AGEING has become a very lively topic in Europe as the share of older people in the population has been increasing along with the average lifespan of most Europeans. Ageing of the population raises challenges for governments in securing health care and social services for older citizens as well as how to keep seniors integrated into broader society. And companies also face a challenge in finding ways to use the skills and experience that older employees have acquired during their working careers and getting that knowledge passed on to younger employees.
The Slovak Spectator spoke with David J. Rintoul, president of U. S. Steel Košice, Marek Gešo, marketing director for Accenture in Slovakia, Andrea Danihelová, spokeswoman for Východoslovenská Energetika, Jana Bolibruchová, spokeswoman for Stredoslovenská Energetika, Peter Tóth, corporate affairs manager at Orange Slovensko, Andrej Gargulák, the head of corporate communications at Slovak Telekom, Peter Bednár, spokesperson for SPP, Slovakia’s major natural gas utility, and Branislav Kohl, spokesperson for IBM Slovensko, about how their companies are approaching these challenges and about an initiative by the European Union to focus more on the issue of ageing.
The Slovak Spectator: The European Union has declared 2012 to be the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. How does your company view the challenges connected with ageing and inter-generational solidarity? Will your company participate in special activities during this year as part of the EC initiative?
David J. Rintoul: Working with people with many years of experience is very natural in U. S. Steel Košice.
These employees represent a source of knowledge and experience worth sharing with younger colleagues.
During special dinners I personally meet hundreds of employees who have been working for our company for 30, 35, 40 and even more years. We have many families with employees from two or three generations. All our employees have the same access to our system of social benefits, professional or language training, and corporate sports, social and cultural events. We are also in close contact with our retired colleagues gathered in their Autumn of Life civic association. We support them during the year and they do not hesitate to come and help us during the Volunteer Days regularly organised by our company.
Marek Gešo: Accenture recently conducted a major study on the skills and human capital challenges facing Europe. The research identified three critical imperatives: activating untapped labour pools; improving mobility and transferability of skills; and broadening and deepening collaboration.
Andrea Danihelová: The best solution for demographic development is to age actively. Nowadays, seniors are, when compared with the past, in a much better condition and apart from this they have precious experiences and skills. This is also one of the reasons why VSE esteems its employees carrying out demanding jobs requiring experience, knowledge and professionalism.
The company tries to be with its employees at any age and during any life situations. The aim is to create working conditions enabling harmonising of career with private life, i.e. to reach a so-called work-life balance. One of programmes addressing this goal is the Programme for Families – a set of socially-oriented measures in various dimensions, for example part-time home office or tailored work time.
One key project for the long-term sustainable development of VSE is Mentoring, via which our seasoned workers convey their know-how to young school graduates. To make the work more effective, VSE has implemented information technologies into the daily work of employees working outdoors.
Older workers have been trained in, and nowadays actively use, tools such as tablets or GPS. Within Days of Diversity, which will take place during the second week of June in VSE this year, we want to highlight the diversity in our company on the levels of gender, age and nationality. Workshops, excursions, interactive meetings and much more have been prepared for our employees.
Jana Bolibruchová: SSE annually organises a Diversity Day for its employees as part of the initiative of our major shareholder, the EDF Group. The presentations delivered and the ensuing discussions address selected topical themes of interest to the company as well as issues in the area of discrimination that the company wants to avoid and prevent. Last year’s Diversity Day was devoted to the theme of age-diversity in the workplace, renewal of the workforce and passing experience down to younger colleagues, employment of seniors, i.e. those 50 and older, and similar issues.
The EDF Group is one of the companies pursuing the policy of no difference in treatment between individuals. The idea of diversity, tolerance and solidarity is also a basic value of the approaching 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. We decided to devote this year’s Diversity Day to these topics.
Peter Tóth: Because of our company’s focus, the average age of our employees is 34 years. For that reason we do not focus our activities for seniors primarily on our own employees but on those living in the community. Orange has been addressing the issue of seniors for several years and it has also actively joined in activities within the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. Within our initiative called Meeting of Generations we bring together different generations with activities like gardening, obtaining IT skills, cooking, art therapy, and other DIY activities. Another initiative is our highly popular grant programme called Green for Seniors, with the aim of increasing the quality of life of seniors and their continued integration in society.
Andrej Gargulák: With respect to our labour force, expert knowledge and working experience is most important when Slovak Telekom is seeking new employees, regardless of the age of the applicant. From the viewpoint of our products and services we realise that seniors are active people nowadays and want to be in frequent contact with their children, friends and acquaintances. Thus, we have been tailoring products and devices to address their needs.
Right now we are not running any special grant programme focused on seniors or solidarity between generations but we do not exclude support for this target group in the near future.
Peter Bednár: SPP takes into account all employees’ age groups in its social programme. SPP provides financial benefits to employees on the occasion of work and life jubilees, appraising the contribution of workers with long experience. Another of our activities in this area is support for the club of retired SPP employees. This activity is beneficial for both the company and our retirees, as the seniors help SPP in organising events for current employees as well as for the public. And the participation of seniors strengthens the feelings, pride and corporate affiliation – especially among younger colleagues.
Branislav Kohl: This is an important topic. Our company supports employees in joining these activities, for example via the Naše Mesto (Our City) initiative. We have other activities under consideration.