Alexander Forbes reveals that with the right support retrenchments can be positive events


Anne Cabot-Alletzhauser says retrenchment as a catalyst for positive societal change at HR Indaba.

Being retrenched or forced to retire too early is a commonplace employee fear. Both evoke a sense of fear. Speaking at the 2019 HR Indaba, Anne Cabot-Alletzhauser, Head of Research Institute and Product and Development at Alexander Forbes believes that this needn’t be the case. Instead, she argues that company exits, with the right support, can be a positive event for the individual and society in general. 

“Retrenchments and retirements can be an incredible catalyst for societal change. These people are often highly experienced and released from their positions, can offer tremendous value. South Africa desperately needs skills and these former employees have these. We just need to use them in the right spaces.”  

Entrepreneurship is just one possible route. Anne believes that the stereotype of the twenty-year old entrepreneur working from his parents’ garage is a limited view of entrepreneurship. As she points out, research indicates that fifty year-old entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. They have a wealth of business knowledge, connections and grit.   

Not everyone wants to start a business when they leave the workplace. There are other many options for retirees to be involved in society. Mentorship is one possibility. “The skills and experience that a person has when they leave the workplace are very different to those of graduates just starting out,” adds Anne. 

Older individuals have experiential memory; they know more and can understand complex relationships. By contrast, younger team members have short-term memory skills, allowing them to process information faster. Adding grey-haired mentors to teams can significantly boost team performance. 

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Alexander Forbes has developed a range of HR toolkits that allow former employees to add value to society and reintegrate into the South African economy. Working in collaboration with experts, the firm has created four toolkits to address the key challenges that retrenched or retired people face. These include a financial assessment toolkit, a skills, income and ongoing work toolkit, a health and resilience toolkit, and a collaboration toolkit. 

The aim to these toolkits is to replace, to some extent, the ‘wellbeing ecosystem’ that the workplace provides. They provide an empathetic but practical solution to managing this transition. People get more from the workplace than remuneration: a sense of purpose, identity and belonging. Being asked or forced to leave is traumatic. 

 “When you go into trauma, your brain literally stops processing information effectively,” says Anne. 

This means that any retirement or retrenchment discussion should not open with the financial questions. Rather, it should begin the support system; who can help the individual cope with the transition? “What people need most is not money, they need families and friends. It really takes a village to retire properly.” 

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