Danone Serdika, Bulgaria: Comprehensive approach
Danone Serdika PLC is a company that processes milk and produces milk products. Located in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, the company was privatised in 1994 and taken over by the multinational enterprise Groupe Danone.
The company has 372 employees. Of these, 300 are aged 40 years or under, 70 are aged between 41 and 60 years and only two are aged over 60 years. Of the company’s 70 older workers, 52 have no qualifications. Only 11 of the company’s 65 managers are aged over 40 years.
According to the human resources (HR) manager, the age profile of the staff can be attributed to the specificity and dynamics of the work processes (in particular to the fact that younger people tend to adapt better to new technologies) and to the company culture as a whole.
After the company was privatised in 1994, all employees retained their jobs and received the necessary training.
Sociodemographic criteria, such as age and sex, are not considered critical in terms of the selection and recruitment of staff. Rather, the company seeks applicants whose professional experience and level of education fit the job requirements, who are seeking a long-term career in a multinational company, and who share its corporate values. The company also considers factors such as the organisational climate important.
The main factor influencing the policy towards the ageing workforce is the company culture. A special committee aimed at improving working and living conditions in the company has been established, comprising representatives of both the workforce and employer. This committee plans the measures needed, as well as the respective budgets.
Good practice today
The collective labour agreement of the company includes special measures for people of pre-retirement age. For example, those who have worked at Serdika, and its successor company Danone Serdika, for over 20 years are entitled to receive a bonus of 20 months’ pay after retirement.
All employees receive free health services and have their voluntary life insurance paid for by the employer. Some of the employees are invited to continue working with the company after retirement; this, however, is not an habitual practice, but rather depends on the labour needs at that time.
One practice that is commonplace is the redeployment of workers within the company, depending on the employees’ wishes, their age and the length of their professional experience.
In 2006, the company plans to start a new initiative, called the ‘voluntary pension social security contribution’, which is targeted at older workers: the employer will pay 30 BGN (about €15) per month into a voluntary pension fund for each employee who agrees to contribute the same amount.
Development of the case study
The company’s policy towards older workers is not the outcome of a particular campaign or the result of arrangements following its privatisation: all initiatives described above are applied regularly by company management. According to the company’s HR manager, these measures form part of a long tradition within the company. In general, no distinction is made in terms of the age and sex of employees regarding such measures. Training and promotion depend on workers’ performance only.
Due to the special attention that is paid to the well-being and satisfaction of all staff members, the company has a lower rate of paid sick leave compared to the national average.
Contact: Emilia Foteva, HR Manager, Danone Serdika PLC, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Company website: www.danone.com
Source: Interview with HR manager