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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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2009 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50

WellStar Health System

Winning Years: 2009
Industry: Hospitals/Health Care
Location: Marietta, Ga.
URL: www.wellstar.org

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

This year, WellStar makes its first appearance on AARP’s list of Best Employers for Workers Over 50. The Health System has expanded its outreach toward and the opportunities it offers to mature workers. Programs such as the Good Life Club and the School-at-Work Program offer mature workers opportunities to expand their knowledge and to live healthier lives. WellStar designed the Good Life Club for employees age 55 and older; it provides discounts on prescriptions, a discounted vision and dental plan, a fitness program, travel opportunities, and special-interest programs, such as walking groups, lower-priced fitness programs, and other socializing opportunities. The School at Work program offers employees the chance to enhance their skills and knowledge through a gamut of courses offered in the many different divisions of the health system. Thirty percent of WellStar employees are age 50+.

Recruiting: WellStar Health System uses placement agencies for older job seekers and testimonials from mature workers on the company Web site to target workers and retirees age 50+.

Workplace Culture and Continued Opportunities: WellStar Health offers full- and part-time employees a number of learning and development opportunities, including tuition reimbursement, in-house classroom training, online training, certification classes, and its School-at-Work program. Tuition reimbursement is only available to employees working a minimum of 16 hours per week. In 2008, all employees took part in at least one of WellStar's development opportunities, with the average participant spending 50 hours in training.

The Health System celebrates long-service anniversaries with announcements, parties, awards, and at an annual off-site banquet. During this banquet, senior leadership and the CEO recognize employees for their service and present them pins, awards, and gifts.

The company conducts employee-opinion surveys and uses the results to shape improvements to its extended-illness bank and the School-at-Work Program; survey results also informed WellStar’s decision to add a full-time staff member who is responsible for communicating and managing pre-retiree and retiree issues.

WellStar offers its employees a number of career-development opportunities, such as team projects, temporary assignments in other departments, and a formal job-rotation program.

The health system shows its commitment to the employees with temporary and permanent physical conditions by building worksite accommodations and creating initiatives such as the Return-to-Work Department.

Benefits/Health: The Health System offers its full- and part-time employees working at least 16 hours per week individual and family medical, prescription-drug , vision, and dental coverage. Employees working at least 32 hours per week are eligible for both long- and short-term-disability coverage. WellStar Health System offers its employees flexible spending accounts (FSA) with a debit card feature that allows employees to reduce their out-of-pocket spending and eliminate the paperwork associated with the reimbursement process.

Benefits/Financial: WellStar offers its full- and part-time employees a defined-benefit plan and a 403(b) defined-contribution plan with an employer match. All employees are eligible for the 403(b) plan, while employees must work at least 20 hours per week to be eligible for the defined benefit plan. All employees may choose to invest in life-cycle funds that automatically reallocate assets based on the age or proximity to retirement. Employees ages 50 or older can make catch-up contributions to their retirement plans. WellStar employees, representatives of the financial-services firm that offers the retirement plans, and external financial-planning experts provide financial-planning information to the WellStar workforce.

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