Fraunhofer IAO is initiating a study designed to offer practical guidance to help medium-sized companies create work environments suitable for employees of all ages. Part of this “Age-appropriate Working Practices” study, which was commissioned by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance and Economics, takes the form of an online assessment that is set to start in April 2013.
Medium-sized companies are already aware of the challenges the demographic shift has in store for them – raising the retirement age results in a workforce that is getting older all the time. How can companies turn these demographic challenges into opportunities? How is a company to continue to attract new employees while also making the most of the diverse potential of its existing workforce?
At first glance, there appears to be a simple solution: companies have to maintain their employees’ physical and mental health, both of which strongly depend on the daily work environment. This environment has a decisive influence on an assortment of key factors related to health and well-being including physical strain, the individual’s scope of work, the degree of change and how successfully it is dealt with, the range of learning incentives and learning opportunities on offer, the level of social integration in the workplace and with it the level of motivation and the feeling among employees that their efforts are worthwhile.
Taking a look at current industry publications, training opportunities or human resource conferences gives the distinct impression that redoubling efforts to recruit a greater number of younger employees is all that is needed to counteract the impending shortage of skilled labor. But the much more pressing concern is for each company to turn its attention to the far larger part of its workforce – those who are already there and will remain so for many years to come.
In order to address this disparity, Fraunhofer IAO has been commissioned by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance and Economics to research good examples of age-appropriate working practices. In creating an environment that allows them to retain their appeal as an employer and maximize the potential of their existing employees, companies have to take a look not only at how they organize their workforce and support health. Personal development, further training and knowledge management must also be taken into account. This is why Fraunhofer IAO scientists are taking a close look at good examples of age-appropriate working practices and at just why these practices have been successful. The study will present these conclusions as “examples of best practices” that can be transferred in practice to small and medium-sized companies.
To mark the start of research, Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart hosted a founding session in February that was attended by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance and Economics as well as the Allianz für Fachkräfte Baden-Württemberg, an alliance set up in 2011 to ensure the state has enough skilled labor. Moving into the second phase this April, Fraunhofer IAO is launching a systematic survey of good practices that medium-sized companies have already implemented. These companies are given the opportunity to participate in an online assessment and, through a process of self-auditing, to discover which areas they need to reconfigure and which measures are available to help them do so. Companies that perform well in the assessment could well become widely recognized examples of best practice: the most impressive initiatives and measures will be noted during site visits taking place in fall 2013 and made available to a wide audience as part of the study’s core information materials.
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