Delvita, Czech Republic: Recruitment / Training and development
Delvita a.s. is a supermarket chain operating in the Czech market since 1991. The company’s headquarters are located in Rudná near Prague, but the company has more than 400 stores throughout the Czech Republic, including supermarkets and so-called convenience stores or small local shops. In 2004, due to a change in business strategy, a significant increase in productivity was achieved and about 10% of employees were made redundant. The redundant workers had short-term or non-standard employment contracts and were not trained to work in the various sections of the shops; thus, these workers were considered to be less productive in their work. Currently, Delvita employs more than 3,000 workers. Of this number, 75% are women, 9% are administrative employees, 27% are employed part time and 27% have been employed by the company for over 10 years. The average age of Delvita employees is 38 years.
The employment of older employees – particularly older women – is part of the company’s latest strategy in addressing the longer-term problem of recruiting a high quality workforce.
Social dialogue is formalised with collective agreements which offers benefits such as extra pension insurance, as well as healthcare options such as a free flu vaccination. The employer considers its relationship with the trade union to be particularly good.
Good practice today
Due to the increasing shortage of workers, Delvita decided to concentrate its efforts on recruiting and training older employees for specific positions such as cashiers. The company highlights the importance of intergenerational learning and dialogue which it actively supports in its training initiatives.
The human resources (HR) department has been dealing with the problem of a lack of high quality workers for some time. For example, the department has repeatedly faced difficulties when trying to fill certain positions such as cashiers. After some discussion, it was decided that the company should stop targeting only young workers for this type of job and deliberately select women aged over 50 years. The HR department had to gradually argue the case through a multi-layered management system all the way to shop managers. Nonetheless, over a period of time, the decision proved to be the correct move.
HR officers based their decision on the fact that women aged 50 years or more have, in general, fewer caretaking responsibilities than younger women. In the case of older women, their children have already ‘left the nest’ and they do not yet have grandchildren to look after. They are thus in the best position to concentrate on developing their own careers and make the best of social networks formed at the workplace. It has also emerged that older cashiers are perceived in a more positive way by customers who consider them to be more reliable and trustworthy. This experience convinced Delvita of the advantages of a diversified workforce that includes employees of various ages, while maximising the potential of all workers. At present, Delvita considers it ideal to have an age balance among a mixed workforce.
Another factor influencing the higher attention paid to older workers was the analysis of training of new employees. The training proves that older managers usually have better trained shop personnel than some of the younger managers. The company has thus decided to make an effort to implement the principle of intergenerational learning by introducing other forms of internal training for employees. However, according to research conducted by Delvita among its employees, promoting age diversity among work teams in itself does not guarantee high quality knowledge transfer and intergenerational learning. Although the older generation of employees expressed a willingness and readiness to share their knowledge and experience with their younger colleagues, the younger workers considered this as an inadequate information exchange. Thus, in a second step, Delvita concentrated on the necessity to train and educate employees in order to minimize this contrast. As a result, the company chose to send workers on training courses, to workshops and to programmes outside the workplace in an effort to engage in and deepen relationships between workers of various age groups – such activities included, for example, outdoor meetings or ‘unusual Olympic games’ with activities suitable for workers of all ages. Training programmes are geared towards all professional groups. Moreover, public training courses and training workshops provided by internal staff are provided.
Delvita actively looks for ways in which to implement high quality training with a limited budget. One example of this is the company’s participation in the pilot project ‘Third career’ (Třetí kariéra), co-financed by the European Social Fund and the Czech government. The project aims to train and support HR managers in dealing with an ageing workforce and also to support and improve the long-term sustainable employment of employees aged 50 years or over, particularly in the area of middle management. Participation in the pilot project is free of charge for selected companies. At the same time, taking part in the project proves to be a positive move for companies as it reflects their good practice initiative in relation to older workers.
Apart from the ‘Third career’ project, Delvita has its own programme for training and improving qualifications in place with a direct link to career promotion. This programme called ‘Open career’ (Otevřená kariéra) provides an employee aspiring for a promotion with the possibility of attending courses to gain the information and skills necessary for successful conduct in a job at a higher position. The courses are funded by the company and attendance is counted as working time. Successful attendance at the course is rewarded by a salary bonus and the employee is approached when the position for which they have trained becomes available. In this way, Delvita creates its own internal labour market and thus maintains valuable know-how within the company, multiplies its profits and saves finances for the more demanding training of new employees from the external labour market. This programme was initially geared towards cashiers, but it also currently applies to technical-administrative staff. Through this programme, the company invests in prolonging the working lives of older employees which provides for the possibility of promotion to less physically demanding positions while they remain able to use their experiences from previous jobs. Overall, one challenge remains for the company to address, namely employees’ continuing concern about the increased responsibility which is expected of workers in higher positions.
The company welcomed the opportunity to participate in the Third career project which confirmed that its aim to invest in and pay attention to older employees is a step in the right direction, thus meeting European requirements. Such a move highlights Delvita as an investor in HR and a pioneer in new trends in personnel management. All of these efforts have a positive impact on the overall company culture and thus help the company to develop and become more stable. HR staff, however, identify certain barriers in relation to the direction of the Czech social system; these workers consider that an understanding of the value of work needs to be developed. For employees, particularly older staff members, it is financially and socially more advantageous under the current social system to stop working rather than to remain employed and move, for example, to a less physically demanding job with a relatively lower reward.
At present, there is a lack of political will to support similar programmes for older workers. HR staff consider that ‘if a company does not come up with the idea, does not organise the event and does not pay for it, then there won’t be any support for older employees.’ Although it is clear that taking an interest in older employees should primarily be the concern of the employer, the issues relating to the expenses of the social and pension systems will without doubt invoke public interest.
Contact: Libuše Trlifajová, email: firstname.lastname@example.org