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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind

Winner: 2009 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Industry: Textiles
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

This year, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind makes its first appearance on AARP's list of the Best Employers for Workers Over 50. The Lighthouse is particularly different, because it has a significant number of employees over age 50, and many of them are blind or visually impaired. Since 2004, nearly one-third of newly hired employees have been over age 50. Currently, 47 percent of Lighthouse employees are age 50+ with an average tenure of 10 years.

Recruiting: San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind uses placement agencies for older job seekers and employee referral to attract mature workers.

Workplace Culture/Continued Opportunities: All employees are eligible for the following development opportunities: tuition reimbursement, in-house classroom training, online training, and certification classes. In 2008, 40 percent of employees took part in at least one of the Lighthouse's learning opportunities, so the average staff member spent 40 hours in training.

Giving awards and announcements, the Lighthouse recognizes the work and dedication of employees with long-service milestones. The organization values employee feedback and has used opinion surveys to make changes, such as introducing an employee picnic and a Holiday party.

In order to help employees gain new experiences, Lighthouse offers a number of career-development opportunities including team projects, cross-training, access to a formal job-rotation program, and temporary assignments in other departments. The Lighthouse strives to maintain an accommodating workplace by offering modifications, such as enhanced lighting, redesigned work spaces, and magnifying equipment.

Benefits/Health: Full-time employees working at least 30 hours per week are eligible for a number of health benefits, including individual and family medical, prescription-drug, vision, dental, long-term-care, and long-term-disability coverage. Although employees are not offered any type of health savings or spending account, the organization does pay $4,000 toward employee deductibles.

Benefits/Financial: The Lighthouse for the Blind offers all of its employees an employer-matched 403(b) defined-contribution plan. In addition, to help mature employees ages 50+ save for retirement, the Lighthouse allows them to make catch-up contributions to their retirement accounts. Employees receive retirement-planning information at seminars, from external financial-planning experts, and from representatives of the financial-services firm that manages the retirement plan.

The Lighthouse allows employees unpaid short- and long-term leave to help them meet their caregiving responsibilities. Staff members also have access to referral services to care providers for children, grandchildren, and elders.

The following wellness benefits are available to all full- and part-time employees: flu shots, health screenings, smoking-cessation programs, health-risk appraisals, physical-activity programs, and discounts at local health clubs. Over the past 12 mouths, 90 percent of employees took part in at least one of the organization's wellness activities.

Benefits/Alternative-Work Arrangements: The Lighthouse for the Blind works with employees to offer them alternative-work arrangements, such as flextime and telecommuting. Alternative-work arrangements are available to employees working a minimum of 30 hours per week. Full-time employees can move to part-time work on either a permanent or temporary basis.

Age of Workforce: Forty-seven percent of Lighthouse employees are ages 50+, with an average tenure of 10 years.


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