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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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2008 Winning Strategies: AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Since 2001, the annual AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 awards program has recognized more than 130 cutting-edge companies and organizations. The Best Employers program awards leading companies and organizations whose best practices and policies for addressing the issues of an aging workforce are roadmaps for the workplaces of tomorrow.
 
Similarly, the 2008 winners of the AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 carve out that new territory. They implement recruiting efforts, management styles, training policies, work arrangements, benefits, and other company policies that help them attract and keep valuable employees of all ages. The winning companies seek qualified, competent, and adaptable workers and recognize that more of the experienced and qualified workers are going to be older. The bottom line is, these companies know that one way to stay competitive is to make their jobs more attractive to qualified and skilled workers, regardless of age.
 
Recruiting
 
The 2008 Best Employers seek out the expertise and value inherent in mature workers and implement targeted recruiting efforts, including the following:
  • Ensuring that recruiting materials are designed to reflect broad diversity, including mature workers
  • Developing specific alumni programs designed to attract mature and retired workers to mentor and train younger employees
  • Highlighting phrases, such as “Retirees welcome,” in recruiting efforts
  • Partnering with efforts like those of RetirementJobs.com and Operation A.B.L.E. (Ability Based on Long Experience) to recruit mature workers
  • Tapping into community resources, such as senior groups, to recruit for part-time or temporary employment opportunities
  • Maintaining a database of retirees who are interested in returning to work on a part-time basis
 
Training
 
Continuous training, of and by mature workers, is embraced by all of the 2008 Best Employers. Here are some examples of quality training programs:
  • Financial planning and investment-education programs to help workers build retirement income
  • Computer skills programs, including programs targeted specifically for workers age 50+
  • Retirement planning and education workshops to prepare workers for their eventual retirement
  • Refresher courses for mature workers who are reentering the workforce after being away for a number of years
  • Assigning mature workers to train others by using them as “expert” teachers and mentors
  • Tuition reimbursement programs, including reimbursement for pre-retirement training programs
 
Phased Retirement
 
Phased retirement is a retirement option that lets employees work reduced hours for a period of time before full retirement. With this option, retirement becomes a gradual process rather than an abrupt event. Both employees and employers benefit.
 
The following are a number of phased-retirement programs implemented by this year’s Best Employers:
  • Allowing employees to move from full-time to part-time employment as a bridge to retirement
  • Implementing flexible-work schedules and job-sharing programs as ways to ease pre-retirees into retirement.
  • Developing “work-to-retire” programs, which move employees toward retirement over a phased-in period that can take up to three years.
  • Allowing employees to retire and return to work for special assignments or projects
  • Allowing retirees who return to work to collect their pensions
  • Letting employees test the retirement waters by allowing them to try it and to return to full-time employment if they determine their retirement decisions were premature
 
Retiree Relations
 
Staying connected to retired employees is a common practice among our Best Employers. Both retirees and employers benefit by staying connected.
 
Here are some examples of companies’ efforts to promote ongoing retiree relations:

Alumni programs, retiree associations, and retiree newsletters that keep retirees abreast of current developments concerning their former employers

  • Active promotion of volunteer opportunities to retirees
  • Rosters of retirees who can be contacted for special work assignments
  • Invitations to ongoing employer activities, such as benefit fairs, flu-shot clinics, and awards luncheons
  • Continued access to company stores and fitness centers
  • Keeping retirees up-to-date on business issues through continued access to the company Web site
  • Formal retiree-relations programs to stay connected, thereby enabling companies to benefit from the intellectual capital that resides within their retiree populations
 
Caregiving Programs
 
The 2008 Best Employers recognize that mature workers are part of the “sandwich generation,” adults who are caught between attending to the needs of the younger and older generations. These companies understand the pressures of juggling personal responsibilities and have adopted programs to help workers address these duties. Some examples of programs to support caregivers include the following:
  • Paid and unpaid time off to care for family members
  • Education on eldercare issues, such as workshops and seminars
  • Caregiver-support programs to secure daycare for aging parents or other family members
  • Subsidized backup child and eldercare programs for times when ongoing arrangements fall through
 
All the examples listed were not implemented by each of the 2008 AARP Best Employers , but most of them implemented similar practices. The practices highlighted by the winners demonstrate the innovation and creative leadership necessary to manage a multigenerational workforce. Such a labor force is essential to keep businesses competitive in today’s world. The 2008 winners serve as models for other companies in drawing upon the strength and experience of older workers and in preparing for an aging workforce.  

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