Ferrero Spa, Italy: Health and well-being, and active retirement policy
Pietro Ferrero, a pastry chef, founded the Ferrero confectionery company in 1946. In the mid-1950s, it opened its first factory abroad, in Germany. Today, Ferrero is a large multinational food company managed by Pietro and Giovanni Ferrero, the founder’s two grandchildren, with its head office at Alba in the Cuneo province, Piedmont. Ferrero has three other Italian factories (in the province of Milan, at Potenza and at Avellino) and operates all over the world with 32 subsidiaries, 15 factories and a workforce of about 16,500 people. The Ferrero Group’s turnover in the financial year for 2003 was 4.7 billion euro.
Despite its expansion, Ferrero remains a family-owned company and the management still takes a personal interest in the employees’ welfare, especially those at the Alba headquarters. In Italy, Ferrero has 5,800 employees, 55% of whom are men. The Alba factory has 3,900 employees, of whom 49% are women and 25% are aged over 45 years.
Human resource policies do not discriminate on the basis of age. The company considers that a good relationship with the workforce is important and it rates service seniority highly.
The company’s relationship with trade unions is very good, thanks to management’s rapport with the workforce. Workers’ representatives are consulted and involved in discussions of most aspects of human resources management.
The original initiative
Two of Ferrero’s major initiatives to benefit its workforce, regardless of age, relate to health and well-being. Many years ago, it started a social service and opened an onsite medical service, both of which were widely used by older workers. The social service was designed to meet the workers’ health requirements and to pay their medical expenses.
In addition to the company philosophy that views the workers as members of a big family, Ferrero wanted to gain the workers’ loyalty and commitment as a way of improving the company’s overall performance.
Over time, those initiatives were developed and all employees, especially those who are older, avail of them. Initially, Ferrero’s social service reimbursed all medical expenses but now it does so only in severe cases. The medical service has also developed so that a doctor or nurse is always on duty at the factory.
The company philosophy is to follow up on its employees after they retire. In 1983, the Ferrero Foundation was opened to benefit Ferrero retirees who worked with the company for at least 25 years.
The main message from Ferrero’s experience is that paying attention to workers’ well-being at all stages of their working lives and into retirement is necessary for an optimum working environment and performance.
Good practice today
Ferrero, which started as a small family business, is still faithful to its traditional philosophy of keeping in personal contact with its workers. This principle led to the series of initiatives that benefit workers, regardless of age, throughout their working lives and beyond.
The health and well-being measures described above are among the most important initiatives. As mentioned, the social service, which until the mid-1990s fully reimbursed all medical expenses, is now limited to the more severe cases. The medical facility is at workers’ disposal 24 hours a day providing free services, such as blood sampling, analyses and flu vaccinations. Though these services are available to all, they are mostly used by older workers.
Thanks to Ferrero’s initiatives, its employees remain loyal and committed to the company. Staff turnover is low, and local people, whether unemployed or entering the workforce for the first time, highly regard a job at Ferrero.
The Ferrero Foundation is a facility close to the Alba factory that is open to retirees who have worked with the company for more than 25 years. Around 1,500 retired workers attend regularly and take an active part in the artistic, cultural and social activities that the foundation organises. The fact that the foundation looks after retired people emphasises the company’s commitment to its workers even after they leave active employment, thus indirectly enhancing the well-being of current workers.
The Ferrero Foundation’s motto is, ‘working, creating, giving’, and voluntary work is a very important part of its activities. It organises courses on voluntary work and carries out voluntary work in the community. Foundation volunteers help their older Ferrero colleagues, other people in the Alba area and even some causes outside Italy. Among other activities, the foundation retirees do voluntary work with the company’s social service. This might involve accompanying a worker’s parent on a visit to the doctor, thereby continuing the link with those still active in the company
The foundation recently introduced a training course to prepare workers who are nearing retirement age to make the transition. This strengthens the links between the company and the Ferrero Foundation, which is usually managed by former company employees.
Six men attended the first course in 2004. The course was held outside working hours and was designed to show those nearing the end of their working lives that, although ending a phase of life, retirement also starts a new, interesting and pleasant phase. It outlined the new opportunities available to retirees, such as the foundation’s programme of arts, culture and social activities.
A first evaluation found that those who took part in the course were reassured and approached retirement with greater confidence, thus also improving their current work performance. The training initiative also illustrates the company’s effort to expand its employee services. Ferrero intends to repeat and extend this initiative.
The foundation plans to make access to its facilities conditional only on length of service. It intends to open its premises and activities to current employees (not just retirees) who have worked for the company for at least 25 years.
The workers’ representatives state that they are satisfied with the company and its initiatives, and they do not report any kind of discrimination related to age or sex. Trade unions are consulted and involved in bargaining about working hours and wages, while the management usually decides on matters relating to careers and recruitment.
Dr Gianni Milanesio – staff manager, Dr Ezio Siccardi – staff manager, Alba factory (firstname.lastname@example.org), Grazia Manetti – social service, Federica Mercanti – social service, Dr Gianni Viglino - vice president Ferrero Foundation (email@example.com).
Workers’ representatives: Gianfranco Bauduino (Cgil), Silvano Volpe (Cisl), members of RSU executives.
Publications: Filo diretto, quarterly review for all the staff and members of Ferrero Foundation (postal distribution, 16,000 copies).