Importance of Older Workers: Human Resources

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Companies in the vanguard of hiring experienced older workers include such well-known names as Chase Manhattan Bank, Grumman Corporation, Polaroid, Levi Strauss, Travelers Insurance Companies, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Xerox Corporation.

One of the best-known is the Travelers Insurance Companies' Retiree Job Bank, which the Hartford, Connecticut-based company created in 1980 through its Older Americans Program. A primary goal of the Older Americans Program is to increase economic security of older people through ex tended employment, according to the company. It offers part-time employment to retirees and meets the Travelers' needs for experienced and reliable temporary workers. The in-house temporary service program is called Trav Temps. The Travelers abolished mandatory retirement and altered its pension plan to permit retirees to work up to 960 hours a year without jeopardizing their retirement benefits.

The Job Bank was opened in 1981 to the Travelers' retirees. In 1985 when demand for retirees for super visors grew beyond the pool's capacity, the company began recruiting retirees from other area companies through an "unretirement" campaign, which matches retirees' skills and schedules with temporary openings. Retirees fill in during absences, and delays in hiring full-time personnel, and for special projects. Retirees are paid on skill level, experience, and job performance. In 1990 the program was expanded to include homemakers and students.

Approximately 750 retirees are registered in the Job Bank. In a typical week, 250 retirees are working at the company.

They earn more through the retiree Job Bank than through outside temporary employment services. The Job Bank can often accommodate retirees' schedules through flexible hours.

Computer training opportunities are offered to retirees to help keep their skills current with business needs. By decreasing the costly use of temporary employment agencies, the Travelers saves an estimated $4 million each yeajr. The company also gains from the experience and knowledge retirees bring to the jobs they perform for the company.

"Buying 32 Years of My Experience"

When Bernard Chiccione, 61, of Massapequa, New York, went back to work it was because he was a "little bored." Says Chiccione, "There is so much you can do, time hangs heavy on your hands."

Travelers asked him to come back, he says. "It's a mutual thing. They have a program that they set up if there is a need for what you have done in the past. I only want to work a couple of days a week, so I decided to go back. Travelers has afforded an opportunity to many people. I wouldn't have gone back if I couldn't have contributed."

Chiccione works two days a week as a commercial casualty property underwriter. He says, "Travelers Insurance is buying thirty-two years of experience."

Job banks are expected to increase in number in the 1990s, according to a recent report - "Job Banks for Retirees" - issued by the Conference Board. Companies like Grumman, Varian, and Wells Fargo use the services of retirees to fill niches in their work force. Check with large companies in your area to see if they have job banks or special programs that utilize the talents of older workers.

Sam Walton, founder and chairman of Arkansas-based Walmart Stores Inc., a huge national discount department store, accepting an award for his company's older worker and recruitment policies, said, "WalMart has found the older worker to be an experienced and dependable resource with strong moral and work ethics that have proven invaluable. We will continue to depend on them as an important part of our future growth."

Jan Moen, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, notes that companies like Xerox are using older workers who have retired, keeping them around on a part-time basis or encouraging them to stay on longer to use their skills and pass them on to younger people. "They are reliable workers," he says, "with good attendance records who get their work done well and on time. Older workers do not lose their ability."

The United States has long been wasting one of its greatest national resources, the 50-plus mature workers with gray hair and fire in the furnace. But today Uncle Sam, together with many forward-looking organizations like those mentioned previously, is looking at people like you - a potent professional work force that can help solve the growing shortage of skilled workers who will be required to keep the country competitive in the global marketplace.

Recent government studies commissioned by former Labor Secretary Ann McLaughlin pointed out that employers increasingly will have to tap into the pool of older workers to overcome major shortages. Retaining and retraining older workers for highly skilled jobs is critically important, according to the report.

Patricia Eidson, 58, who now lives in Norman, Oklahoma, changed her life 11 years ago when her husband died suddenly at age 50. Eidsons' Architect was the name of their company in Manhattan, Kansas. Since that time Eidson has gotten her degree and is now a consultant on interior design and interior architecture. She is also a licensed architect and an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma in the College of Architecture, Interior Design Division.

In the interim, in addition to getting her degree, she has taught at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Hawaii. After her husband died, she said, "It's rebuilding your life. It's like starting over again at 30.1 don't think of myself as special nor really of the 'late-in-life' career person, yet I know I am."
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