Implementing Retirement-focused Career Services in a Workplace Setting

By Andrea Updegrove

Evolving Nature of Retirement Calls for Evolving Workplace-Based Career Services

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023), nearly 25% of the labor force is aged 55 or older and therefore eligible for or approaching retirement.  Some of these workers will experience retirement that does not involve an immediate cessation of work. According to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, over 33% of workers age 50+ expect to work in retirement (Collinson & Cho, 2023a) and over 50% of Millennial and Generation Z workers plan to do the same (Collinson & Cho, 2023b).

In spite of this increase in continuing work after retirement, services offered by employers to help workers prepare for continued employment are limited. About one in six workers have access to retirement-oriented lifestyle and transition planning resources, information about encore careers, and seminars and education about retirement transitions from their employers (Collinson & Cho, 2023b).

Practitioners can offer workers retirement-focused support and services they can build upon, such as one-on-one career development discussions, assistance with internal assignments, resumes and interviewing support, and workshops on career development topics. In fact, the goal is to take a more holistic approach to such services and to do so in a timeframe that is most advantageous to employees, i.e., several years prior to their retirement.

Primavera (cited in Morkides, 2022), believes approximately 40% of individuals who are one to two years into their retirement still have not fully adapted to their new situation. Practitioners can help individuals better manage the transitions from their current work roles to those in retirement, avoiding a lengthy transition and increasing the likelihood of success

The Best Time to Offer Career Transition Programs

Timing is the key to the process; instead of waiting until employees are about to retire, employees can start the conversation much sooner. While career transition programs may begin 30 to 90 days prior to an employee’s retirement date, some employers offer financial retirement courses much earlier, e.g. three to five years in advance of a planned retirement date. Retirement-focused career development support could be offered simultaneously or immediately following a financial course, so a holistic plan can be developed.

There are several reasons why an early start is critical. All require time. These include:

  • Identifying, visualizing and re-establishing routines after transition (Morkides, 2022; Peacock, 2018)
  • Rebuilding job search skills that have gone unused in the latter half of employees’ careers due to job tenure of older workers (Lytle et al., 2015a)
  • Developing mindsets and expectations for ongoing learning and then upskilling or reskilling individuals for post-employment work (Root et al., n.d.; Lytle et al., 2015a)
  • Developing mid-career employees to facilitate succession planning; and having retiring workers transfer knowledge to current employees.

Istock 1209053770 Credit Prostock Studio

Integrating Career Development Theories, Concepts and Practices

Workplace career service providers can leverage several career development theories, concepts and practices for retirement services, including:

  • Super’s (1995) Work Importance Study values – provides a cross-cultural list of 14 values that individuals seek to fulfill through work
  • Schlossberg’s (1981) Transition Theory 4-S Model – helps retirees address the transition through analysis of situation, self, and supports and by developing corresponding strategies to manage these three areas
  • Bridges’ (2019) Transition Theory – provides a framework for moving through the stages of retirement: ending a current career; the neutral zone, a “no man’s land” between stages with an ultimate goal of transformation, self-renewal and preparing to enter a new phase; and beginning that next phase
  • Super’s (1980) Life-Career Rainbow – incorporates a life stage and role perspective; relevant roles for this audience include citizen, homemaker, grandparent, and leisurite, a role dominated by recreation activities
  • The concept of bridge employment –represents a transition from full-time career employment to part-time work, self-employment, or temporary work, either in one’s current industry and occupation or a different industry and occupation (Doeringer, 1990, as cited in Feldman, 1994)
  • The practice of encore careers (Freedman, 2007) –provide a vocation later in life which satisfies an individual’s needs for a sense of purpose and fulfillment as well as financial needs; fields include education, healthcare, the environment, government, and the nonprofit sector – see Dávila’s (2023) Career Convergence article for more information

Program Components of Workplace-based Career Services

According to Lytle et al.(2015a), workplace-based retirement career services should include the following.

  • Overview of the retirement landscape (current state, opportunities and requirements)
  • Identification of retirement goals, dreams, expectations and influences
  • Skill, interest, ability and value assessments
  • Basic job search skills training
  • Resume and interviewing assistance
  • Transitions/change management training
  • Phased retirement process discussions
  • Knowledge transfer/mentoring
  • Examination of potential sources of discrimination, relevant laws/regulations and protections
  • Referrals to wellness resources e.g. Employee Assistance Program

Lytle and others (2015a) had several recommendations for career development practitioners. One is helping clients identify the full range of retirement influences such as personal, health, financial, familial, and culture. Others include determining whether measures are normed with the target population and taking into account intersectionality, particularly relative to post-retirement employment discrimination.

Phased retirement programs allow workers to reduce the number of hours and work demands with their current employer in preparation for retirement. These can be formal programs offered by the employer. Alternately, they could be informal arrangements such as transitioning from management to individual contributor roles or the ability to work on a contingent basis, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (Miller, 2019). Knowledge transfer to colleagues is often a component.


Retirement is changing. Workplace-based career services can help employees prepare. Employers may have foundational pieces. Practitioners inside and out of the organization may overlay additional components based on career development theory and recommended practices to fill in the gaps. Offering these services several years prior to retirement can create a win-win situation for both the employee and the organization.



Bridges, W., & Bridges, S. (2019). Transitions (40th anniversary edition): Making sense of changes. Hachette UK.

Collinson, C., & Cho, H. (2023a). Life in retirement: Pre-retiree expectations and retiree realities. Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. https://transamericainstitute.org/docs/default-source/research/life-in-retirement-preretirees-expectations-retiree-realities-report-september-2023.pdf

Collinson, C., & Cho, H. (2023b). Post-pandemic realities: The retirement outlook of the multigenerational workforce. Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. https://transamericainstitute.org/docs/default-source/research/post-pandemic-retirement-realities-multigenerational-workforce-report-july-2023.pdf

Dávila, N. (2023, August 1). Positioning clients for success in their encore careers. Career Convergence. https://ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/524455/_self/CC_layout_details/false

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Freedman, M. (2007). Encore: Finding work that matters in the second half of life. PublicAffairs.

Lytle, M. C., Clancy M. E., Foley P. F.  & Cotter E. W. (2015a). Current trends in retirement: Implications for career counseling and vocational psychology. Journal of Career Development, 42(3), 170-184. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845314545785

Lytle, M. C., Foley P. F.,  & Cotter E. W. (2015b). Career and retirement theories: Relevance for older workers across cultures. Journal of Career Development, 42(3), 185-198. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845314547638

Peacock, J. (2018, April 9). Interview: Dr. Nancy Schlossberg and her Career Transitions Theory [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbUz2DqbwmU

MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures. (2011, September). Encore career choices: Purpose, passion and a paycheck in a tough economy. https://encore.org/wp-content/uploads/files/

Miller, S.  (2019, November 4). Many older workers would prefer to ease into retirement. Society for Human Resource Management. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/many-older-workers-prefer-easing-into-retirement.aspx

Morkides, C. (2022, June 8). Post-pandemic realities: The retirement outlook of the multigenerational workforce. Counseling Today. https://ct.counseling.org/2022/06/embracing-the-realities-of-retirement/

Root, J., Schwedel, A., Haslet, M., & Bitler, N. (n.d.). Better with age: The rising importance of older workers. Bain & Company. https://www.bain.com/insights/better-with-age-the-rising-importance-of-older-workers/

Schlossberg, N. K. (1981). A model for analyzing human adaptation to transition. The Counseling Psychologist, 9(2), 2-18. https://doi.org/10.1177/001100008100900202

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Super, D. E., & Šverko, B. (Eds.). (1995). Life roles, values, and careers: International findings of the Work Importance Study. Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 6). Employment Projections: Civilian labor force, by age, sex, race, and ethnicity. https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/civilian-labor-force-summary.htm



Andrea UpdegroveAndrea Updegrove has been with the Department of Defense since 2011 in a variety of roles, primarily human resources and training and development. Her most recent position involved providing career development guidance and strategic human capital analysis for procurement professionals. Since 2019, she also served as an internal coach across the DoD and federal government. She holds a BA in Sociology from Cornell University and an MEd in Human Resource Development from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is currently pursuing an MA in Psychology with a concentration in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from George Mason University. She can be reached at andreaupdegrove@gmail.com 

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