Verbund Konzern – Austria: training and development
Verbund Knozern is Austria’s leading electricity supplier company and the country’s largest producer and distributor of electrical energy.
The company was founded in 1947 and was assigned to assess consumption growth, build and operate power stations with the help of special companies, and develop and operate the supra-regional high-voltage grid. Entirely state owned until 1988, it is now 51% owned by the Republic of Austria and 49% owned by institutional investors and individual shareholders. Today, Verbund operates 106 hydropower plants and 11 thermal power plants. It generates and transports 50% of Austria’s electricity, around 1,28 PJ (P= 1015)
Verbund supports the principle of sustainability with regard to its employees. Its equal opportunity policy undertakes not to discriminate on the grounds of gender, religion, culture, skin-colour, education, social background, nationality or ethnicity. The management discusses and agrees on all employee programmes with the works council.
The company is committed to instilling in each employee a sense of belonging to a team. It considers leadership skills essential to the company’s success. Quality of management, competence, commitment to further education and cooperative management style are the hallmarks of Verbund's executives.
Verbund has more than 2,500 employees, 85% men and 15% women, and 75% of them are aged over 40 years. However, only 6% are older than 55 years of age, and most are between 40 and 55 years.
The original initiative
Lower recruitment rates and policies that encouraged early retirement over the last 10 years increased the average age of Verbund employees, so that at present, most are aged over 45 years. Observing the ageing trend, management began to develop programmes to keep older workers productive. The programmes included education, promotion of age-positive attitudes, knowledge transfer from older to younger workers and quality management. Qualification 2000 – a pilot programme developed in cooperation with the works council to implement these measures – was very successful and has been adopted in other parts of the company.
In 2004, these personnel programmes resulted in Verbund receiving the Austrian knowledge award for personnel initiatives for employees over 45 years. They also helped to improve overall company performance. Since 2004, its strategic aim is not only to keep older workers productive for longer, but also to once again become a three-generation company, by using cooperation between generations to attract younger workers. Its Generationen programme is designed to support, integrate and manage all generations of workers, in order to achieve the best possible performance from recruitment to retirement. This initiative shows how to motivate, educate and promote even employees aged over 40 years.
Good practice today
Management and workers continue to use and enhance the GenerationenVerbund programme and have agreed the main points in the programme for the future, as follows:
- knowledge management – this includes the transfer of implicit knowledge from experienced and older employees to younger employees and the development of knowledge management tools;
- full application of all personnel development tools to all departments;
- team development to create an understanding and positive attitude between generations;
- work organisation – this includes taking account of age when organising and dividing work, especially with regard to human engineering and work schedules;
- health promotion programmes with a focus ageing.
These will be developed into practical programmes for different target groups, for example, those aged over 45 years, younger workers, women, experts, management, and skilled workers. Management keeps the executive board informed about the programme.
In 2004, to launch GenerationenVerbund, management added new initiatives, including the following programmes:
- ‘Together into the future in the Austrian power grid’ – this programme focuses on a group of around 40 highly skilled system and grid operators, all aged over 45 years. Their job is to ensure that electricity flows and to reduce interruptions. This initiative includes a comprehensive education programme to ensure that all operators can carry out every task in the process to a high quality level, and to teach less-experienced operators to handle complicated situations in and near the job. The programme covers technical training (new technology, processes, security, crisis management and legal aspects). It also consists of personal development components, for example, coping with stress, awareness training, managing critical situations, communication and teamwork. Internal experts with specific training and teaching qualifications do most of the teaching.
- Development of internal trainers, ‘the experienced for the experiencing’ – this programme focuses on transferring practical field experience and implicit knowledge from experienced employees to experienced trainers. Employees in both of these groups are aged over 45 years. Around 30 experienced employees are currently taking part in the ‘train the trainer’ programme, providing training on the job. This has practical benefits and also provides an opportunity to train older workers. The trainers, who already have teaching and technical skills, gain a greater understanding of work practices, thus increasing their training skills to a very high standard. The programme aims to enhance competence and motivation and to enable older workers to learn.
- Management development programme – this focuses on developing the potential of every manager. Competence and people-management skills are a precondition for promoting managers and involving them in the company’s development.
- Master development – this is a company-wide programme for masters, mainly to improve their ability to manage intergenerational teams. The programme, which includes management and technical modules, was developed by Verbund’s most qualified and experienced masters.
- Qualification programme for the main ward, Donau Austrian Hydropower – this programme is another example of knowledge management, team-building with experienced workers, and training on the job. In future, hydropower stations on the Danube will be operated from a central location, using new technologies and changed processes. Verbund has around 20 engineers and experts developing and implementing this programme, an indication of its importance to the company.
Compared to the original Qualification 2000 initiative, the GenerationenVerbund programme consists of many more age-management measures. These are integrated into every personnel development tool and into organisational arrangements, like working schedules and human engineering.
Despite greater competition in the energy market, Verbund is a very successful company. One reason for this is initiatives like GenerationenVerbund, which promote employee knowledge, teamwork, interest and motivation. This not only leads to greater satisfaction among employees, but also to increased economic success.
Mag. Matthias Charwat
Aus- und Weiterbildung (HPB)
Am Hof 6A
Tel: +43 1 531 13-54241
Mobile: 0664 5342428
Fax: +43 1 531 13-154241
Company website: www.verbund.at