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Now that the RRSP deadline has passed, the retirement conversation will move away from monthly contributions and back to more serious topics, such as what to do with an aging work force. Where some might see this as a strain on our economy and public resources, others see it as an opportunity.

For the first time ever, Canadians are moving away from the traditional – and sometimes mandatory – retirement age of 65. Many will feel the need to continue working to pay the bills, but an increasing number are continuing to work because they want to. A recent survey from Statistics Canada found that workers with postsecondary education are putting off retirement beyond the age of 65. Canada currently has more people over 65 years old than under 15. So, we now have a highly skilled and experienced group of people looking for work, most of which is contract-based and dependent on flexible opportunities.

The boomer generation is a significant force of talent in the economy, and it is completely reworking how aging and retirement looks. This is especially true with regard to senior-level executives and professionals nearing the conventional retirement age. These executives are joining the gig economy, and this means that a cornerstone of the traditional work force is evolving and being challenged.

The retirement shift is a major opportunity for Canadian companies, especially with regard to startups, as well as small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). There are significant chances for businesses to increase internal creativity, productivity and subsequently, profit.

Here are three ways your SMB can use the gig economy to navigate the changing retirement landscape:

Filling the gaps

There are high-skilled senior executives looking to stay in the work force who you might not have known existed. These highly skilled freelancers represent a trend that the Harvard Business Review refers to as "the rise of the supertemp." Supertemps are typically senior managers and professionals who choose to pursue project-based careers rather than a traditional full-time role. Supertemps can help to fill gaps in the work force and present a huge opportunity for SMBs, as they allow access to talent that may not have been reachable before.

This also helps to fill internal gaps, as it allows quick response to new opportunities by filling skills gaps or dealing with increased work flow. The fact the largest demographic in Canada is moving toward retirement and old age is a major problem for the future work force, and one of the biggest challenges to the Canadian economy. There will not be enough of Generation X to fill in these gaps.


The gig economy offers the ability to negotiate more flexible compensation arrangements, making the cost of accessing and working with high-talent individuals significantly more affordable and accessible for organizations of all sizes. For SMBs and startups, this demographic shift represents a fantastic opportunity to benefit from a level of talent they may not be able to financially afford on a full-time basis but whose expertise can push a business forward. These supertemps also come with an extensive network that is invaluable to a startup or SMB.

Access to engaged senior talent

The gig economy allows companies access to senior talent who are inherently passionate about the work they are doing. It is a mutually beneficial opportunity and, for senior executives, gig work allows for a new perspective on work/life balance. The traditional frame on work tends to view freelancing or consulting as a reluctant, secondary career choice – something that an individual would do as a stop-gap until the next full-time role is secured. But for boomers, the reality is a contract or interim work model is ideal for this life stage since, unlike the full-time role, it lets them control when and how much they work, focus on staying engaged in the issues or types of files that most interest them and still earn senior-level compensation. Research shows that SMBs and startups benefit from having a diversity of perspective and experiences.

The executive gig economy presents an underutilized opportunity. Once we adjust to this new lens on retirement and contract work, it will enable SMBs and startups to make significant advancements to their business.

Michael Carter is co-founder and CEO of Kahuso, an online platform connecting executives with small and mid-size companies

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