Daimler girds for the age of the older worker

A number of actions promote motivation, continuing education, and health.

Stuttgart. The average age of the roughly 185,000 DaimlerChrysler employees in Germany is now 41.

"And it keeps rising, just as it does in the broader society," said Oskar Heer, labor policy manager at DaimlerChrysler.

The automaker launched a program to help workers as they get older.

According to works council figures, the average age for DaimlerChrysler's German workers was 40 in 2000. By 2014, it will climb to 46, according to internal estimates.

Meanwhile, politicians are talking about gradual increases in the retirement age, perhaps taking it as high as 68 years old.

"For this reason, the Aging Workforce Initiative was anchored in our global human resources strategy as early as 2001," Heer said.

DaimlerChrysler offers programs on topics such as motivation, continuing education and health promotion. They are tailored to each employees' personal development, starting when they join the company.

The automaker has opened fitness studios at nearly all its facilities, where employees can train under the guidance of sports-medicine experts or participate in therapy or rehabilitation. The company also is promoting lifelong learning and the worker's capacity for change.

It also developed its "pitstop" program especially for senior managers. The program combines a health seminar with a sports program, nutrition consultation and a medical checkup

The effort is supposed make the worker again conscious of the world outside. Even months-long sabbaticals "are possible as individualized measures," Heer said.

To keep refining the tools, there are regular meetings between representatives from DaimlerChrysler facilities as well as other manufacturers and suppliers.

In addition, jobs "are being configured ergonomically right from the start," Heer said.

He won't say how much DaimlerChrysler is spending each year on its initiative.

"Investments in this area contribute to maintaining and improving competitiveness," Heer said. "Besides, this allows us to maintain our attractiveness as an employer."

Daimler's cost-cutting program hasn't left the personnel department unscathed. The company has cut the budget for continuing education by 50 percent. That should save about 100 million euros, or $125 million at current exchange rates, this year.

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