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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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Best Employers

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

Winner: 2008 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Winning years: 2008, 2007
Industry: Insurance
Location: Chicago
Website: www.bcbs.com
2008 Rank: 10

Highlights of 2008 Winning Strategies

One of AARP’s top-10 Best Employers for Workers Over 50 in 2008, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) actively promotes a welcoming workplace for their mature employees. BCBSA offers a Mature Workers Program with numerous employee benefits for those age 55+, including special tuition reimbursement, half-price professional financial planning, pre-retirement seminars, and free flu shots. Mature employees take advantage of the company’s in-house MBA program and sabbatical program. Thirty-seven percent of the company’s employees are age 50+.  

Additional Policies and Practices:

Recruiting: BCBSA uses recruiting Web sites for older job-seekers, such as Diversity Inc., Retirement Jobs, and Greyhairs.com, to target mature workers and retirees. In addition, BCBSA utilizes its own retiree pool to fill positions on a temporary basis.

Workplace Culture/Continued Opportunities: BCBSA offers the following learning and development programs to its full- and part-time employees: tuition reimbursement, in-house classroom training, online training, and certification classes. In the past 12 months, 100 percent of BCBSA employees participated in at least one of these opportunities, with an average of 44 hours spent in training.

The company celebrates long-service anniversaries with announcements, dinners, awards, and gifts. Based on employee feedback, the company now offers special programs and services for mature workers, including: Lessons of Experience, Fit Over 50, 55+ tuition reimbursement, free flu shots, half-price financial planning, a sabbatical program, and Health Dialogue (an online consultation program).

Employees gain new experiences and develop new skills by working on team projects. In addition, the Operational Excellence Initiative gives employees the opportunity to participate on cross-functional teams and in temporary assignments in other units. BCBSA provides sight-impaired employees with specialized computers, telephone equipment, and software, and gives hearing- and speech-impaired employees company-paid interpreters.

Benefits/Health: Full- and part-time employees working 19 or more hours per week are offered individual and family medical coverage, individual and family prescription-drug coverage, individual and family vision and dental insurance, individual and family long-term care insurance, and short- and long-term disability coverage.

Retirees under 65 and age-65+ receive individual and spousal medical and prescription drug coverage, individual and spousal dental coverage, EAP services, and individual life insurance or other death-benefit coverage. New hires are eligible for all the above benefits upon retirement directly from BCBSA. The company offers employees flexible-spending accounts and health savings accounts to help cover out-of-pocket health care costs.

Benefits/Financial: BCBSA offers a 401(k) plan with an employer match and a defined-benefit plan to its full- and part-time employees.

Employees may invest in lifecycle funds, and employees 50+ can make catch-up contributions. Employees receive financial planning information from the firm that administers their 401(k) plan and from external financial-planning experts.

In addition, BCBSA offers pre-retirement programs and financial-planning programs, and all employees are eligible for a discounted financial-planning report. The company offers short-term time off without pay and long-term leaves of absence without pay to allow for caregiving.

The following wellness programs are offered to full- and part-time employees: flu shots, health screenings, access to the company fitness center, physical activity and exercise programs, wellness fairs, a Walking Works Walking Program, and a Fit Over 50 health and wellness lecture series. Forty-one percent of BCBSA employees have used at least one of its wellness benefits in the past 12 months. The company offers its full- and part-time employees referral services to assist with child care and eldercare.

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