EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

OKG, Sweden: training and development

About

Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Large
Sectors: 
Electrical
Target Groups: 
Skilled Manual
Initiative Types: 
developmentetcTraining
Scope: 
Old

 

Organisational background

 

Founded in 1965, OKG PLC is a nuclear power company situated on Sweden’s east coast. Solely devoted to electricity production, the company is owned by two large electricity groups and its plant’s three nuclear reactors produce 10% of Sweden’s electricity.

The company is organised into 10 units; 850 of the 1,100 workers at the nuclear power plant are OKG employees. The figure below shows the age distribution of the workforce.

Source: Interview with human resources, OKG

Results outlined in this figure indicate that the company is currently facing a generation change. The average employee age is 45 years and around 20% are aged over 55 years. Women make up 18% of the workforce and the proportion of white-collar workers is 70%. Although the level of educational attainment is generally low, many older employees possess unique specialist skills acquired through experience in construction and modernisation of the nuclear reactors.

The level of affiliation to trade unions is high and the unions have significant influence in relation to human resource (HR) policies and measures.

The company’s HR policy aims to foster diversity in terms of age, sex and nationality. Since 2002, it has implemented active strategies for handling an ageing workforce and the expected generation change.

The original initiative

In 2002, OKG initiated a comprehensive, long-term programme to transfer expertise among employees. Because many workers are expected to retire within the next decade, this has been identified as a threat, as older employees in the nuclear power industry often have unique expertise.

The programme is directed towards a selection of employees aged 56 years or older and aims mainly to secure expertise in important and strategic areas. It also has the long-term aim of creating an environment in which knowledge transfer is a natural part of everyday work.

The programme consists of a plan for knowledge transfer on two levels: work unit level and individual level. Each unit prepares a plan identifying the need for and volume of knowledge transfer, as well as a plan for individual knowledge transfer, as appropriate.

The main positive effect arising from this initiative is that strategic and important expertise has been secured. The programme has also raised awareness in relation to retirement issues and has emphasised the importance of managers discussing with employees how to plan the remaining part of their working lives. Positive effects for older employees include greater pride in their expertise and achievements.

Good practice today

In accordance with its policy to promote diversity in its workforce, OKG recruits younger workers and plans to continue doing so in its efforts to achieve an age balance. Its HR department is currently dealing with the effects of generation change and an ageing workforce. The company values older employees for their unique and profound knowledge of the nuclear power industry.

The programme to transfer knowledge, part of the original initiative, still continues. The company identifies two roles in the transfer process – the ‘doyen’ and the ‘disciple’ – and two levels of knowledge transfer – work unit and individual level.

Unit plan:

  • Resource managers are responsible for the 10 to 25 workers in a particular unit and have a central role in implementing the programme. They decide which expertise is so strategically important that it needs to be transferred and who should be the doyen and the disciple in the process. They also have the overall responsibility for analysing the expertise needs within their units. The managers devise a plan outlining these needs, along with the number of workers (both doyens and disciples) who may be required for knowledge transfer in the coming five years; they also give an indication of how long the process should take.

Doyen and disciple plan:

The resource manager also devises a plan for each knowledge-transfer process between a doyen and one or more disciples. The plan specifies the following criteria:

  • doyen and disciple(s);
  • time and resources;
  • expertise to be transferred;
  • methodologies and ways of working;
  • plan for activities and follow-up.

Each knowledge-transfer process lasts at least three years. The usual approach to transferring knowledge entails ‘parallel duty’ and ‘role takeover’ processes. Parallel duty is where the doyen and disciple transfer knowledge by working side by side. Role takeover involves the disciple stepping into the doyen’s role and being supervised within this role.

Currently, 12 knowledge-transfer processes are underway, involving 20 employees as doyens and disciples. Several disciples can work with one doyen but each usually focuses on a different area of expertise.

In a sense, the resource managers can be seen as gatekeepers, in their central role of identifying the expertise to be transferred as well as selecting the doyens and disciples. The HR department is responsible for compiling all transfer processes and for keeping track of the programme. In turn, the trade unions receive regular information on the programme, although they have had limited influence in relation to its design.

The positive effects of the original initiative still continue today. In addition, the practical work of estimating when older employees are scheduled to leave the company has encouraged a dialogue about retirement between managers and employees. This helps employees who want to work longer, beyond the normal retirement age of 65 years. Older employees benefit from the programme by feeling more appreciated and valued, while younger employees benefit through increased knowledge. Ultimately, the programme serves to motivate both the doyen and disciples in their everyday work.

Further information

Contact person: Urban Björk, Human resources, email: urban.bjork@okg.sydkraft.se

Company website: www.okg.se

 

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