Fahrion Engineering GmbH & Co KG, Germany: recruitment, training and development
Founded in 1975 and based in Kornwestheim near Stuttgart, Fahrion Engineering GmbH & Co KG is a medium-sized engineering company. It operates worldwide, designing factories and manufacturing facilities, developing fabrication infrastructure, organising and optimising processes and conducting interim management. The company has a sound economic base. Its clients consist mainly of companies that build vehicles, ships aircraft and machines.
In the past 20 years, the company’s total number of employees has risen by 20 to its current workforce of 101 employees, which also includes freelancers. The educational level of these employees is above average, and most of the engineering employees have at least a management-level qualification. Of the 95 workers employed in the engineering department, 14% have a supervisory diploma, 68% have a degree from a polytechnical institute and 15% from a university (mainly architects and engineers). Only three women in total work in engineering, although there are many more working in administration. In the past five years, the proportion of employees aged over 50 years has risen considerably and today it stands at 42% of all employees are over 50. Some 32% of employees are aged between 40 and 50 years and 26% are under 40 years of age.
Older employees are highly respected in the company and systematically recruited because of their experience, flexibility and sound, practical project experience.
Fahrion is not bound by collective agreements and has no works council. It pays its employees an incentive wage, regardless of age.
The original initiative
In 2000, Fahrion began to focus on the recruitment of older, highly qualified engineers – an approach which has proved largely successful for the company.
This recruitment strategy became necessary because it was hard to find suitable staff, partly because of the company’s very specific qualification requirements and partly because of competition for labour in the greater Stuttgart area. The company posted a job advertisement explicitly appealing to older engineers, foremen and technicians, reading: ‘Too old at 45 – superfluous at 55?’ In response, the company received over 700 applications. Fahrion hired 19 engineers (mostly unemployed), of whom 15 were older than 50 years, for an unlimited period. Even today, the company receives applications in response to that advertisement. Since then, however, the company has not needed to advertise and has not had any recruitment problems. Management regards the campaign as a great success, as do the old and new employees: a few years on, the company is still drawing from the applicant pool it generated at that time.
Good practice today
In general, Fahrion values the competencies of older employees and considers that age is irrelevant in employment; what really counts is the employee’s proficiency and disposition. Fahrion’s human resources development and personnel recruitment policies focus on using the competencies and experiences of older employees. The success of the new recruitment policy shows that older engineers are motivated, especially by the variety and challenge of the work, as they tend to be financially secure.
In the past two years, only a few employees have been enticed by other companies or dismissed on grounds of conduct. The increase in employee numbers has been accompanied by an increase in the average employee qualification. The focus on teamwork has also changed, and the company now emphasises the importance of individual responsibility.
Fahrion works with mixed-age teams and believes that the cutting edge knowledge of younger employees fits perfectly with the experience of the older employees. The company aims to ensure that this fruitful cooperation will continue. Regardless of age or seniority, employees are assigned positions that match their capabilities and are paid accordingly.
Fahrion plans carefully for retirement. When employees approach retirement age, their successors start their new assignments as early as possible. This process is aided by the practice of ‘dual leadership’, i.e. where the older and younger employees work together. This helps the younger employee acquire the skills of the older engineer, who can then gradually delegate responsibility and make a smooth transition to retirement.
The company has also introduced employee reviews that deal with their career and life options at different ages, as follows:
- 36+: annual career-management talks;
- 48+: annual career and life-situation talks;
- 55+: situation talks with the family;
- 60+: dual project management (an older and a younger employee work together to transfer knowledge and to relieve the older worker of responsibilities before retirement);
- 62+: extending the retirement age through partial retirement.
- is an example of how the company’s approach is geared towards both its own needs and the needs of employees. It promotes the idea of the organisation as a unit and that what is good for the person is good for the company and the other way around.
It is important to note that Fahrion offers only permanent contracts, showing that it values the work and experience of all employees, regardless of age, and that it wants to retain them for as long as possible. This is also why the company has a four-tier, performance-based pay scale that does not take employee age into account.
As well as recruiting older engineers, the company wants to train younger and middle-aged employees, to qualify them for further tasks and an extensive career with the company. It aims to train them as all-rounders because Fahrion employees must be generally deployable and able to work in a team.
Fahrion’s human resources development policy focuses on individual performance, something that management regards as its duty to develop throughout the employee’s working life. To this end, it offers the employees both opportunities for further qualification and assistance in crucial life situations.
Otmar Fahrion, Managing Director,
Company website: http://www.fahrion-engineering.de