Here’s your case study for today . . .

Nathan joined your team as a supervisor at the age of 32. Over the past 30 years, he has been a steady contributor. He’s now the number-two person in his group of 30 people. Nathan has helped group leaders be successful as they’ve come and gone. Every time he’s applied for the top job, he’s always been considered, but he usually ran second or third in the race.  He accepted these decisions graciously. He helped the new leader get ramped up and encouraged the team to follow his/her leadership.

Nathan turned 62 today. The group threw him a small party at lunch. You think about the day Nathan will retire from this team. Then it occurs to you that day could be today.

Retirement is a function of wealth/revenue streams and priorities/family concerns, not age, although age usually impacts the other factors. Nathan has 30 years with your company and is 62. He could retire on the company plan. Nathan seems to manage his life well and probably manages his finances well. He and his wife have been married since before he joined the company, and his children (and grandchildren) all live out of town. Nathan could be sitting on quite a nest egg. Nathan appears healthy and seems to enjoy his work as much as ever. But do you know what he’s thinking?

You’re the big boss in this case study. You’re responsible for Nathan’s group and four similar groups.  You pride yourself on being prepared. What should you be considering at this point? Below is my list.  Feel free to email yours to me; I’d like to compare notes.

  • Nathan has 30 years of corporate intelligence. How can I begin a knowledge transfer so that if/when he decides to leave, he leaves the bulk of his information with us?
  • I should take Nathan to lunch and see if he has begun to think about his retirement. I should talk with him about any ideas he might have to help us transition when that day comes.
  • Who should Nathan be mentoring and which supervisors should he be working with (outside of direct reporting) to help them learn from his experience and to groom them to be better performers?

So you invite Nathan to lunch a few days after his birthday, and you’re about to begin this discussion when he says, “I’m glad you invited me, we need to talk. My wife and I reached an important decision last weekend, and I think I want to retire at the end of the month.  I wanted to tell you before I went to Human Resources. I have an appointment with them in the morning.”

Suddenly the sense of urgency on this matter reaches a critical level. This is unexpected, and as your organization is lean, you don’t have a spare manager to put in this role without creating a vacancy somewhere. What do you do?  Below is what comes to my mind.  Send me an email, and we’ll compare notes.

  • Determine why Nathan has decided to make this decision. Is it a health issue for himself or a family member?  Is he unhappy with something at work?  Knowing the motivating factors will help to determine the possible outcomes.

See if you can persuade Nathan to stick around until a replacement is recruited and trained.  Consider a retention bonus of a month’s salary if he stays on 120 additional days and trains his replacement.