Personnel Today Awards 2001 update

Short listed teams Department for Work & Pensions Award for Age Positive
at Work

This award recognises organisations that are committed to achieving Age
Positive practices in the workplace. The shortlisted teams have demonstrated
best practice in age diversity throughout the employment process – from
recruitment and selection, training and development through to promotion

Nationwide Building Society
Corporate personnel team

What they did

The promotion of age diversity has been a key aim of
Nationwide’s corporate personnel team and over the past few years innovations
such as telephone interviewing and flexible work policies have been introduced,
supported by feedback from the building society’s employee attitude
questionnaire. In the past 12 months the firm has introduced flexible
retirement – the result of a working party combining representatives from
employee relations, diversity and pensions. Under new arrangements, employees
can retire at 70 although they still have the opportunity to leave at 60. To
support this shift, pre-retirement workshops have been replaced by more
flexible support in the form of financial planning workshops for staff aged 40
to 55.

A recruitment initiative has also been introduced to attract a
more diverse workforce in the organisation’s technology division. With 71 per
cent of employees aged between 26 and 45, this initiative sought to attract
applicants at either end of the age spectrum, across gender and ethnicity.

Why they did it

Age diversity is crucial to the Nationwide’s commitment to
people – both employees and members – and the personnel and development
division sets ongoingtargets for age diversity throughout the organisation.
Performance ratings have demonstrated the business case for older workers,
showing absence levels are no higher than those of younger colleagues and that
39 per cent of employees aged over 51 are rated as excellent or exceptional
workers.

Benefits and achievements

"The continued commitment for our age diversity strategy
has enabled us to be one of the first organisations to develop, with our staff
union, new ground-breaking flexible retirement arrangements and an IT
recruitment scheme which has successfully attracted employees at both ends of
the age spectrum," says Denise Walker, head of corporate personnel. With
over 10 per cent of employees aged over 50 at the company, this year’s employee
survey found only 8 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement,
"I believe that career and development opportunities are equal for all
employees, regardless of age". The society enjoys the lowest staff
turnover in the industry at just 9.8 per cent compared with a sector average of
24 per cent.

The team

Number in team 6
Staff responsible for 15,000
Head of corporate personnel Denise Walker
Administrator Liz Matthews
Consultant Melanie Fyans
Diversity adviser Lea-Fon Li
Senior manager Andrew Powles

BT
NewStart team

What they did

NewStart is BT’s approach to delivering advice and support to
staff on career management and life goals. The initiative, implemented in
February 2001 and delivered through line management, includes options for
flexible retirement. Rather than choosing between working full time or leaving
the company entirely, employees can take advantage of a portfolio of
alternative ways of working. These options include "Wind Down" where
employees can work part-time or in a job-share and "Step Down" where
they can move to a lower grade. There are also opportunities for sabbaticals or
to gradually reduce working hours and responsibilities. The scheme has created
the concept of a "decade of retirement" replacing previous
expectations of retiring early with a financial package. The scheme means the
company can retain crucial corporate knowledge and utilise the skills of its
older workforce while providing employees with a satisfying career-life balance.

Why they did it

BT is dedicated to embracing the range of skills and
experiences of people of all ages. Age is included in its equality and
diversity policy and the company has appointed an age champion from within the
senior management team to monitor recruitment and employment policies.
According to BT’s own monitoring, the company’s policy on voluntary redundancy
packages led to an imbalance in the workforce towards lower age groups over the
past 10 years. The flexible retirement initiative seeks to address this and
move the culture away from the expectation of retirement with a payment and
enhanced pension.

Benefits and achievements

"As soon as people join BT we are talking about their
career-life plan so flexible retirement will become part of this planned
process," says Caroline Waters, director of HR policy. The level of
interest in flexible retirement is already high within the company and the
initiative will be closely monitored for the development of further options
according to employee demand. The company has for the first time created a
mechanism which eases employees into retirement in the context of career-life
planning.

The team

Number in team 7 in group HR employment policy, 4 dedicated to
flexible retirement
Staff responsible for 130,000
Diversity manager Peter Phillipson
Employment policy and equality manager Bob Green
Director of HR policy Caroline Waters

Halifax
Equal opportunities team

What they did

Under the banner of Fair’s Fair, the Halifax equal
opportunities team has developed and cascaded age diversity initiatives
throughout the company. The programme includes the delivery of training
materials, videos and booklets, the use of focus groups and innovation forums
to develop equality policies, and extensive roadshows promoting awareness of
the business case for age diversity. Equal opportunities steering groups ensure
strategy signed off at board level is carried out practically in each business
area. Recruitment initiatives, in particular graduate recruitment, have been
redesigned to ensure applications are received from all ages while a resourcing
forum generates further creative recruiting solutions.

The company has earned a national profile on age diversity
issues, being an active Employer Champion of the Government’s Age Positive
Campaign and sharing best practice through the Employer’s Forum on Age.

Why they did it.

"One of the aspects we constantly stress is the business
benefits of employing an age diverse workforce and how that will impact on our
potential to generate sales," says Tyrone Jones, equal opportunities
adviser. "Fifty per cent of our customer base is currently aged over 50 so
if we’re not reflecting that in the workforce we risk alienating that sector of
the customers."

Halifax has had an equal opportunities policy for over 20
years, with age diversity forming an integral part in that policy since 1995.

Benefits and achievements

Area sales managers in the retail network now range in age from
26 to 53, while personal financial advisers range from 21 to 57. The Scunthorpe
branch received a regional newspaper award for Age Diversity in Employment
while the Arnold branch operates with 56 per cent of the workforce over 40 and
25 per cent over 50. In group marketing the creation of a customer segmentation
team resulted in a number of open days at branches where products were matched
to the over-50s and staffed by employees with similar life experience to the
customer group. Six of these open days have generated increased business in
excess of £115,000.

The team

Number in team 4
Staff responsible for 38,000
Disability manager Philomena Gray
Equal opportunities advisor Tyrone Jones
Equal opportunities manager Gill Dawson

Department
for Work and Pensions

The Department for Work and Pensions
was formed in June 2001 from parts of the former Department of Social Security,
parts of the former Department for Education and Employment and the Employment
Service. It is committed to providing people of working age, pensioners and
children with the advice and help they need to achieve financial independence
and make the most of life.

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