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Bundesagentur für Arbeit

Winner: 2010 AARP International Innovative Employer Award

Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency)

Winning Year: 2010
Industry: Government
Location: Nürnberg, Germany
Employees: 86, 700; Percentage over 50: 35.2%

Highlights of 2010 Winning Strategies

Bundesagentur für Arbeit (BA) offers over 500 flexible work schedules to accommodate the needs of its employees. Moreover, employees benefit from long-term working time accounts, which provide opportunities for extended leaves of absence. These options are especially beneficial to older workers caring for family members, or transitioning into retirement. BA also regularly re-employs retired staff members with specific skill sets on a temporary basis for projects. BA's comprehensive health promotion strategy includes a mental health task force, smoking-cessation classes and structured re-integration programs to allow employees to return to the workplace after long-term sick leave.

Lifelong Learning and Training: BA's employees operate in a continually changing environment. To keep pace, BA follows three strategic pillars for lifelong learning: an HR strategic development design with no age restrictions; ample training opportunities; and long-term working time accounts. BA also implemented an HR policy geared to accommodate typical life cycles, allowing for flexibility as employees' life situations evolve.

BA has taken a variety of steps to eliminate age discrimination from its lifelong learning opportunities. The company is so dedicated to equality that it has embedded the idea of equality and opportunity into its HR mission statement.BA also frequently carries out differentiated age structure analyses to maintain quality service and fill staffing needs.

Training measures are designed to accommodate various staff needs. BA's 12 regional locations offer on-site courses, and all employees are able to access on-demand assistance. As well, virtual learning courses can be accessed at the workplace or at home.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Over 500 flex-time work options are offered by BA. Such willingness to accommodate the needs of employees benefits both older and younger workers seeking more time with family. BA also offers part-time options, which can be helpful to older workers transitioning into retirement. In 2009, BA introduced long-term working-time accounts, where employees can accumulate working hours to put toward four different situations: childrearing or elder care, traveling, advanced vocational training or further education. These long-term working-time accounts contribute to the optimal work-life balance BA is trying to achieve. As well, 2,300 BA employees take advantage of BA's telecommuting option. This allows new parents to remain home with children or older workers to care for family.

A three-phase concept is offered for young parents returning to work following maternity or paternity leave. The three-phase concept allows new parents to stay connected to the workplace, while devoting their attention to their children.

Health Promotion and Protection: BA's in-house health management system, entitled BGM, assumes a preventive approach that promotes personal responsibility and initiative. In 2006, task forces were set up in all individual departments and regional locations to uncover and meet the needs of employees. Each task force is provided with an independent budget that leaves room for maneuvering, should specific needs arise. During 2010 and into 2011 these task forces are focusing on absence management, mental stress in the workplace and psychological disorders. Following this focus, the task forces will turn their attention to diversity issues.

Regular health campaigns are held to promote healthy lifestyles. Examples include themed health days, free screenings and eye exams, massage treatments, stress management training, and various sporting events.

BA also offers health campaigns targeted specifically at senior management, a group with a higher average age. Seminars here include Demanding Achievement and Promoting Health, Fit for Business, In the Middle of Life, and Preparation for Retirement.

To assist employees, particularly older workers, facing long-term health issues, BA offers long-term sick leave and works to re-integrate employees who have been absent for significant lengths of time.

Diversity Promotion: BA takes an integrated, holistic approach to diversity management. Promoting diversity on all fronts is a priority at BA. It actively recruits and promotes employees

from a variety of nations, it has constructed handicap accessible offices, and actively promotes age and gender diversity.

Sensitivity training is encouraged for all employees, and required for managerial staff. Courses are accessible both in-house and on-line, giving employees the opportunity to learn from home.

BA utilizes a variety of other methods to advance diversity. In-house TV programs target specific areas of diversity management. Regular diversity discussion groups encourage the open exchange of ideas. BA's virtual learning platform contains several modules on diversity management. Finally, in 2008 BA launched "Diversity in Practice", a program created to disseminate information and exchange best practices regarding diversity management.

Recruitment: From the start of BA's recruitment process, neutrality and equality are clearly present. All public job advertisements contain a paragraph noting the importance of diversity in the workplace. BA aims to pull from a large, heterogeneous pool with a variety of skills and experiences.

BA encourages a larger pool of older applicants to apply by substituting vocational experience for formal qualifications. Many older workers, who entered the labor force early on, lack education or formal training, but have decades of vocational experience. BA's willingness to substitute vocational experience for formal qualifications demonstrates their commitment to hiring workers of all ages.

In recent years, BA has actively recruited older workers to serve in managerial and specialist positions. As well, BA maintains contact with many of its retired workers, often turning to them for assistance on large projects. Retired individuals are also targeted for internal recruitment appeals to pass on their knowledge and expertise to younger workers. Currently, BA is working to increase connections with its retirees by allowing them access to the intranet.

Miscellaneous: BA continues to implement programs to achieve an ideal work-life balance for its employees. A competition is planned to award the offices showing the greatest commitment to BA's lifecycle oriented HR policy. A web-training tool to help improve stress management is planned for the near future. A forthcoming mentoring program will help to further promote diversity. BA is also a participant in a variety of local and national programs committed to age, race and gender diversity.

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