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AARP Honors 35 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Separate Report Spotlights Best Practices by Best Employers

What do a dental benefits administrator, an office technologies and services firm, a financial services company and an auto manufacturer have in common?

These diverse companies recruit and retain mature workers – they treat them right – and rank among the 35 employers from across the U.S. that have been named 2004 "AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50."

Simultaneously, AARP released a report spotlighting specific best practices among best employers selected this year – and in the two previous years – in AARP's annual competition.

The 2004 awards come as recent projections point toward a continued jump in the percentage of mature workers in the economy. Fourteen percent of the workforce is aged 55 and older now; the percent is expected to reach 19 percent by 2012.

"The winning employers stand as exemplary models for others who have yet to plan for the graying of their workforce," said Deborah Russell, who directs the Best Employers program for AARP. "The creative practices today's winners have in place may well evolve in the future, but the 2004 Best Employers give us high standards to strive for."

Twelve of the awardees are hospitals, four are in financial services, and three are providers of insurance. Two of the award recipients, Principal Financial Group and Adecco Employment Services, were named to the list for the third consecutive year. Twelve others are two-time honorees.

Many of the honorees excelled in many, if not all, of the categories that were evaluated, including recruitment practices, continuing opportunities for advancement, flexible work schedules, and benefits for current and retired employees. The full list of AARP's 2004 Best Employers for Workers Over 50 follows the release.

The awardees will be honored at a dinner in New York City on September 23. The next day, AARP and BusinessWeek will cohost a forum in New York that will focus on employer best practices. A separate forum will be held in Boston on September 15.

In conjunction with this year's list of Best Employers, AARP also released "Staying Ahead of the Curve 2004: Employer Best Practices for Mature Workers," a detailed analysis of the best practices among winning employers over the past three years.

"Employers should look at this report to gain a competitive edge. For the first time, AARP lays out a framework for companies on what policies and practices they need to adopt to attract the mature workforce," Russell said.

Drafted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting on behalf of AARP, the report includes these key findings:

  • Attraction and retention of the right workforce is important to the winning companies. For example, a number of companies offer phased retirement programs. Several allow employees to collect full retirement benefits while continuing to work part-time or reduced hours – while also allowing full health and other benefits. These companies include SSM Health Care (St. Louis, MO), 2004 and 2003 winner; Bon Secours Richmond Health System (Richmond, VA), 2004, 2003; and Brethren Village (Lancaster, PA), 2004, 2003.
  • Some employers leverage their areas of market focus to offer programs to support the maturing workforce. For instance, some hospital systems and health care providers offered health care services at a discount. St. Mary ' s Medical Center (Huntington, WVA), 2004, 2003, provides many diagnostic and preventive services available free to mature female employees (screening for breast cancer, skin cancer and cervical exams), as well as a range of services such as free annual check ups to all employees.
  • Newer programs are emerging to engage the mature worker. Such programs show appreciation for longer service, recognize mature worker issues, and/or support family care needs. Volkswagen of America, Inc. (Auburn Hills, MI), 2004, 2003, administers an elder care flexible spending program that allows employees to allocate $5,000 in pre-tax earnings in such an account.

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