Get the stories from your retirees now!

History Smiths

When members of your team retire, what happens? A party? A gift? Both are lovely gestures, but please think strategically about the institutional memory you are about to lose and how you can capture the experiences, memories, and perspective of your retirees before it’s too late.

I have been working on a business history for a client, and two of the most helpful documents they gave me have been autobiographical statements made by two of the founding partners on their retirement. It’s just amazing. A factoid here and there is enough to send me to newspaper microfilm to track down an important story. A seemingly inconsequential memory at the time has in one case turned into a “first” they can really brag about. Both statements were made about 25 years ago, and there was no way the two retirees could have known how helpful their words would be!

What about your retirees? Twenty-five years from now, when you or someone else is researching your company history, will they have left behind information you need to tell your story?

You could:

• Interview each retiree on video or audio and create a written transcript.

• Ask each person to write a statement, or have a younger member of your team interview him/her and do the writing.

• Collect stories from other members of your team about the retiree.

• Collect photos.

Yes, you can use this material at the retirement party, but it must also go into your company archive.

In fact, the two autobiographical statements I referenced earlier have been SO key in my research that my client has now institutionalized some form of interview and statement from every retiree moving forward. Brilliant!

I hope you will take these steps as well, especially if you have retiring founders. It is awfully difficult to retrieve information after the fact, and you will be doing your business a great service if you take care of it now.