Kauno Autobusai, Lithuania: Exit policy/Recruitment
The policy towards older workers at Kauno Autobusai is the result of a long-standing cultural attitude of equal treatment of older and younger workers. The company promotes lifelong employment and employees are also able to stay with the company after retirement age. Furthermore, the company does not discriminate against older people when hiring and training employees.
The company in its initial public form was founded in 1934 in Kaunas. Over the years, the number of buses gradually increased, as well as the routes covered. Originally the company operated both within the town limits and outside. Then in 1992, the company was divided into two parts: one division provided services within the town and the other operated outside the town. The town service was restructured as UAB Kauno Autobusai in 1995. Since then, it has provided public transport services for Lithuania’s second largest city, Kaunas. Currently, it has 190 buses and carries about 68,000 passengers per day.
UAB Kauno Autobusai is considered a large company, employing a workforce of 551 people. The majority of employees work as bus drivers and the rest are involved in administration. 86% of the workforce are male, which is a result of former prejudice against women as bus drivers. Today, however, the company encourages women drivers and their number has consequently increased. Overall, there are a significant number of older people in the workforce, with more than half of all employees being over the age of 45. The staff turnover rate is very low, fluctuating at around 2% per year.
Kauno Autobusai has a trade union, with a membership of about 50% of the workforce. The union serves as a channel of communication between employees and management, and is involved in bargaining for rights and benefits for workers.
Good practice today
As is the case with many Lithuanian companies, Kauno Autobusai faces shortages in the supply of younger workers because many young people have left Lithuania to work in other EU Member States. At the same time, the company’s policy towards older workers is more deeply rooted and is a result of practical advantages associated with more experienced people. The company has a general preference for older workers because management values stability highly and is averse to change. In practical terms, experienced drivers are more useful because, for example, they are very familiar with all the bus routes. But they may also be less flexible when it comes to training and improvements in their skills. Older drivers in the company regard themselves as more socially skilled in dealing with conflict situations. This, however, can have some negative consequences: for example, when the company offered courses on how to deal with conflict situations, it was noticed that older workers were more reluctant to participate actively and that they tended to regard the training as not very valuable. On the other hand, according to the HR manager, if a driver works in the company for more than 10 years it is very unlikely that he will leave for some other job. Given the present labour market situation, the company considers older workers, and especially those who are already with the company, to be the best option.
As a result of the generally positive opinion about older workers, the average age of the workforce in Kauno Autobusai is just over 50 years and about 15% of all workers are over 60.
The policy on older workers is reflected in the company's recruitment process where, firstly, there are no age limits included in job advertisements and, secondly, the advertisements themselves are placed in media that older people are more familiar with (e.g. in newspapers rather than on the Internet). In practice, about 1-2 drivers of 40-50 years are hired on average during the year, or perhaps 10%-20% of new hires.
In addition, the company does not discriminate against older workers when providing training. Training is provided for bus drivers from time to time to improve their skills, as well as their psychological abilities on how to manage conflict situations at work. There are no restrictions on who can attend courses and everyone who is willing to participate is accepted, although, as mentioned above, older workers who do participate appear to be less willing to participate actively in some of the psychological training.
Another area of good practice is exit policy. Here, the company is very flexible. Everyone who is willing to stay and able to do their job after retirement age can remain with the company. This applies to both drivers and administration workers. In practice, it is mainly drivers who want to stay on after reaching retirement age.
The company also makes some allowances for older workers. For example, for bus drivers who have health problems or need an easier job, the company provides them with the possibility to work on shorter routes, which allows them more frequent breaks. This is arranged after discussion between the employee and management. (The average route takes 2 hours to complete and then there is a break of 5-15 minutes; an older driver has the option to work on a route that takes perhaps only 1 hour to complete.) When a driver takes on a shorter route in this way, there is usually a wage reduction.
When it comes to age issues, men and women are treated equally in the company, so older women are also present in Kauno Autobusai. The only difference is that women work mostly in administration and thus their numbers are substantially lower.
Although the company is generally happy with its age policy, management has commented on problems with training, as mentioned above. The HR department believes that older workers are more sceptical about the need for new methods and skills, and do not absorb knowledge as readily as younger people. As a result, the training programmes are less effective than they could be. Nevertheless, the company is facing up to this challenge and intends to persist with its policy of trying to encourage all workers, including older ones, to participate in training and personal development.
Contact: Valentina Bikauskienė