We have come to understand that implementation of these ideas will always be slower than we wish if we don’t introduce a far more agile approach to translating insight into action. What follows is a case study on how we can introduce a new process for rapid implementation that brings you, our clients, into the equation.
In other words, how can we better address the needs of our employees once they have left the security of their employment with us? We saw in that request an encouraging sign: employers were beginning to appreciate that they had a responsibility to the broader South African society of ensuring that employees who left their protection would:
This graphic sums it up neatly. Two things occur at retirement and retrenchment.
“ To start the collaboration process, we conducted retirement workshops with more than 1 200 members of pension funds from all over South Africa who were just about to retire. We started those workshops by sharing the insights on ‘Ageing’ and ‘Planning for a Better Ending’ ”
Research is showing us that both retirement and retrenchment can have a traumatic emotional impact. While we readily understand the issue of loss of selfesteem with people who are retrenched, we may be less sensitive about the fact that retirement has the potential to remove someone from the very things that makes them feel like a valued human being:
Regular daily contact with people who acknowledge your existence and see your work as contributing in some way
A sense of purpose – even if it’s just being paid to do a job
That means that before we can begin to think about helping people with financial planning or developing a further source of income, we need to make sure that they have the emotional stamina to make the transition smoothly
What we uncovered, though, was that there are actually some very basic things that we as human beings can start to do to minimise the potential trauma of this transition.
To begin with – perhaps the best thing a person can do to reduce the impact of long-term stress is to exercise. Something as simple as walking every day can make a world of difference to your stress levels, your resilience and, surprisingly, your cognitive abilities – because it provides a constant supply of oxygen to your brain and body. Oxygen acts as a basic building block for cell regeneration – even brain cells.
When Harvard University embarked on its intergenerational study to determine what factors led to a quality of life in our ageing years, they came back with some surprising insights. In turns out that it has much less to do with having good genes and far more to do with having great relationships – relationships that provide people with a sense of connectedness, of being a part of something greater than themselves.
It’s not just a question of having a good network of friends. We now know that human touch can be an important factor in keeping people grounded who may be sliding into dementia. We also now know, that keeping working and having a sense of purpose also play a vital role in the ‘connectedness’ phenomenon that is so important to achieving a life worth living longer.
As the brain ages, two important things happen. Yes, our short-term memory starts to deteriorate. That’s the part of our memory that helps us find where we placed our keys or left our wallet. It’s also the part of our memory that accounts for the slowdown in our productivity – the very thing that HR departments identify as just cause for seeing you out the door and into retirement.
But what often doesn’t get appreciated is that while your short-term memory might be fading, your experiential memory is expanding exponentially. We often call this ‘wisdom’. With more experience, people can ‘connect the dots’ and develop insights that even a high level of education can’t replicate.
In Benefits Barometer 2018: 'Creating the well-being economy', research from our human capital development partners, Mercer, showed that productivity in businesses could be significantly improved by creating teams of experienced (but less productive) employees with younger (less experienced) employees. The combination produced better results than either individual could do on their own.
Accounting for health costs when you are between 20 and 40 is relatively easy simply because health conditions are relatively standard and predictable for this age group. As we move on to 40 to 60, that predictability begins to widen. And as we reach the 60 to 100 age group, it’s almost impossible to generalise about the potential cost of healthcare.
This is because, as the graph to the right illustrates, some people’s health at age 60 is as robust as that of a 30 year old. Similarly, some people at 60 may be experiencing extremely poor health.
With these points in mind, we undertook a series of design sprints – at times with people internal to Alexander Forbes, at times with our clients, and at times with external innovators who had agreed to share their creative input with us.
The product of those three sprints was that we saw that there were four distinct touchpoints where we needed to provide a better safety net – or, in our language, four toolkits. But the more remarkable insight that came out of these sessions was that these four elements needed to be integrated to be truly effective.