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Retirement Delays a Mixed Bag for Employers

With investment accounts battered during the last year of financial turmoil, many baby-boomers have had to recalculate their retirement plans – a development that's presented employers with a mixed bag of news, according to a Wall Street Journal report Monday.

A recent survey of more than 2,200 U.S. workers by the consultant group Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that 44 percent of workers 50 and older plan to delay their retirement, with half of those saying they'll work an extra three years than expected.

The downside for businesses is clear – with more workers staying on, especially experienced employees with higher salaries, payroll pressure will continue at a time when companies struggle for profitability. The slowing of retirements also makes it more difficult to hire new recruits, bringing fresh blood - and fresh thinking - into the company at lower expense.

But there is a flip side. For some companies, baby boomer employees represent a wealth of institutional knowledge and technical expertise that may be lost when they retire. For businesses that haven't planned for a mass exodus of top talent, any delay offers a reprieve from the inevitable and a chance to formulate a strategy for continuity.

Part of the strategy to reduce "brain drain" on companies includes establishing mentoring relationships between experienced employees and new recruits.

Some companies are also offering in-house educational opportunities – bringing in industry experts or academics - to employees at no cost. This is an attempt to combat the perception among prospective employees that there are limited opportunities for promotion, according to the report.

And with some of the mentoring relationships, the exchange works both ways. In return for their expertise, older workers get some training in newer technologies, like social networking, from their young co-workers.

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