How to design and deliver an effective Midlife Review

Where does the Midlife Review fit into the scheme of things?

It is not to be confused with the regular reviews which many employers provide usually looking at how the person’s career is progressing, problems to be resolved, their performance over the last period, salary and benefits etc. The midlife review is far more focused on the mid-to-long-term, and it will look at a person’s situation far more holistically, providing the starting point for reflection on their finances, work aspirations and overall wellbeing.

In short, it explores everything that can impact upon a person’s work, with a view to developing a clear perspective on what will enable them to be their best at work, for themselves and their employer, even if that means going part-time, changing role, winding down to retirement or even leaving entirely. The overriding objective, however, is to retain the talents and experience of older people in the workforce by identifying the right course to meet their needs and aspirations.

Many people don’t stop to think about it at all, which is how they end up feeling trapped and frustrated, in roles and situations which no longer suit them, but without the skills and resources necessary to change. Others start imagining the life they would really like to lead during this period of their life.

They would love to take on a different role at work, one which is both fulfilling and allows them to spend less time travelling, or take on a volunteering role, or take a sabbatical to refresh themselves and learn some new skills.

They don’t even know where to start, so it remains a dream. And they may become less productive, motivated, and happy as a result. It’s likely to be a waste of their talent and potential – and might also come at a big cost for the companies they continue to work for…

A good Midlife Review will focus on four areas:

Career What do they still want to accomplish over the next 10-20 years? How do they see their role changing – and what new skills might they need to make this happen?

Wealth Do they have the funds necessary to make their pre-retirement lifestyle possible, for example if they want to reduce their hours? If not, what do they need to do to afford the life they want?

Pension They need to understand when they will eventually be able to afford to retire, wind down work, based on the pensions or other savings they have available.

Health To continue being productive for another 10-20 years, you need to stay as fit and healthy as possible. What steps can you take, to make this more likely?

The discussion won’t give them all the answers they need, far from it but it should trigger a process of reflection and planning, which will help them unlock their potential at this crucial time and help them stay productive employees for as long as necessary.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.  A good starting point for an employer is to look at what has worked well in other companies, put those lessons into context and then create a personalised template for their organisation.  

Testing the template with a small group of employees before rolling it out companywide is a good idea. This is especially important for SMEs who may not have the resources available to try out models that have so far only been used by larger corporates.

Whilst the midlife review concept is still in its infancy, those that have piloted the concept offer the following advice:

• Know your target audience – consider the purpose and intended outcomes.

• ‘Age’ and ‘midlife’ are not fixed concepts – consider what age you are targeting the service for.

• There is no ‘one size fits all’ for delivery – options include telephone consultations, face-to-face, group sessions or online tools, so consider which format is most applicable and effective for the intended participant group.

• Keep the content focused – a midlife review cannot cover everything; prioritisation in content is important to maintain focus, clarity of purpose and participant engagement.

• The midlife review is a process, not a one-off event – practical outputs, signposting and follow-ups are required to engage and benefit participants, and employers and employees can revisit the process in future years to take into account changes in their situation.

As a midlife review will cover wealth, health and work, it may be advisable to bring in outside consultants or advisers – especially if this expertise dos not already exist in-house. Discussing someone’s career aspirations and options could be handled by an internal HR department, but if companies are looking to build trust with employees who might harbour anxieties about the motives behind a midlife review, using an outside HR specialist (at least in the initial stages) could prove a good investment.

Steve Butler is the author of the new book The Midlife Review: A Guide to Work, Wealth and Wellbeing, published by ReThink Press.

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