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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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Attract and retain top talent in a changing workforce.

Centrica plc

Winner: 2010 AARP International Innovative Employer Award

Centrica plc

Winning Years: 2008, 2009, 2010
Industry: Energy
Location: Windsor, United Kingdom
Employees: 27,564; Percentage over 50: 14.8%

Highlights of 2010 Winning Strategies

Centrica's efforts to create an age-diverse workforce include an Age Action Group, which convenes managers from across business units to create a detailed action plan addressing the company's aging workforce. Centrica also has an Age Awareness e-learning package for managers and employees to raise awareness about age-diversity issues. The company supports work-life balance through comprehensive, flexible work policies and a caregivers'

network. Centrica's Working Well program promotes innovative solutions to deliver information covering a wide-range of health issues.

Additional Policies and Practices:
Lifelong Learning and Training: Centrica's people development programs are built on the principles of inclusiveness, easy access and equality of opportunity for all. Centrica offers a suite of training and development programs both on-the-job online and to meet individual and team learning styles and preferences.

Centrica's Group-wide General Management Programme aims to build the company's senior management capability and develop successors for key roles. Subjects include change leadership, project management, finance awareness, performance management, coaching, strategic thinking and innovation. Access to the program is fully inclusive. Individuals nominate themselves to workshops following a development planning conversation with their manager.  Support is also provided for continuing professional development and further education.

The company offers "Diversity and Age Awareness" to its new employees and as part of refresher course offerings for existing employees. A structure of career progression and development ensures that they are provided with lifelong learning. Promotion, training and turnover statistics show no significant differences as a result of age.

Centrica has also removed the upper age limits for entrance to its British Gas apprenticeship schemes. One recent alumni of the program is 57 years old.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Centrica aims to support employees in meeting their individual needs through a variety of working arrangements. These include a flexible working policy, a sabbatical policy, caregivers policy, maternity- and family-leave policy (including parental and dependant's 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 have flexible working arrangements in place.
Over 60% of 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.
A Cranfield University research report commissioned by Centrica found that flexible workers scored significantly higher than non-flexible workers on organizational commitment, empowerment, job fulfillment and job satisfaction. Seventy percent of flexible workers were either satisfied or very satisfied with their job, and there were no statistically significant differences related to the respondents' age groups.

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. Centrica's approach is to take action through practical support and training, by raising awareness of work-related health issues and encouraging personal responsibility for all aspects of health both at work and more widely.

The company's "Building Confidence" program seeks to increase management capability in dealing with health issues in the workplace. This program comprises training sessions on a range of subjects, such as musculoskeletal disorders, confidentiality and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The Wellness Induction program offers a series of information and interventions designed to empower and educate employees about their well-being, including discounted gym membership, use of fleet vans to get to the gym, and information on knee and back wellness. Wellness Induction is now also part of the apprentice program.

Centrica partners with Nuffield Health and Occupational Health to provide a program to engineers that addresses overall lifestyle elements that can impact on occurrence of injury and illness. This program is particularly aimed at younger and older engineers and also includes a two-hour personal coaching session at the gym.

The "Carers' Network," established in 2004 by caregivers in the organization as a source of support and advice about all aspects of combining caring and working, has over 100 members across the organization. Employees with caregiving responsibilities are encouraged to join the network, share experiences and help shape the company's approach.

Diversity Promotion: Centrica has rolled out diversity awareness training across the group. Policies include diversity and inclusion policy, the avoidance of harassment and bullying in the workplace, guide to equality and diversity, and guide to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

The British Gas Services (BGS) Academy has a dedicated diversity and inclusion team tasked with recruiting older and younger workers and improving the representation of female engineering recruits and those from ethnic minorities.

A core member of the Employers Forum on Age, Centrica recognizes the importance of employing an age diverse workforce. Their "age aware" communications, training programs and policies continue to promote both internally and externally that Centrica employs workers of all ages.

Age has been a core element of Centrica's diversity strategy and policies for a number of years. The Centrica "Age Action Group" continues to review company policies and practices to ensure they are "age friendly" beyond mere compliance and bring about results in the introduction of a new retirement process, amendments to redundancy schemes, the removal of the upper age limits for entrance to Centrica's British Gas apprenticeship schemes, the introduction of a healthy aging program, innovative flexible working, and the development of an Age-Awareness e-learning package for managers and employees.

Recruitment: Centrica has many established policies and practices that focus on age neutrality to attract and recruit new talent. They have removed age as a factor from the selection process and the way they think about hiring and have 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 employs recruitment campaigns to attract older workers and people of diverse ethnicities.

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