Winning Years: 2008, 2009, 2010
Industry: Industrial Equipment / Commercial Machinery
Location: Waldkirch, Germany
Employees: 1,852; Percentage over 50: 19.5%
Highlights of 2010 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 places strong emphasis on employee health through such initiatives as a project addressing how healthy aging can be achieved in the workplace, and through comprehensive flexible work options. SICK AG also offers a combined working time and retirement investment account system that allows employees great flexibility in using overtime credits. Overtime work can be monetized, converted into pension contributions, or used to plan extended leaves of absence or temporary schedule changes.
Additional policies and practices:
Lifelong Learning and Training: SICK has stipulated a number of 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. 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.
SICK invests in all of its employees, even those nearing retirement. As a consequence, the participation of older workers in lifelong learning is high (45% in comparison with 17% EU average).
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.
SICK is also involved in a project called "A Healthy Work Life–Towards a Demography Oriented and Innovative Health Management." The project deals with the question of how healthy aging in work and employment can be realized. Among initiatives to promote employees' health are the following: training executives; stress-management training; health checks and counseling; health days and weeks; and a working group to encourage sports activities.
Diversity Promotion: The company's appreciation of its older employees is reflected in the fact that they are considered mentors to the younger employees, particularly in the fields of sales and the promotion of trainees. Intergenerational teamwork is also seen as an instrument to record, secure and transfer relevant know-how. The transfer process starts several years before the older employee plans to retire from the company. It benefits both the younger and the older employee, because the concrete exchange of knowledge and experience takes place in both directions. Thus, just as the younger employees learn from the experienced knowledge base of their older colleagues, younger employees acquaint their older colleagues with their expertise and knowledge, which may differ from the older employee's.
In addition, retirees continue to be invited to company functions and are given the opportunity to maintain contact with former employees.
Recruitment: SICK avoids making any reference to age in its job advertisements and, instead, stipulates qualifications and experience as the main recruitment criteria. These approaches represent examples of good practice in relation to the company's overall HR policy, which relates to all age groups.
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