Elmhults Konstruktions AB, Sweden: recruitment and health and well-being
Elmhults Konstruktions AB is a family owned manufacturing company, located in Älmhult – a small town in southeast Sweden. Founded in 1974, the company manufactures truck and crane spreaders that handle containers and swap bodies and trailers. The company is headed by a managing director, who is supported by purchasing managers, production managers and marketing directors.
Elmhults employs around 120 workers, only a few of whom are women. Since 1992, its workforce has increased from 22 to 120 people. The average age of employees is around 40–45 years, however, a large proportion are aged between 35–40 years. The proportion of white-collar workers stands at 29%, and the overall level of educational attainment is generally low.
Only around 30% of the workers are affiliated to a trade union – a relatively low rate for Sweden. There is no local workplace union, which, along with the low affiliation levels, makes the role of the trade union quite weak. Employee representatives selected by the workers participate in the collective bargaining.
The company has great respect for the knowledge and experience of older workers. This is reflected in its continuing recruitment of workers aged over 55 years.
The original initiative
Elmhults has recruited, and still recruits, older workers with considerable experience in manufacturing. Expansion of the workforce since 1992 has increased the number of workers aged over 55 years. The company’s hiring practice, which particularly emphasises applicants’ qualifications and competencies, favours older people who often have extensive professional experience.
The effects of recruiting older workers are largely positive. Experienced workers bring valuable competencies and therefore have lower training and orientation costs. Their professional experience means that they can manage most types of manufacturing tasks, find alternative solutions to problems and, therefore, work more independently. The company’s readiness to hire older workers has enhanced its reputation as an employer, further contributing to its constant stream of job applications. Recruitment of older workers has, in turn, had positive effects both for the company and for older workers.
Good practice today
The company still focuses on qualifications and competencies in its recruitment process and strives for an age balance between younger and older workers. This strategy particularly favours older workers, who often have more extensive professional experience.
Older workers are mainly recruited in the company’s manufacturing division, where the main aim is to bring valuable and solid competence into industrial processing. The personnel manager says that older workers have, through their long professional experience, knowledge and skills that cannot be acquired merely through education. This experience leads to greater professional assurance and independence – something that the company considers very valuable.
Elmhults recently hired 10 older workers and plans to recruit a few more this year. However, recruitment depends on growth and the company is also trying to restore its age balance by recruiting younger white-collar workers.
The benefits of hiring older workers are that they can carry out most jobs and do not need training and orientation, thus reducing training costs. Older workers can solve problems quickly and can work more independently. The company has found that there is a lower turnover rate among older workers and that they show strong loyalty to the company. They also tend to get greater satisfaction in carrying out less-stimulating tasks.
Elmhults is also continuing its health and keep-fit programme, designed to prevent illness and to help maintain the well-being of its workforce. Employees are allotted 2,000 SEK a year each, to be used for training or keep-fit measures of their choice. The company requires only that employees prove that they have trained at least 10 times a season.
Elmhults aims to deal with industrial injuries early on. It offers measures like massage and ergonomic adjustments, for example, lifting equipment and wrist support, to prevent injuries and help workers stay employed for longer. Employees with health problems are referred to an occupational health service provider. The personnel manager encourages employees to become involved in their own health and to train and keep fit.
The main effect of the company’s health and keep-fit measures has been to reduce work-related absenteeism. Employees have taken responsibility for being able to work full time, often even changing tasks during the working day to ensure that they can remain on full time.
Elmhults also gives workers who are close to retirement an opportunity to gradually wind down. Such agreements are worked out individually, taking the employee’s preferences into account. The initiative, which only a few have availed of so far, is designed to help workers stay on in the job until the regular retirement age of 65, and to prepare them for a smooth transition to retirement.
Only seven employees have retired since the company started. Elmhult is willing to allow workers to stay on past the regular retirement age, but so far no one has availed of this measure. However, the company often uses the services of retired employees when it needs temporary workers.
Berit Karlsson, Personnel Director, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Company website: www.elme.com