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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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Best Employers

Centrica plc

Winner: 2008 AARP International Innovative Employer Award

Winning Year: 2008
Industry: Utilities
Location: Windsor, United Kingdom
Highlights of 2008 Winning Strategies
Centrica strives to create an age-diverse workforce through many measures. Two such tactics include an Age Action Group, which convenes managers from across business units to coordinate delivery of a detailed action plan addressing the company’s aging workforce, and an “Age Awareness” e-learning package for managers and employees to raise awareness about age-diversity issues. They also support work-life balance through comprehensive flexible work policies and a carers network.
Additional Policies and Practices:
Lifelong Learning and Training: Centrica provides a portfolio of skills-based workshops for managers and leaders at all levels across the organization, called The Management Learning Program. The workshops are attended by mixed groups of other managers seeking to enhance their skills as part of their personal development plans or are provided for specific groups or cohorts as part of an integrated program of capability development.
Team development is also supported by Centrica through facilitated sessions, helping teams become high-performing. Talent and capability is reviewed across the organization, resulting in executive-sponsored career progression, broad capability development, and accelerated learning for high-potential employees. Induction and job-specific skills training is provided to all new employees joining customer service operations.
A structure of career progression and development ensures that employees have life-long learning. British Gas, a subsidiary, invests around £26 million each year in its Engineering Academy and not only educates new recruits but delivers updated and refresher training for British Gas Services’ 8,500 engineers.
Centrica also trains and recruits Adult Engineers, aiming to upgrade in the region of 450 Servicing Engineers to Technical Engineers in 2008. British Gas also has an apprenticeship program without upper age limits for entrance.
Flexible Work Arrangements: Centrica offers a range of polices to all employees regardless of age or job status, to support employees in meeting their individual needs through a request for consideration of different working arrangements. These include a flexible working policy, career and sabbatical policy, carer’s policy, maternity and family-leave policy (including parental and dependents leave), and a retirement policy.
Centrica considers a range of flexible working patterns, including changes to the hours or times employees work, flexible start and finish times, shift work, job-sharing, staggered hours, part-time, and compressed hours. Sixty percent of employees currently have some form of flexible working arrangements in place.
More than 4,000 employees are now benefiting from greater flexibility through the “work: wise” program. The initiative was introduced to help employees balance their commitments in and out of the workplace and to make better use of office space.
Centrica’s 8,500 engineers are all home workers, using laptop and wireless technology to deliver expert service to our customers.
A carers network was set up in 2004 by carers in the organization as a source of support and advice about all aspects of combining caring and working. It now has around 100 members spread across the organization. Centrica encourages employees with caring responsibilities to get involved with the network, share experiences, and help shape the organization’s approach.
Health Promotion and Protection: Centrica’s occupational health program and policies aim to prevent ill health arising from work activities and promote wellness among employees. The program includes ensuring a good fit between the person and the job and recommending any suitable adjustments. Policies include: screening for placement (matching capability to the work, including providing health surveillance programs where the work environment may have hazards and risks that could affect health); Overseas Business Travel (ensuring fitness for travel and work abroad by providing a comprehensive service, including travel health assessment, vaccinations, medical kits, repatriation and offshore medical cover, and post-travel follow-up assessments); and company-funded medical interventions (deciding to fund a consultation or course of physiotherapy to expedite a return to work).
Other key activities include: providing expert workplace advice and support (telephone access to a team of occupational health professionals to both employee and manager, whether the employee is at work or absent).
The WorkingWell Agenda (Working Well is a program of information and interventions designed to empower and educate employees about their well-being, BeWell (keeping well those who are well through a channel on the intranet offering guidance on healthy eating, exercise, safe driving, and a plethora of other health topics); and StayWell (a program providing initiatives that support maintenance of well-being such as workshops for employees suffering from knee problems).
The company also provides training for managers on health promotion issues, including the “TLC Conversation”, which was introduced to help managers better handle conversations with employees when they call in sick.
Diversity Promotion: Ahead of the Employment Equality Age Regulations issued in 2006 (in other words, before implementation of U.K. anti-age discrimination laws), Centrica undertook a thorough review of policies and practices to ensure that they embraced the new legislation and to maintain its position as an inclusive employer.
The review brought to light he necessity of a number of key changes, including: the introduction of a new retirement process; amendments to redundancy schemes; the removal of the upper-age limits for entrance to British Gas apprenticeship schemes; and the development of an Age Awareness e-learning package for managers and employees.
Working in partnership with the London Development Agency, Centrica produced a video for small businesses promoting the benefits of employing an age-diverse workforce. Its British Gas Engineering Academy was also featured on the BBC News in a special report on the regulations.
The company developed an “Age Action Group” of managers from across business units and functions to coordinate delivery of a detailed action plan to prevent age discrimination. The company also initiated a communications and training program to ensure that employees and managers understood requirements of anti-age discrimination regulations. A component of this program is an online learning package, which enables employees to learn about the regulations by making decisions based on workplace scenarios.
Recruitment: Centrica has many established policies and practices that focus on age neutrality to attract and recruit new talent. Centrica has removed age as a factor from the selection process and the way it thinks about hiring and has invested heavily in educating its recruiting population to achieve this. In its job descriptions, Centrica does not look for “years of experience” but for the skills, attitudes and behaviors that are known to be required in order to do a great job in the organization. At the same time, in order to ensure that Centrica’s workforce reflects its diverse customer base, the company does employ recruitment campaigns to attract older workers and people of diverse ethnicities. 

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