Foyer, Luxembourg: Training and Development/ Health and Well-Being
Foyer S.A. has initiated innovative training and qualification measures aimed at boosting the employability of employees of all ages throughout their life. The pilot project in the field of knowledge management is primarily geared to the skills and capabilities of older employees and to their importance to the company.
The Foyer S.A. insurance group is one of the leading Luxembourg insurance companies and is the largest Luxembourgian insurer on the internationally-dominated insurance market. Foyer S.A. was founded in 1922. The Foyer Group offers life insurance and other types of insurance contracts as well as asset management and financial advice.
A reorganisation of the enterprise was initiated in 2006 by relocating the formerly separated work areas to new premises of Foyer S.A. in Leudelange. The administrative service departments, including human resource management, were united under Foyer Assurances.
Foyer S.A. has 452 internal employees, of whom about 45% are women. About 450 external insurance brokers are affiliated with the company. Sixty-seven employees are older than 50 years; the average age of all the staff members is around thirty years. Because of the financial services offered, highly qualified employees with academic educations are preferred. The staff structure reflects the particular conditions of the Luxembourgian labour market, such as the effects of labour migration.
Foyer S.A. employs different human resource management strategies. The personnel department, for example, has its own training section, which organises qualification measures. These range from basic training in the case of new hires, further job-related vocational training and time management and stress management seminars.
The works council actively participates in the development of measures and in the design of the training programme. Furthermore, employee involvement in various design processes is encouraged.
In 2006, Foyer S.A. carried out a pilot project to optimise the knowledge management in the company. The particular aim of the project is to preserve the experience knowledge of older employees for the company and to make it accessible to other staff members before the older employees retire. Special emphasis is placed on incorporating individual approaches to problem-solving and organisation in the work process, and on simplifying the knowledge transfer within the company by standardising the documentation procedure. Currently, the measure is targeted at employees aged over 55 years; it is planned to expand the measure to include employees in key positions. Eight employees, including one woman, are taking part in the pilot project. The low percentage of women is due to the fact that women are underrepresented in the corresponding age group in the company and also reflects the employment situation of older women in Luxembourg.
To create transparency and to clear up any reservations, a preliminary talk was held with the employees where the objectives, the background and the choice of participants were outlined. The primary reason for the talk was to counteract concerns that this project might be a rationalisation measure. The principal component of the project is a two-day training course, in which theoretical and practical insights into knowledge management and into the transfer of experience and knowledge in work contexts were discussed. The intention is to specifically boost the ability of older employees to document and impart their own expertise and experience. Subsequently, the trained staff members are now supported in the documentation and knowledge transfer processes and, if required, supplementary seminars or feedback rounds are offered.
At present, it is not possible to come to a conclusion as to the effectiveness of the project, as the training had not yet been concluded at the time of the case study. After a first testing phase, the participants will review the measure, assess its effects and, if need be, modify the measure on the basis of the experience gathered in the pilot project. It is planned to integrate this measure permanently into the training programme.
In addition to this pilot project, Foyer S.A. implements further measures in the fields of health management, the promotion of employability and job security. Thus, in addition to task-related training, all employees, regardless of their age, are offered the chance, in coordination with the human resources department and management, to make use of other qualification offers geared to their individual resources. Specific career management is primarily intended only for employees in key positions and for executives. A coaching programme of the human resources department; however, is open to all employees, irrespective of their age and job profile.
Good practice today
Training of employees and the strengthening of the individual resources are expressions of corporate culture. The workload in the financial service sector is rising due to current developments, while the number of employees remains constant. This presents many challenges for the human resource management of Foyer S.A. with regard to the qualification and motivation of employees as well as the maintenance of their employability. Training opportunities are directed at all age groups and in particular positively counteracts the employment risks of older employees.
The ‘Health and Well-Being at the Workplace’ project, planned for 2007, comprises several individual events on topics such as nutrition, sport and stress and time management. The declared objective is to alert employees to health risks in their working life and to develop strategies for the organisation of everyday work. In addition, the works council plans to offer courses. Close cooperation between the human resources department and the works council is sought for the development of a joint package. The aim of these measures is to develop a health-conscious work organisation over the entire working life, thus maintaining the working ability of an ageing workforce.
Seminars on stress and strain management and yearly medical tests, e.g. eye tests, can also be allocated to the field of health management. These medical check-ups are a part of age management, as mainly older employees make use of them, especially the influenza vaccination.
Workplace safety pursuant to the legal requirements and work science insights is practiced. For example, although the workplaces in the new building of Foyer S.A. in Leudelange are mainly located in open-plan offices, there also are additional smaller noise-shielded units which provide retreat spaces for certain tasks and for meetings. Six employees have received first aid training, so their help can be requested via the emergency call system in each building complex.
In addition to the statutory regulations on retirement, older employees can make use of partial retirement models. When an employee applies, their respective field of work is surveyed and correspondingly restructured. If the field of activities concerns key positions, the employee can, if needs be, change to another field, which allows part-time work. These measures are individual approaches that are developed in a direct exchange between the human resources department and the respective staff members.
Direct age-based salary compensation is not provided for in the collective agreement, but salary increases are made according to job tenure and qualification of the staff members. In addition, the company offers occupational supplementary pension schemes. Early retirement without deductions after 40 years of employment is an option favoured by the employees of Foyer S.A., but this solution is not used by the company as an instrument to steer the personnel.