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Winner: 2008 AARP International Innovative Employer Award

Industry: Industrial Equipment and Commercial Machinery
Location: Waldkirch, Germany

Highlights of 2008 Winning Strategies

Mature workers at SICK AG serve as mentors for younger employees through mixed-age training groups and project teams. Moreover, the company maintains strong ties with retired employees by inviting them to company functions. SICK AG also puts significant emphasis on employee health with a project addressing how healthy aging can be achieved in the workplace  through comprehensive, flexible-work options.

Additional Policies and Practices:

Lifelong Learning and Training: SICK has stipulated a number of possible ways for employees to further their education. Examples particularly relevant for older workers include intergenerational learning through the deliberate deployment of experienced employees in various project teams and diversification at work, for example, by means of job rotation.

If group training takes place, it is normally conducted in mixed-age groups to avoid discrimination against any particular age group. IT training is, however, an exception in this respect, as the learning speed of older and younger employees differs with regard to the handling of new media; as a result, the company finds that older employees at times need more time to acquaint themselves with the subject matter. Thus to avoid the possibility of conflict and stress, IT training is conducted in groups with employees of similar age.

Another project, entitled “Lifelong Learning–Personnel Development Measures for the Integration and Promotion of Older Employees,” focuses on how personnel development must be reorganized to ensure the integration and promotion of older employees. It is centered on the concept of employability and creates awareness of the necessity of lifelong learning.

Further, the company conducts appraisal interviews of employees, during which individual development goals are set, and ways of implementing such goals are agreed upon. The company also helps prepare employees nearing retirement for changes that can be anticipated. For example, the company hosts two-day seminars for older workers on retirement and invites employees’ respective partners to participate, with the goal of preparing the employee for their retirement and life changes that the transition will bring.

Flexible-Work Arrangements: In 2004, SICK introduced a combined working time and retirement investment account system aimed at promoting and supporting a better organization of working time over the life course. Under this scheme, the employees can transfer a certain amount of overtime to their working-time account and subsequently convert it into money. This money is paid into an external fund, and after a period of accrual, employees can decide how to use the money saved in the account. They can use it for a temporary reduction of weekly working hours, for early retirement, for the reduction of weekly working hours in the pre-retirement phase, or for additional pension contributions.

SICK funds a day care center enabling employees to see their children. The company also allows employees’ children to eat in the company’s cafeteria, with the company covering half the cost.  

Health Promotion and Protection: SICK employs a health-management initiative comprising both organizational and employee-related measures geared toward promoting employees’ health during their careers and covering the entire workforce by concentrating on risk-prevention measures.

To assist in implementing the company’s health-policy goals in health maintenance and promotion, a working group for health issues was established.

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