How Corporates Have to Let Go of Legacy Employees in an Empathic, Yet, Firm Manner

Why the West Faces the of Aging Boomers and Impatient Millennials and What to Do

Every organization has a mix of employees belonging to different age groups in its workforce. Some of them are fresh recruits, some are middle aged, and a few are older and approaching retirement.

While the junior and middle ranked personnel provide the organization with the much needed muscle and hard work, the older employees bring years of experience and the seasoned touch that comes with being grey haired.

Indeed, these older or legacy employees are often in the senior and sometimes, middle management positions and are looked upon for advice and direction by the others.

Having said that, there is also the dilemma of when and how to let go of these silver haired employees who are often past their prime and hence, become deadwood for the organizations.

There is a generational conflict in many organizations wherein the Millennial and the Gen Xers are waiting for the Boomers to retire so that they can move up the organizational hierarchy.

This problem is most acute in the West, and especially in the United States where the aging Boomers are making way for the younger lot now.

How Corporates Can Learn from India’s Ruling Party When Confronting the Problem

So, how do organizations deal with the dilemma of letting go of older and legacy workers and professionals without creating an atmosphere of bitterness and resentment?

After all, the legacy employees have given the most productive years of their working lives to the organizations and hence, deserve the rewards and perks of a post retirement age.

At the same time, organizations also have to ensure that the organizational arteries are not clogged with workers who are atrophying and instead, have to necessarily bring in fresh blood.

Therefore, it is our contention that organizations have to let go of legacy employees in an empathic, yet, firm manner.

They can draw inspiration from the way in which the ruling party in India has ensured a tactful; if not graceless way of retiring its older members by making they part of an advisory and guiding entity.

On the other hand, the legacy employees have to draw comfort in the way in which leading sportspersons often retire at their peak so that they quit when everyone is saying, why now, instead of when now.

Indeed, the practice of ensuring a respectful generational transition would need to be put in place to avoid bad blood.

Designing Generous Post Retirement Packages and a Seasoned HR Touch Would Help

A good way to smoothen and at the same time, sweeten the process of transition would be for corporates to give a generous retirement package to the legacy employees.

In addition, by ensuring that their social security dues and pension accruals reach them, they can work with Federal Agencies to help the legacy employees.

Apart from that, each corporate must have a firm age limit beyond which legacy employees cannot work.

While this sounds good in theory, often it is the case that legacy employees are in critical positions and hence, letting go of them would pose a problem.

However, corporates have to be firm here as with age, employees tend to lose acuity and the light yet professional touch, and hence, it is better to let go of the legacy employees.

At the same time, the legacy employees must not stick around waiting for generous post retirement packages and this is where a skilled Human Resources professional can make the difference between a vitiated goodbye and a warm send off.

In our working experience, we have come across both the situations and have found that a seasoned HR veteran would be able to handle this delicate, yet inevitable, situation.

Impatient and Hurried Transitions Can Create Avoidable Problems for Corporates

Having said that, we do not want to leave the readers with the impression that we are all for retiring legacy employees.

Indeed, more often than not and that too increasingly in recent years, many leading corporates have had to recall and bring in retired business leaders and senior execs back to deal with corporate crises.

For instance, the Indian Information Technology Bellwether, Infosys, had to bring in its founder, NR Narayana Murthy, to help steady the ship at a time of acute problems.

Even the venerated Tata Group had to rely on its retired Chairperson, Ratan Tata, to help sort the problems created due to bad succession planning.

Please read the last sentence again and understand why it is very vital for corporates to have a well laid out succession plan in place so that they do not run into problems once the legacy employees retire.

On the other hand, the Millennials and the Gen Xers should also not be impatient and push the retirement issue beyond a point.

As we have been saying before, retiring legacy employees must be done with compassion and at the same time, a firm manner so as to ensure corporates manage generational transitions.


Last, it goes without saying that the rich experience of the legacy employees would help the corporates even when they are gone.

So, it is better for the incoming leadership to consult them now and then and also to remember them and make their legacy count.

This is where a culture of respecting age and at the same time, looking forward to the future would come in handy for corporates.

To conclude, every corporate faces the dilemma of when to nudge the seniors into retirement and a humane and professional approach is the best bet to ensure a smooth transition.

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Human Resource Management