When Sharon Emek looked at the state of the insurance industry, she saw a massive problem with fostering young talent. But she also saw an opportunity for those entering retirement who wanted to ditch the commute and awkward office small talk without losing the satisfaction of doing a job well and earning a paycheck. In 2010, she founded Work at Home Vintage Employees (WAHVE), a staffing company focused on placing recently retired professionals back into the workforce without making them get out of their pajamas.
How did you first get the idea for WAHVE?
It happened over a period of a few years. Everyone was worried about our aging boomers and that there would be a huge brain drain. The industry was worried young people were not coming into the industry, and so everyone was fighting over the same few people.
I was also very involved with technology in the industry and a very advanced user of technology. It occured to me that the technology was there—I mean, I was already doing a lot of work from home and everyone was already FaceTiming their kids and their grandkids. I was thinking, "There's gotta be a solution to this; there's gotta be an opportunity to help these people. Companies are going to need them."
I kept thinking about it and woke up one morning to realize the answer was right in front of me. Of course, I would need to qualify them and develop a process to know exactly their skill set, and then I need to reach out to all my peers across the country and say "Try it You'll like it!"
Why should retired or soon-to-be retired professionals consider WAHVE?
The thing that I always try to explain is people don't retire anymore. They're retiring from the office—but not retiring from work. They want a flexible work arrangement so they can go visit their grandkids and enjoy a warmer climate in the winter. They can take their laptop and get their work done and not have to travel.
I didn't want to call it "Work at Home Seniors" because the paradigm has changed. My mother and her friends are in their 90s; how can they be a senior and I be a senior? All these terms such as "silver tsunami" makes us sound old. And we're not old—not anymore. Maybe that was true 40 years ago. But today, when you're 60 you're doing yoga, you're biking; you're not old. So I say they're vintage. Everyone loves vintage wine—nobody thinks vintage wine is old. They think vintage wine is great.
What's the hiring process like for WAHVE candidates?
I developed a whole blind hiring process—our clients never see the candidates, and they hire based on skill sets we test and the candidate's experience. For our part, we qualify the candidates with timed online assessments, interviews and reference checks.
If a candidate has been out of the workforce for more than five years, we tell them it's too long a period. If they've retired within the past five years, then they have to be engaged in something. It can be a charity or running things for a church, or something else to show they're still oriented to working. But if they've done nothing within the last five years, we tell them we can't help them.