Pharmaceutical giant Roche has recently set up a retirees’ initiative to ease the transition to retirement and make the most of retirees’ desire to give back.
HR chief Andrew Armes has long been keen to do something to help employees of pharmaceutical company Roche make the transition to retirement, but because the industry is so highly regulated and risk averse due to fears of leaks of sensitive information he has not been able to. Until a few months ago.
Armes, who is UK Head of Talent Acquisition at Roche, got a group of people affected together to brainstorm what support the company could offer. He says there was “a sense that as soon as people walked out the door after 20, 30 or 40 years the drawbridge got pulled up”. “They felt they were no longer part of the community and could not engage,” he adds. Armes wanted to change that.
He is clear about the business case for harnessing retirees’ good will by supporting them in their transition to retirement and ensuring their long-term wellbeing. Moreover, for him retirees are important brand ambassadors. “For me it was more a case of what is the reason for not doing it,” he says.
Based on his brainstorming conversations Armes put together a strategy. It includes a package which allows retirees’ access to use facilities such as the gym and the canteen so they can come in and meet up with other retirees and colleagues. Armes hopes in the future to organise regular six-monthly afternoon teas for retirees.
He thought Roche could offer retirees the opportunity to play a more active part in the company, for instance, taking part in outreach events such as university career fairs or being a mentor. “We want to harness their wisdom,” says Armes.
The process is entirely voluntary. Roche Retirees has only been in operation for a few months and has its own secretary, a recent retiree who has worked for Roche for 35 years and who Armes had been talking to for six months before Roche Retirees was set up. “We needed someone who fully understood what we were trying to do,” says Armes.
The secretary talks to people coming up for retirement and asks if they might be happy to stay in touch, in keeping with GDPR. If so, they sign up to the group. The secretary is the conduit for events and resources through a regular newsletter. Having one point of information keeps the risk low from a regulatory perspective. Retirees can propose their own ideas about what they would like to do.
“The feedback has been so great,” says Armes. “People say it keeps their minds active and enables them to give something back. Our current employees love it too – it’s another element in our engagement work and reflects our culture. It shows that we take care of people beyond their retirement and care deeply about their well being.”
In addition to the initiative, Roche also gives its employees information about the retirement transition in the two years leading up to their last day, including financial advice. The company has a very flexible, inclusive culture which is based on focusing on what individuals have to offer, understanding their different life situations and listening without judging. Some older workers ask to reduce their hours in the lead-up to retirement. “For us it’s important that we complete the working life cycle,” says Armes. “I’m excited to see how Roche Retirees evolves.”