Tourism Vancouver Eases Leadership Transition by Retaining Retiring Boomer

Tourism Vancouver is one of many forward-thinking tourism employers seeing the value of retaining retiring staff by offering contract, project work or more flexible part-time roles. This benefits both parties; the organization keeps loyal staff and valuable expertise in house while allowing boomers to more gradually move into retirement.

When the time came for long-term employee Patti Smolen to retire from Tourism Vancouver, the organization wasn’t quite ready to see her go. With a major leadership transition in progress, the management team at Tourism Vancouver knew that Smolen’s in-depth knowledge of the organization and industry would be an advantage to retain on a part-time basis. And like many boomers, Smolen wasn’t quite ready to go ”cold turkey” from the work that she loved in BC’s tourism industry. After resigning from her role as the Director of Industry Relations with Tourism Vancouver, the organization made her an offer that was a win-win for both parties and she jumped at the chance to continue working part-time.

“When Patti decided to retire in January 2014, together, we decided that part of our strategy to retain and transfer her valuable knowledge from years as a leader with Tourism Vancouver, would be to transition to a part-time contract relationship,” says Sandra Sharples, Director, Human Resources at Tourism Vancouver.

The value of institutional knowledge such as what Smolen offers was not overlooked by Tourism Vancouver. Smolen’s career at Tourism Vancouver started in the late 80’s when her diverse industry experience working with hotels, resorts, airlines and events culminated in an opportunity to work with the organization. “I started working on a few events, and then one thing led to another. I was working in membership, sales, setting up a reservation system and more. It was quite an eclectic job,” Smolen commented. Her role evolved over time as the organization grew.

Smolen worked closely for over 20 years with the organization’s CEO at the time, Rick Antonson. When he resigned, Smolen decided it was time for her to move on as well. But as it turned out, she was asked to stay on to help with the transition.

“To go ‘cold turkey’ and not work at all would be rough. They wanted my help to transition Rick out and the new CEO, Ty Speer, in – assisting with board work, making introductions to industry folks, and so on,” says Smolen, who currently works about 25 hours a month. “I work from home and go in as needed. It keeps me engaged doing work that I like.”

Today Smolen enjoys a healthy work-life balance with time to enjoy both personal and professional pursuits. “It’s all manageable – a few hours each month, and it’s working out fine. On top of that, I am able to enjoy life. We have a boat that I can now take more time to enjoy. Technology-wise it’s very easy to keep in touch, and I can still do work wherever I am,” comments Smolen.

For Tourism Vancouver, retaining Smolen’s knowledge helped to facilitate a smoother leadership transition and the organization continues to benefit from her expertise today. “With the diversity of today’s workforce, traditional methods are not always the answer and as a result, we continually seek innovative and proactive ways to retain intellectual capital. This flexible approach has worked extremely well from all perspectives and has proven to be a great advantage for Tourism Vancouver,” comments Sharples.

With today’s tight labour market, and boomers retiring in record numbers, forward-thinking businesses are putting a plan in place to ensure that continuity and knowledge is retained, passed along and documented as needed. If you are an employer interested in learning more about recruiting and retaining boomers for your business, check out go2HR’s Baby Boomer Toolkit.