had met his financial goals for retirement.
Dr. Lew knew he wouldn’t want to just sit around—but he wanted more flexibility to travel and enjoy time with his family. “Unlike what most most retirement planners recommend, I didn’t have a plan,” recalls Dr. Lew. “ I thought I would take a few months off and think about what I wanted to do.”
It was during those months that Lew and YourEncore found one another. YourEncore is among the growing number of employment services that helps retired people get back into the job market. But in the case of YourEncore, there are a couple of twists.
The company only recruits people like Lew—highly-skilled professionals with scientific or engineer backgrounds. And, the company is the brainchild of three blue-chip corporations—Procter & Gamble, Eli Lilly and Boeing—that launched the business in 2003 and signed on as charter clients.
What were these Fortune 500 giants doing starting an employment service for retirees?
“Like a lot of big technology companies, the average age of our employees is getting close to 50,” says Lynne Wenberg, senior manager of flight sciences at Phantom Works, Boeing’s advanced research and development unit in Seattle. “We’re going to have some pretty significant churn in the next few years.”
Many employers are beginning to worry about the expected “brain drain” as millions of baby boomers retire. But the issue is acute for technology-oriented companies that rely on the knowledge of experienced scientists and engineers.
YourEncore was started to help plug that gap by deploying teams of its experts to work on short-term consulting projects for client companies.
“The preponderance of scientists and engineers in our country are boomers,” says Brad Lawson, YourEncore’s president and chief executive officer. “The companies that rely on them are worried about their retirement and the loss of knowledge that goes with it.”
In the aerospace and defense industry, for example, about 25 percent of all employees will be eligible to retire this year, according to a study commissioned by Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. And, the U.S. is not producing enough young engineering graduates to replace those who retire.
YourEncore addresses the brain drain issue—but its founders also hoped to become more innovative by applying fresh perspectives to their businesses. “We want to recover lost knowledge from retirees who are walking out the door at a growing rate every day,” Lawson says, “but we also make remarkable connections with people who come from other industries.”
In one case, YourEncore sent a team of retired P&G engineers to work helping Boeing sort out supply chain problems.
A healthcare client wanted to deepen its understanding of how blood circulates through the human body; YourEncore assembled an unusual team that included a physician, and experts in fluid dynamics, traffic control and pharmaceuticals manufacturing. The industry expertise included systems controls, consumer products and electronic control systems.
Says Lawson, “We had them get together to brainstorm and strategize about different ways to address circulation problems in the human body. Some remarkable insights emerged that that helped our client advance its thinking about products that improve circulation.”
YourEncore’s client base has grown to more than 25 companies since its launch, and 4,000 retirees have joined its consulting network. The consultants say they enjoy the intellectual stimulation that comes with the projects. The money’s not bad, since compensation is tied to consultants’ rate of salary at retirement.
But the best benefit may be flexibility.
“The nice thing is that it’s project-related,” says Lew, whose has been assisting pharmaceutical companies with clinical trials and other projects. “You’re not committed on long-term basis like you would be on a full or even a part-time basis. You’re free to pick and choose.”
RESOURCES: There’s no shortage of services these days that help retirees get back into the job market; I’ve posted a roundup of 50+ employment services and other resources this week.