Jan. 19 2018

NYC’s “Age Smart” Employers Honored

The third Columbia Aging Center awards ceremony recognizes businesses, large and small, for their policies that support—and benefit from—their older workers

Across the country, businesses are seeing a lot more gray in their workforces. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, over the last 20 years, the portion of works age 55 and older has grown from one in nine to nearly one in four.

Amidst these demographic changes, some companies stand out for policies that both accommodate and benefit from their older employees. Exemplars of these forward-thinking attitudes were honored with Age Smart Employer Awards at a ceremony last week organized by the Columbia Aging Center at the Mailman School of Public Health.

“No society can afford to lose the value that experienced older workers bring,” said Mailman School Dean Linda P. Fried at the January 17 event. “Engagement in meaningful employment is a core pillar of societies that will benefit from our longer lives.”

The third Age Smart Awards ceremony, held at the Rainbow Room, was attended by representatives from each of 13 finalists, joined by some of the previous years’ winners, as well as elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Carlina Rivera. Ruth Finkelstein, associate professor of Health Policy and Management in the Columbia Aging Center, served as master of ceremonies and lead on the project, which is funded through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

An award selection committee composed of New York City leaders in business and human resources development selected finalists and winners from among 100 applicants. Awards were given to 6 organizations: National Grid, Urban Health Plan, PKF O’Connor Davies, Riverdale Country School, Lee Spring, and Silvercup Studios.

Among the policies and practices that set the winners apart were the availability of classes and tuition reimbursement to help employees update their skills, flexible schedules and the option to work part-time, and mentoring and training programs that harness the experience of older workers to the larger workforce. Other practices include a culture and atmosphere that values workers, job restructuring to accommodate changing needs, and opportunities for retirees to return to work.

At Silvercup Studios, the city’s largest full-service film and television facility, more than half of the employees are over age 50. The company has restructured jobs and used phased retirement to keep engaging their older workforce. Lisa Sanchez, a Silvercup employee for 32 years, said the company’s policies made her feel “needed and trusted.”  

Kevin J. Keane, managing partner at the accounting consultancy PKF O’Connor Davies said his firm was deliberate in hiring talent who “aged out” of competing firms who maintain mandatory retirement policies. That approach, bolstered with the option of flexible schedules, helped the firm grow from 50 employees in the early 2000s to more than 750 today. “We wanted the best quality talent,” Keane said.

Half of the 16,000 employees at energy supplier National Grid will be eligible for retirement over the next five years. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to retire, and even those who do are invited back to work as instructors in training centers or during emergencies like Hurricane Sandy. “People talk about their aging workforce,” said Edward Hayes, National’s Grid’s U.S. Vice President of Talent Acquisition. We just call them our workforce.”

Watch a video about the 2018 AgeSmart winners: