Will Rogers, one of the most renowned American humorists of the last century, once said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Forward-thinking employers recognize that having a far-reaching training program is critical for continued success on two levels:
To maintain a competitive edge
To motivate and retain employees
The 2008 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 understand the importance of training for employees of all ages. The majority of these employers offer a variety of training opportunities, such as the following:
98 percent offer tuition reimbursement
100 percent offer in-house training
52 percent offer a formal job rotation program
100 percent offer financing planning information or training
George Mason University, located in Fairfax, Va., encourages career growth and development for all employees of all ages through collaborative efforts that cross all departments and academic disciplines. One example is the university’s Build Your Technology and Teaching Expertise Week. BYTE Week, which is held multiple times throughout the year, is designed to help faculty and staff expand their technology skills. BYTE Week is coordinated by multiple departments at George Mason: university libraries, the Office of Continuing and Professional Education, the Office of Equity and Diversity, human resources and payroll, fiscal services, and the Division of Information Technology. Classes facilitate learning on multiple levels, from introductory classes in various software packages to more specialized workshops covering recent developments in videoconferencing, HTML, and podcasting. Why does George Mason go to such lengths? To continue to build the knowledge of talented and experienced employees.
At the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in Arlington, Va., each supervisor rates his or her employees annually on their commitment to learning. NRECA reports that this encourages employees to seek opportunities to learn. The association also administers an annual employee-engagement survey that includes 12 critical points for evaluation, such as “This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.” Every manager receives an annual scorecard comparing his or her unit’s performance on this question to that of NRECA overall and to an external database of about 400 other companies and almost 5 million employees. This system encourages managers to focus on their employees’ continuing education and development. Additionally, in order to promote tuition assistance, NRECA also hosts a celebration lunch for employees who have completed a degree using the tuition assistance program, which fully funds college courses and pays for them before the employees take classes.
The health care industry, faced with a shortage of nurses, has implemented training programs designed to recruit mature workers. Both Lee Memorial Hospital in Ft. Myers, Fla., and TriHealth Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio, have training programs for mature and/or retired nurses who have been out of the workforce for a number of years. The idea is to enable the nurses to refresh their skills and knowledge so they can return to nursing on a full- or part-time basis. Lee Memorial has found that the nurse-refresher program is particularly attractive to workers age 50+. To accommodate the needs of nurses who choose to take refresher courses at accredited academic institutions, Lee Memorial Hospital provides reimbursement of up to $1,000 for tuition and books.
Retirement and financial planning are offered by most of the Best Employers, with some taking this a step further by providing individual counseling. For example, employees at Atlantic Health in Morristown, N.J., can participate in on-site, one-on-one meetings with certified financial counselors. In addition, Atlantic Health offers financial planning workshops that are held in the evenings so that spouses can attend.