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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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Harvard University

Winner: 2009 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Winning Years: 2009, 2008
Industry: Education - Post-secondary
Location: Cambridge, Mass.

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

This year, Harvard is making its second straight appearance on AARP's list of Best Employers for Workers Over 50. By offering a number of innovative benefits, such as scholarships for child care and reimbursements for co-payments, Harvard is able to reward and retain its mature employees. Other benefits, such as membership in the Harvard Retiree Association and the ability to take part in the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement, help the school maintain strong relationships with its 4,400 retirees. Thirty-one percent of Harvard employees are age 50 and older, with an average tenure of nearly nine years. 

Recruiting: Harvard uses placement agencies for older job seekers, such as Boston's Operation A.B.L.E.—which stands for "Ability Based on Long Experience"—and monthly informational meetings to target and attract mature workers.

Workplace Culture and Continued Opportunities: Harvard offers all employees in-house classroom training, online training, certification classes, and opportunities to attend workshops and seminars. Employees working at least 17 hours per week are also eligible for tuition reimbursement. During the past 12 months, 70 percent of the university's employees took part in at least one development activity, with the average employee taking part in six hours of training.

Harvard recognizes its employees' long-service milestones with announcements, awards, parties, extended time off, and free club and gym memberships. The university invites employees with 25 or more years of service (with their families) to a special recognition ceremony hosted by the president of Harvard.

To help employees gain professional experience, the university  offers them opportunities to take part in team projects, task groups, and its "Bridge to Learning and Literacy" program.

Committed to providing an accommodating work environment, Harvard has completed redesigns of work spaces, conducted ergonomic assessments, installed vision-enhanced monitors, and offered personal instruction in stretches and exercises to do in the office.

Benefits/Health: The university offers all its employees a number of benefits, including individual and family medical, prescription-drug, dental, long-term-care, and short- and long-term-disability coverage.

Retirees under and above age 65 receive individual and spousal medical, prescription-drug, dental, and long-term-care insurance. They can also use Harvard's employee assistance program and death-benefit coverage. Upon retirement, new hires are eligible for the same benefits, excluding the spousal prescription-drug coverage for retirees who are age 65+. To help its employees with the out-of-pocket health-care costs, employees can open flexible spending accounts (FSA) and a co-pay reimbursement plan.

Benefits/Financial: Harvard offers its full- and part-time employees both a cash-balance, hybrid plan and a defined-contribution 403(b) plan. In order to encourage participation, the university automatically enrolls employees in the plan and gives them the option of investing in life-cycle funds that automatically reallocate based on age and proximity to retirement. Representatives from the financial-services firm that administers the 403(b) plan, external financial-planning experts, and 20 on-site financial-planning courses provide employees the information they need to plan their financial futures.

To help employees with caregiving responsibilities, the university offers paid time off and unpaid short- and long-term leave. Caregivers can also take advantage of on-site child and grandchild care and backup and referral services for day care for children, grandchildren, and elders.

Harvard also offers its employees a number of wellness benefits, including flu shots, health screenings, smoking-cessation programs, weight-loss programs, health-risk appraisals, discounts at local health clubs, and stress-management training. Over the past 12 months, 26 percent of employees took part in at least one wellness benefit offered by the university.

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