Assurance France Generali, France: Training and development / Flexible working practices
Assurance France Generali, part of Generali group, recently concluded a collective agreement related to employability and career development. This agreement encompasses several interesting measures related to prolonging careers, such as training, occupational mobility, mentoring and reduction of working time. The goal is to promote a life-course approach and changes in age representation.
Generali is an international group operating in the insurance sector. In France, one of its main markets, the group is represented by Assurance Generali France and is the second largest general insurer in the country. Assurance France Generali group offers both comprehensive insurance and life insurance. In 2006, the turnover was about 14 million euros. Generali employs about 7,000 workers, 2,000 sales persons and 5,000 administrative staff. As of 31 December 2006, women represented 55% of the administrative staff. More than 50% of the administrative staff are aged 45 years and over, with 10% aged 55 years and over. As a result, average age is 42.9 years; 43.8 years for men and 42.1 years for women. The oldest workers (recruited up to their mid eighties) are the least qualified (A-level or less).
Social dialogue is significant. Five trade unions are represented within the company. Since 2003, several collective agreements have been concluded at group level. The agreements were especially aimed at reorganising the group in order to strengthen its economical and social cohesion. At present, however, collective bargaining aims at designing overall HR policies. As an example, a recent agreement specifically addressed gender equality.
Description of the initiative
Generali’s initiative is contained in a collective agreement concluded on 26 December 2006. Its aim is to foster the employability of workers and job mobility.
The collective agreement was motivated by two factors: to focus on relationships with customers and to cope with an ageing workforce.
The economic and social situation at Generali is in many ways representative of the insurance sector in France. Generali’s management noted the necessity for all insurance companies to reorganise themselves to better focus on relationships with customers. Management thus decided that the only way to be different from its competitors was to promote a superior level of service to customers. Because life insurance is the most profitable of the company’s activities, jobs within the company would have to change. These changes would especially concern administrative employees currently managing insurance contracts other than life insurance (accidents, fire, etc.). A need for more employees devoted to life insurance is thus sensitive. Considering the age profile of administrative staffs, older employees are particularly concerned.
Generali, as with other insurance companies, must also cope with an ageing workforce. The end of early retirement schemes, which occurred in 2003, has led to an increase in the average exit age. Generali therefore has to face a lengthening of working life while preparing for the renewal of its workforce.
The first process (named ‘Cap sur la Vie’) was launched in 2006. It is devoted to occupational mobility towards jobs related to life insurance. In addition, in April 2006, HR management organised a seminar that included the company’s trade unions and which focused on a future collective agreement related to job mobility issues. The seminar lasted a day and a half, and management and the trade unions reached a common understanding of the issues. This analysis was based mainly on information about employment issues in the insurance sector provided by a sectoral organisation (‘Observatoire des métiers de l’assurance’)
Following this seminar, a draft of the agreement was submitted to employee representatives. During the negotiation process, trade unions analysed measures implemented in other companies. An agreement (‘Accord sur la gestion prévisionnelle des emplois et des compétences’) was finally signed by four out of five trade unions on 26 December 2006 and became effective on 1 January 2007.
This collective agreement promotes a life–course approach, as it includes a wide range of measures related to training and development of all categories of workers and to apprenticeship. Several provisions however, are focused on the second part of careers, that is, workers aged 45 years and over or workers having more than 15 years of seniority within the company. These measures aim to meet three objectives:
- employment protection for older workers;
- exclusion of any age discrimination;
- knowledge transfer.
The main measures can be summarised as follows:
- Information: an internal ‘observatory of trades’ was formed. This body is to inform management and employees about the evolution of trades within the company and its impacts on skills, employment and work organisation. The body is managed by a steering committee of representatives of trade unions, HR management and different trades. This measure is seen as especially significant by both HR management and trade unions, as it is clearly a way to promote career management.
- Training: the agreement implements most of the training tools planned by French labour law. That is especially the case with individual right to training, certification of work-derived experience (‘Validation des Acquis de l’Expérience’) and specific training path (‘période de professionnalisation’). These tools target all workers; however older workers benefit from specific rules, and thus have priority to benefit from the personal support to prepare a VAE. For example, in the individual right to training, older workers are entitled to benefit from 120 hours of training from 1 January 2007, which is much more favourable than the situation of other workers as outlined by French labour law.
- Career development: interviews focused on career development with an individual counsellor every five years and the right to individual skills assessment (compulsory for workers aged 45 years and over).
- Knowledge transfer: an internal network of trainers including older workers and the opportunity to voluntarily become a mentor to support new employees.
- Flexible working practices: a right to part-time work for workers aged 55 years and older. This measure was requested by trade unions to address workers, especially women, who began to work young (from 18 years old). It is thus a way to prepare for retirement according to the personal wishes of employees. As planned by the agreement, lowering of wages is not proportional to a reduction of working time. Compensation depends on the age of the employee. For instance, employees aged 57 years or over will receive 90% of their former wage while working 70% of normal hours, and employees aged 55 years will receive 90% of their former wage while working 80% of normal hours.
The agreement’s duration is three years and a follow-up committee of representatives of the signatories is to meet at least twice a year.
Good practice today
Concrete implementation of the measures adopted is clearly important for both trade unions and HR management. The first potential problem is linked to internal communication about the content of the agreement. Discussions about this are still ongoing. A special issue of the company’s magazine, focused on internal mobility, is planned. The attitudes and skills of line managers to really support workers in their career development is also an issue. To address these problems, the agreement provides in some cases for training for managers. HR management also decided to foster internal mobility by forbidding any external recruitment before internal solutions are explored.
Generali’s initiative shows that age awareness in the insurance sector has recently increased. The success of such measures depends on the involvement of all parties: management, trade unions and employees themselves.