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Early retirement is a waste of leadership talent

Our attention is increasingly being drawn towards about the demographic changes within our working population. We are constantly hearing that there are fewer people emerging to replace the increasing percentage of retirees.

As we know, we are generally in better health than previous generations and will live longer. We are also aware that many of us will be many years retired. Our society, which has conventionally used extrinsic factors as the foremost vehicle for attracting and retaining workers, is faced with the issue of certain individuals having the ability to leave work and transition to retirement as early as their 50s.

It can take a person a considerable chunk of time to build a career. An individual may join an organisation after a top quality education that has perhaps brought them a degree – maybe even two. They will earn a reputation as a technical specialist and a doyen in a particular area of their company's endeavours and will therefore be targeted as a future leader. The years pass and the worker shifts increasingly further from the technical base on which their career was founded, as the people paying their wages prepare them for positions with more responsibility.

Big, high quality businesses will have leaders emerging as the cream of the crop by the time they've reached their late 40s. These leaders then have their 50s to perform to the best of their abilities. But in the event of a crisis – then what? Let's not worry about the nature of the crisis right now; suffice to say that it is large enough to attract wide public attention. The knee-jerk response would be to identify a scapegoat, so you can blame them and move on. This contemporary way of behaving matches up with the media-obsessed culture we find ourselves in.

To return to the main theme, we now have a skilled leader complete with a fantastic technical background that's rooted in admirable academic credentials. They have been groomed to take on an important leadership berth in an excellent organisation. This leader might have been expected to be at the top of their game for years to come, but now, at a relatively young age, they are faced with a generously funded retirement. But what are they going to do during this retirement? Finding opportunities with the breadth of command and the depth of accountability that they were trained for is going to be tough. This appears to be a dreadful waste of talent. Yet this situation happens regularly. Something changing or someone wanting to change direction leads to much talent being jettisoned.

The available demographic data, the masses of baby boomers marching towards retirement on fantastically funded pensions and fewer employees emerging as new leaders all point towards a less than ideal picture, with few ideas on how to improve it.

Nisa Chitakasem (pictured) is co-founder of career consultancy Position Ignition