Content prepared by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College

Career flexibility is a concept that recognizes the fact that careers in the 21st-century economy often follow a variable rather than a linear progression. Out of necessity or personal choice, individuals may leave the workforce for a period of time at any point in the life cycle, but will need and/or want to reenter the workforce. For example, some workers may leave the workforce at certain points in their careers to further their education. Others take leave to meet their family and caregiving responsibilities.

Employees approaching retirement may want to shift to positions in which they have more opportunities for mentoring and knowledge transfer, or to jobs with more flexibility and reduced responsibility.

There are three components that make up career flexibility:

  • Career exit—the point in time when an individual decides to leave the workforce.
  • Career maintenance—the period of time spent out of the workforce by an individual.
  • Career reentry—the point in time when an individual chooses to get back into the workforce. (41)

These case studies come from the Sloan Center on Aging and Work's Executive Case Summary Series. Cases used with permission.


Work in Retirement


Fidelity's Retirement Services Staffing Model The implementation of a part-time flexible staffing model in the Retirement Services call centers

Fidelity Investments is an international provider of financial services and investment resources that help individuals and organizations meet their financial objectives. The company employs over 54,000 people, with an average employee age of 33 years. As the U.S. population ages, Fidelity is experiencing an increased demand for retirement and financial planning products. In response, Fidelity continues to develop innovative and adaptable workforce and business strategies such as the Retirement Services Staffing Model. Launched in Fall 2007, the Retirement Services Staffing Model aims to maximize the efficiency of Fidelity employees and provide them with flexibility. Fidelity discovered that instead of hiring a full-time employee for its call center and underutilizing them during slow hours, they could hire a part-time employee for peak hours. Fidelity recruits employees who are looking for a challenging but flexible job despite their life stage. The company concentrates on recruiting parents, students, second job hires, and older workers. Fidelity feels that older workers in particular are better able to relate to their clients who are seeking retirement planning services. (75)


Career Customizing


Deloitte's Mass Career Customization (MCC) program is an organizational "framework" that allows each individual in the organization to collaborate with his or her manager to customize career paths over time. The framework has four dimensions:

Pace: Options relating to the rate of career development and growth.

Workload: Choices relating to the quantity of work output.

Location/Schedule: Options for when and where work is performed.

Role: Choices in position and responsibilities.

MCC recognizes that careers ebb and flow over time and provides a more fluid structure in response to those changes. It institutionalizes a framework and process and allows choices, makes trade-offs more explicit, provides greater transparency, and extends the bounds and consistency of what's acceptable. The program was piloted in 2005 and was rolled out to 7,500 people across the organization in 2007. It then rolled out to the rest of the Deloitte employees, including those in India, in stages starting in June 2008. (75)

Benefits to EmployeeBenefits to EmployerChallenges
  • Employee can adjust career path to respond to other aspects of life without jeopardizing advancement
  • Employer retains skilled employees and allows them to develop their skills and talents.
  • Coordination of coverage: When an employee steps off a career path, the company needs to be sure there is someone else to step in. When an employee is ready to resume the career path, the employer needs to assure the availability of an appropriate position.