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Winner: 2009 AARP International Innovative Employer Award

Industry: Hospitals/Health Care
Location: Moenchengladbach, Germany

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

With 35 percent of its staff falling into the 50+ age group, Sozial-Holding operates under the motto, “We are older, so what?!” Sozial-Holding’s annual working-time accounts and individual scheduling models are of particular benefit to older workers with caregiving needs. The company also offers a variety of courses specifically targeted at its older workers, including holistic mnemonic training and help with aspects of the transition to retirement.

Other Policies and Practices

Lifelong Training and Learning: Sozial-Holding offers extensive training opportunities to all employees to help them maintain the high level of knowledge, competencies, and know-how required of a workforce in the care and nursing sector. Older employees participate in the programs to the same degree as their younger counterparts.

Older employees are encouraged to participate in training programs to change career tracks. As a consequence, many formerly unskilled older women have completed a professional education. More than half of the company’s recently certified housekeepers are over the age of 45.

The company also offers a course program designed for its age-50+ staff. This program includes classes in holistic-mnemonic training, the psychological and financial aspects of the transition to retirement, changes in family life, and awareness of volunteer opportunities.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Sozial-Holding maintains a system of annual working-time accounts. Individual schedules are of particular benefit to older workers with care-giving needs. The company’s flextime policy has reduced employee absences.
Sozial-Holding conducts individual interviews with employees who return to work after extended leaves of absence due to illness, to determine which occupational factors might have contributed to the employees’ indisposition. The company develops preventative measures on a case-by-case basis.

Health Promotion: Sozial-Holding’s wellness strategy is based on an analysis of its workforce’s health status and on information collected by groups of specially designated non-executive staff representatives from different parts of the organization (“health circles”). A specially created Health Steering Committee develops the company’s overall health-promotion goals, interventions, and prevention measures.  

The company offers a wide variety of training to prevent overload and stress-related illnesses. The training includes sessions covering carrying and lifting techniques and on handling disoriented residents.

Medical massages, smoking-cessation training, nutrition and back-training courses, subsidized gym memberships, and ergonomic alterations—all are additional components of the corporate health strategy.

Diversity Promotion: Sozial-Holding’s diversity motto, “We are older, so what?!” reflects the company’s fundamental decision not to categorize older employees as less capable, and not to exclude them from opportunities due to age. The large share of age-50 + employees at the company (30 percent) reflects this approach to diversity.

Recruitment: Sozial-Holding attaches special importance to long-term human resource development, which includes the recruitment of older employees if their skills and qualifications fit the job profile.

Miscellaneous: The company has twice earned the Protestant Church’s “ArbeitPlus” seal of approval for its exemplary practices in the fields of recruitment of apprentices and older workers, the recruitment of the long-term unemployed and handicapped, and integration through training and lifelong learning, flexible work-time arrangements, work-life balance, and other measures.

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