Why You Should Retain Empty Nesters

An older business woman leaning on her desk.

Earlier this decade, Millennials took their place as one-out-of-three employees in the workplace. Guess who the other two-out-of-three are? All the attention on Millennials is understandably leaving Gen X and Boomers feeling a little, dare we say it, Jan Brady-esque. Gen X is already pleading for employers' attention like main characters in a Dr. Seuss book. But Boomers - particularly newly launched empty nesters - need some attention, too. Why?

Why Should You Retain Empty Nesters?

First there's the obvious reason: you need them. There may be lots of Millennials out there, but they won't get completely up-to-speed fast enough to replace the knowledge lost to a mass exodus of experienced people. Just look at healthcare; the industry is bracing for the loss of Boomers, estimated to be 50% of working nurses. That field is just one among many that could find business continuity shaken if the younger boomers hit the RV trail too soon. But there's another, brighter reason to hang on to your empty nesters. It's not just about what you can lose...but what you can gain. Newly empty nesters have spent 18-plus years managing the circus act otherwise known as working parenting. Those juggling kids and jobs have been called the workforce's plate spinners for their ability to balance babies and spread sheets without dropping a digit. They've already proven their ability to handle multiple deadlines at once. And their schedules are no longer hamstrung by daycare pickups or worries about the perils of leaving unsupervised teens in empty houses (arguably a whole new reason for sleepless nights). Suddenly they have not only time on their hands, but mental space they'd like to occupy. And all that freed up energy can now be put into their jobs. The good news is that you can entice them with some strategies that will make everybody happy:

Learning, Boomer style

Sending one's progeny off to higher learning has a tendency to unleash a parent's desire for knowledge and accomplishment, too. But employees in their 50s are likely looking for something other than a four-year degree. They may want skills and enrichment - both assets to your company. But you'll lose the opportunities if your education program is set up without mechanisms for those types of valuable learning.

Talk about their goals

Growth is essential for continued investment in the job. But goals can get lost if all the company is focused on is the traditional corporate-ladder ascent. Just because empty nesters aren't angling for corner offices doesn't mean they don't have ambitions. And they'll be happy that you asked.

Recognize the transition

New babies prompt many employee/employer conversations about work arrangements to support them. The departure of said babies is another good time to have the same chat. A working mom who's been endlessly surrounded by people for the last 20-odd years might find working a day or so in an empty house both liberating and energizing. Remote employees might desire the connection of spending more days in the office. Either way, openness to the conversation solves the practical problem of changed life circumstances while providing an easy and inexpensive way to confer benefit equity.

Recipe for a Dream Company

Not surprisingly, the above three ingredients - career growth, value, and support - are the big three of Dream Companies. And the beauty is they likely already exist at many companies; they just might need to be adjusted to be a fully inclusive, multi-generational strategy to retain empty nesters. Not all empty nesters are going to feel the classic psychological sting of watching their birds fly. But for those who do, an energized career is not only an antidote for employees...but employers as well.
three happy employees working together

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Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.