This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

June 7, 2006

For Some Older Workers, It Is Prime Time

"It's just self defense," says Jim Hicks, Vice President of Business Integration for AREVA in Lynchburg, Virginia, talking about the tightening labor market. AREVA, designer and builder of nuclear fuel, services, and components, needs engineers to support their corporate growth. Problem: they are difficult to find.

Typical of the energy industry, the average age of AREVA's employee population is 48 and one third of their workforce is eligible to retire today. They cannot afford to have their entire workforce retire, especially with current and anticipated growth.

Hicks believes his older workers have three options: 1) Stay with their present schedules, 2) Work a modified schedule, or 3) Leave the organization. The goal of the company's new Prime Time initiative is for retirement-eligible workers choose one of the first two options. AREVA has offered "flex time" for years, however now there are more options for older workers: job sharing, "full-time reduced-hours," and "phased-in retirement".

Another non-traditional work schedule is to hire workers annually for one or two four-month period(s) (their busiest times) at a 20 percent salary premium. The good news for workers: most categories still qualify for full-time healthcare benefits---very important to older workers.

A traditional scheduling culture is the biggest challenge to implementation of this ambitious outreach to older workers. Accustomed to doing business with a more traditional management style, managers are sometimes reluctant to embrace the new schedules. The company provides in-depth training on generational differences, as well as remote management, to help supervisors and managers understand the importance of maintaining their mature human capital, as well as the complexities of managing across multiple time zones and geographical boundaries.

The company created a new club called "Prime Time" for all of their employees over 50. The employer sponsors social, recognition, and informational activities for club members, as well as community service opportunities. "Our goal is for other employees to wish they could be part of the club as well," added Hicks.

AREVA is certainly ahead of the curve. Expect other companies to follow their example, establishing a variety of enticements to attract, recognize, and retain older workers.

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