The dismal May employment report released last week was bad news for all, but especially for workers 55 and over, who have been hardest-hit by long-term unemployment. But there are some companies defying these trends -- supporting and even seeking out mature workers. Not only do these employers offer a beacon of hope for post 50 job seekers, but the innovative accommodations they are willing to make for their older employees offer some food for thought for any boomer evaluating a potential or even current workplace.
Flexibility is the main thing the best employers offer their mature employees, said Jean Setzfand, vice president of financial security at AARP and part of the team that compiled a list of 50 such employers, which are heavily focused in the health care and education fields. A "fair amount of qualitative judging" goes into compiling the AARP's Top 50 list, said Setzfand, but other key criteria include opportunities for employees to refresh and expand their knowledge and skill sets, and a culture committed to both the physical and mental well-being of its employees. Some applicants for AARP's "Best Employer" designation have reimbursements for employes to join gyms or meditation and time-management programs, for example.
AARP also examines a company's recruiting practices to see how they reach out to midlife employees. For example, The National Institutes of Health, which ranks third on the AARP's list, participates in job fairs to target older workers. (Once they are employed, they get access to free exercise classes, flexible work options such as telecommuting, and lots of opportunities to keep training and learning.)
The "Best Employer" program has gained steadily more applications since its inception in 2001, said Setzfand. So not only are there workplaces out there that are recruiting older workers and treating them well once they are employed, but more employers are striving for an age-friendly designation.
Check out the slideshow below for AARP's top ten employers for mature workers, and be sure to check out aarp.org for the full list.
#10: The Aerospace Corporation
<a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/the-aerospace-corporation-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">AARP</a> was impressed by <a href="http://www.aerospace.org/" target="_hplink">The Aerospace Corporation</a>'s phased retirement program, which allows retirees to continue working a limited number of hours a year while continuing to receive pension benefits. Also impressive: More than half of Aerospace Corporation employees were over 50 in 2011.
#9: Bon Secours Richmond Health System
Bon Secours Richmond Health System not only <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/bon-secours-richmond-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">targets mature workers and retirees for employment</a>, but provides employees with access to wellness coaches and even rewards participation in wellness education programs with bonuses and paid time off as a part of its <a href="http://www.bonsecours.com/jobs-and-education-hr-archive-benefits-well-for-life.html" target="_hplink">"Well for Life" incentive program</a>. <em>(Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.facebook.com/BonSecoursVA?ref=ts" target="_hplink">Bon Secours Richmond Health</a>)</em>
#8: Mercy Health System
AARP liked this Wisconsin health system's <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/mercy-health-system-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">financial planning seminars</a> for its employees, as well as the health and social services it provides workers. <em>(Image courtesy of <a href="http://www.facebook.com/mercyhealthsystem?ref=ts" target="_hplink">Mercy Health System</a>)</em>
#7: The Atlantic Health System
This <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/atlantic-health-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">"Best Employer"</a> has a 1,000 Hour Club for its post 50 employees, which <a href="http://morristown.patch.com/articles/atlantic-health-earns-aarp-accolades" target="_hplink">"allows retirees the opportunity to return to part-time and per-diem work in as early as three months after they have begun receiving retirement benefits."</a>
#6: The YMCA of Greater Rochester
The <a href="http://www.rochesterymca.org/" target="_hplink">YMCA of Greater Rochester</a> offers health benefits to workers putting in over 20 hours a week, which continue into retirement. The <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/ymca-greater-rochester-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">AARP</a> was also impressed by the YMCA's relationship with its retired employees, whom they contact for occasional work and social events.
#5: West Virginia University
Nearly half of West Virginia University's staff falls into the "mature worker" age demographic, with <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/west-virginia-university-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">an average retention of nearly 20 years for tenured employees</a>. WVU also has an employee wellness program, including <a href="http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/fsap" target="_hplink">free professional counseling for faculty and staff.</a>
#4: First Horizon National Corporation
First Horizon National Corporation has a partnership with Senior Services in Memphis as a part of its employee recruitment. It also offers its part-time employees access to development programs. AARP also liked the firm's responsiveness;<a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/first-horizon-national-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">the company makes changes based on feedback from its Employee Value and Loyalty surveys</a>.
#3: National Institutes of Health
<a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/national-institutes-health-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">NIH </a>employees have access to free exercise classes, flexible work options such as telecommuting, and lots of opportunities to keep training and learning.
#2: Cornell University
Cornell University takes care of its retirees through its <a href="https://www.hr.cornell.edu/retirees/encore.html" target="_hplink">"Encore Cornell" program</a>, which helps former Cornell employees connect with employment and volunteering opportunities. It also has <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/cornell-university-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">a few ways for employees to enroll in classes for free</a> and even potentially work toward a degree.
#1: Scripps Health
Scripps Health <a href="http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/scripps-health-aarp-best-employers.html" target="_hplink">received high marks</a> for its Scripps Alumni Network Program, offering opportunities to participate in wellness and continuing education programs for full- and part-time employees. AARP also liked the "Return to Work Program" for employees returning from illness, and the strong retirement planning program for employees.