The six winners plus five finalists were recognized through an awards ceremony on December 9, 2015 after being chosen from among 52 applicants for their policies and practices which encourage different generations to work productively and effectively side by side.
The Age Smart Employer Awards recognize and honor the forward-thinking leadership of these businesses and provide resources and support to encourage others to follow.
Amy’s Bread is a bread and pastry bakery, featuring three retail cafes and distribution to over 250 wholesale customers daily throughout New York City. The business was launched in 1992 in Hell’s Kitchen with 5 employees. Today the staff has grown to 190. Amy’s has an explicit focus on retaining their older workers as they “grew up together” as the company grew and because they bring stability in an up-and-down industry. Job restructuring appears to come naturally: If needed, bakers can “move to light side of the oven.” Older bakers train the young ones since, their “hands know how to do the work.” View a list of their best practices.
Brooks Brothers – LIC Factory and Alterations Center
Brooks Brothers is the oldest clothing retailer in the United States. Founded in 1818, Brooks Brothers is committed to manufacturing in the U.S. because it is beneficial from both the business and the social responsibility perspective. The Long Island City factory manufactures the company’s neckties and bowties—1.5 million ties a year. As manager Luis Nava explains, “While we are not intentionally recruiting people by age, many of our new hires are in their 50s and 60s because of the nature of the skills and experience we are looking for. Because workers stay with us for many decades, including into their 70s, we know it’s likely we will keep these new hires for many years. We value older workers—veterans and new workers—because they have a lot of experience and understand both the product and the construction.” Numerous practices support older workers, including consulting them on equipment and process design, re-structuring assignments and productivity requirements to take best advantage of their skills, and offering unusual flexibility in a factory context. View a list of their best practices.
Eneslow Pedorthic Enterprises, Inc.
Eneslow Pedorthic Enterprises is a comfort footwear store specializing in readymade and custom-made footwear and related products to reduce foot pain and improve balance and gait. Robert Schwartz, the owner, says, “ It is my belief that if we take care of ourselves, we only get better with age. Older adults have had more time to refine their skills. I think that the older we get, the better we get at what we do. It’s natural. I also think that our older workers produce more. This is because they have a lot of experience and know how to follow clients and build lasting relationships with them. At the end of the day, I think that customers like to deal with someone of any age as long as they are sweet, compassionate and knowledgeable. If you have those qualities, it doesn’t matter what age you are.” This philosophy is reflected in Eneslow’s hiring practices, a major focus on training and cross training, flexibility and allowing people to “dial up or dial down” their work loads as they near retirement. The business also focuses consciously on a healthful physical environment, with filtration systems to keep dust from the shoe manufacturing out of the air. And they allow staff to request equipment and, because they are on their feet all day, staff get their comfortable shoes at a discount. View a list of their best practices.
Metro Optics Eyewear, Inc.
Metro Optics Eyewear is an ophthalmic services company with four stores in The Bronx: Parkchester, Westchester Square, Hunts Point and Throgs Neck. Numerous practices enhance the satisfaction and productivity of their age-diverse workforce, including recruitment of lab workers from people released from Wallkill prison–where they are trained and certified to make lenses for NYS Medicaid. Metro Optics’ owner feels these are trained workers and his responsibility is to provide opportunities for people who want to stay straight. He invests in training for staff to become opticians, reimbursing all costs if they become certified and licensed. They have 9 licensed opticians on staff, 5 of whom got their license while working at Metro Optics. John Bonizio, the owner, explains: “They were sales people. One is an older employee who is a top employee. She started off as a receptionist when her kids were old enough to stay with grandma during the day. She worked her way up the ranks and is now a buyer for the whole store. She is currently 56 and has been working with us for 28 years. We use her as an example for new employees. We believe in upward mobility. Most people we have here are promoted from within if capable and if they are interested and can balance it with their lives.” View a list of their best practices.
NYU Langone Medical Center
NYU Langone Medical Center is one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, with a trifold mission to serve, teach and discover. NYU Langone’s numerous Age Smart policies and practices include: targeted marketing campaigns for mature job candidates by sending postings to seniors’ job posting sites and networking with their retirees; providing extensive training opportunities for workers of all ages, including topics of particular usefulness to older workers and on managing an intergenerational workforce; ergonomic assessments by occupational therapists; flexible work arrangements; retiree option to be an in-house temp pool; an extensive employee wellness program; and, innovative benefits including a family care bank. View a list of their best practices.
Sunnyside Community Services, Inc.
Sunnyside Community Services (SCS) is a multi-service community-based organization located in western Queens that provides a continuum of care to over 14,000 individuals of all ages annually. Their Age Smart employment practices include active recruitment of older adults via the New York City Department for the Aging, America Works, Goodwill, etc. which is consistent with their commitment to multigenerational community benefit and having staff reflect the same practice. Particularly impressive is a commitment to career development as exemplified by a pro bono team from McKinsey developing a system to identify people with career advancement potential and to access career ladders within the agency. View a list of their best practices.
Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen
Ben’s Best is a restaurant and catering business in Rego Park, Queens. The current owner, Jay Parker, is a third-generation deli owner. Ben’s Best has unusually high retention (two workers have been there 32 and 29 years respectively). The deli restructures and reassigns employees as needed: a 75-year-old worker was moved to phone order taking and managerial tasks rather than direct deli counter work; a 70-year-old was moved out of the kitchen and served another 6 years as maitre d’. They also allow employees to adjust their days to work a shorter schedule as they wish. The culture is accepting: “You treat people like people. We adapt. In the past, if we had a large catering event, we would do all the manual labor ourselves, but now we just bring in the young folk if we need to. You’re not here to work yourself to death. If we need extra staff, our guys just let us know.” Ben’s Best also offers a retirement savings plan for its employees, which is rare in the food service industry.
CBRE Group Inc. Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Los Angeles, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment company. The company, including its large office in New York, has a comprehensive wellness program, with an emphasis on physical, social, emotional, environmental, and financial health, helping workers of all ages. Other Age Smart employment practices include flexibility in hours and telecommuting and both formal and informal mentoring.
Indiana Market and Catering
A high–end special events catering company, Indiana Market and Catering has innovative employee recruitment, retention, engagement, training, and motivation strategies that value workers of all ages. Workers and managers together can vote colleagues onto an “A+ Team”, where they enjoy more pay, better shifts, and other perks. This motivates people—both temporary and full-time staff— to participate in the extensive training offered and motivates exemplary behavior. Owner David Turk says, “At the core of our business is that once our employees have proved themselves, we believe in them fully and give them freedom to do their jobs and live their lives.” Examples of older workers include: a woman who previously owned her own company; a waiter assigned to tasks that require less physical labor; and a woman with expertise in marketing who has set her own schedule and workload. “She focuses on opening up new doors to sales, does menu development, and is often the face to our channel partner customers (museums and galleries, venues that recommend us over and over again). She provides the image of stability, of a warm front, that is indicative of the kind of person or qualities that a venue may be looking for in their caterer.”
North Bronx Healthcare Network (Jacobi)
North Bronx Healthcare Network’s mission is to serve the Bronx Community by providing high-quality healthcare in a respectful way to all, regardless of ability to pay, through the Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital. The Network’s volunteer services has a skills and interest matching program for older adult volunteers, including from AARP, the New York City Department for the Aging grandparents program, and Community Service Society Retired Senior Volunteer program. The hospital fosters mentorship/guidance between younger staff/older volunteers (in both directions) and offers extensive employee wellness, flexibility and phased retirement.
VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired
VISIONS promotes the independence of people of all ages who are blind through skill training, congregate programs and support for their families and unpaid caregivers, including creating the first New York City-funded senior center for blind seniors. Among their many Age Smart practices are the recruitment of retired Vision Rehabilitation Therapists and Orientation and Mobility specialists, especially from the Department of Education, where many have worked. They also recruit interns from schools and pay them if they agree to work for VISIONS after graduation, as well as older people trained through the New York City Department for the Aging Title V program. VISIONS offers job flexibility, including allowing people to go back and forth from full to part time, and even to take summers off. Among their many older workers is a woman in hers 80’s who works some days from home, and another who takes months off to put on operas.