France 3, France: Comprehensive approach
Since its workforce was ageing and working life was getting longer, France 3 initiated a survey and tests between 2001 and 2007. While the survey did not show any major age-related differences regarding the integration of new technologies or any disagreement among the generations, it did show a global management gap. Since 2005, this has led to initiatives on mobility, training and a tutorial system.
France 3 is one of the seven main companies of France’s state-owned television group, France Télévisions (11,400 employees in total). France 3 is the subsidiary with the largest structure and presence in France: it has 5,484 employees, a 15% national audience rate, revenue of €1,134 million (including €802 million in TV licence fees) and investments of €42.5 million (official data from France Télévisions' website for 2005).
Created in 1972, France 3 had strong growth in the 1970s. This has translated, some 35 years later, into an ageing workforce. One-third of the staff are over 50 (about 1,500 people), while about 3,000 employees are in their 40s and 50s. France 3 dedicates significant resources to professional training, i.e. 6% of its total payroll, 130,000 trainee days, 3,000 persons trained every year (more than 30 hours on average).
Good practice today
In 2001-02, the political debate in France was particularly concerned with pension financing, early retirement subsidised systems and extending people's working lives beyond the age of 60. Companies like France 3 must continuously integrate new technologies (in particular the Internet) and help transform their organisation. At the same time, staffing levels at France 3 were stable to slightly down. Spontaneous turnover was almost non-existent. Theere was very low geographical mobility between very centralised units. Skill renewals were low, while the company was under strong pressure to hire people due to the specific contracts used in the television and cultural sector (freelance, short-term contracts, intermittent workers and subcontractors).
The company's initiative aimed to answer the question posed by its Executive Board: 'How are workers in their 50s taking part in technological and organisational evolutions?' The first approach consisted of a survey, conducted in 2002-03, to get to know more about these 'workers in their 50s'. The survey was carried out through interviews with employees in their 40s and 50s and with managers, and then through online questionnaires (800 answers received from a total of 2,500 questionnaires). A researcher was associated with the project to give a research update on ageing.
Then in 2003, an initiative was launched involving about 15 employees, all in their 50s, working on websites. The idea was to train them to work on new software using innovative teaching methods. In 2004, more innovations were launched with e-learning. In 2005-07, a 2-day session aimed at raising awareness on diversity and age management was attended by more than 300 people (HR, managers, and trade union and employee representatives).
This initiative was divided into three consecutive projects (2003-06):
- 'Modernisation with senior citizens', within the framework of a European Equal project, involving other television companies (INA, Arte).
- 'Egalité' (Equality), with Air France and Government agencies, on working conditions, training and social welfare.
- 'The youngest and the oldest develop employment', with the same partners.
Private and public consulting and training bodies were involved in these projects (Anact, Algora, Lah’Ho, Entreprise et Personnel).
Working groups, consisting of managers, employees, trade union representatives and experts, were set up in 2005 to make action proposals in all the areas involved. The conclusions were shared with trade unions, linked to the working groups and to the dialogue with employee representatives. In addition to age, they take into account gender, job and geographical location:
- Employees in their 50s can be divided into three categories – highly committed, in a balanced position, waiting to leave – mostly depending on their personal or financial situation. Employees in their 40s are those who wonder most about their professional evolution.
- Despite expressed fears, there was no new technology-related brake or obstacle caused by age in the training sessions. However, learning methods must be adapted depending on experience and working conditions.
- The search for an ageing threshold within the company appeared to be a 'wrong issue'. (One has to wait until 75 years for clinical criteria to account objectively for the existence of such a threshold.)
- There was no intergenerational issue. There was no conflict or any significant difference other than learning methods. Employees showed that they were committed to transmitting their professional know-how and corporate culture. There are concretely some monitoring and tutorial initiatives within the company.
- However, some surveys showed that employees were wary of management and trade union 'superstructures', accused of not being in tune with the workplace and of 'thinking for others'. Findings also showed a gap in management and HR practices in terms of recognition and decision-making.
In 2007, France 3 placed intergeneration and ageing issues in the background. No possible or necessary policy can be adopted in this field. However, if the issue involves diversity and the fight against discrimination (e.g. cultural, ethnic, related to gender, sexual orientation or disability), these initiatives and thoughts contributed to improve management and define new HR policies and practices in the company. These are minor when considered individually, but are becoming more coherent, and include:
- Professional evolution management is now using new tools, after a great effort to forecast actual retirement prospects and their consequences on maintaining or transmitting skills (particularly for jobs on stage).
- A flexible system has been developed to help with voluntary retirement of people over 60 and who have worked for over 40 years.
- The idea of generalising mid-career interviews is now accepted at group level within the framework of an agreement, which is still being negotiated, and following France's Law (dated 4 May 2004) on professional training throughout the working life.
- Specific actions, which are not directly age-related but involve the affected groups, are taken in administrative areas and for technical staff.
- A tutorial system has been developed with express mention in the annual interview, potential contribution to the Individual Training Right (DIF) system and a prior 5-day training session. This position is especially (but not exclusively) open to senior employees (about 80 people).
- Development of internal trainers (80 to 120 people), with bonuses depending on employee contribution, an 11-day training session and a 'certification' when significant actions have been taken.
- Increased use of e-learning.
Several negotiations, at group or company level, are underway regarding professional training, professional equal rights, diversity and disability.
The approach, based on the intervention of all employees, has made it possible to improve the representation of minorities. Prejudice about age has given way to working on managing all ages and to efficient HR management of diversity.
Contact: Alain Dupeyron, Training Director