Providing flex options to older workers yields strategic benefits

BY Kathy Gurchiek

A report by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College points to wide-ranging flexible workplace options that can retain older workers, tap into the experience of retired workers and help employers fill skills and knowledge gaps. Success is dependent, though, on matching flexibility initiatives with the needs of employers and their older employees.

The report, "Flex Strategies to Attract, Engage & Retain Older Workers," released in March 2012, contains case studies of three employers to show how they use flexibility initiatives strategically. The report cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that project that from 2008 to 2018 labor force participation by workers age 55 and older is expected to increase by 43% while participation by those ages 16 to 24 is expected to decrease.

“Now is a critical time for us to understand the issues affecting older workers and their employers,” said Sloan Employer Engagement Specialist Samantha Greenfield. “The leading edge of the Baby Boom generation has already reached traditional retirement age. At the same time, our country’s economic challenges have forced many of these older works to extend their work-retirement horizon.”

The report found that the employers in its case studies used a variety of flexibility initiatives. Offering part-time positions, hiring retirees as consultants and temporary workers and offering flexible work arrangements are among the most commonly used strategies with older or retired workers.

The case studies examine Marriott, Central Baptist Hospital and MITRE Corp.

Among the initiatives at Marriott:

• Redesigning the work process by pairing a younger employee with an older one; teaming up for specific tasks; and categorizing tasks according to the physicality involved, such as reaching and bending to clean under beds.

• Cross-training workers so they can pick up shifts in other areas. This helps older workers develop new skills without a major job change.

• Providing job rotations so that a person working in laundry might cross-train as a lobby attendant and work there two days a week.

• Making downtime without pay available to workers in reservations centers when things are slow. They may take longer breaks, work shorter shifts, leave early or take extra days off. This is offered informally to hotel staff during slow periods, too, according to the report.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.


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How much credit should be given to the co-op business model for the success of the independent hardware and building supply dealer over the last half century?

Lowe’s creates two new executive positions

BY Ken Clark

Mooresville, N.C.-based has Lowe’s created two new positions for high-ranking executives. The promotions for Greg Bridgeford and Rick Damron are described by the company as an effort to support the retailer’s customer experience goals.

The promotions will take effect May 5.

With more than 30 years of experience in home improvement, Bridgeford, 57, will become chief customer officer, responsible for creating experiences that will best serve customers and differentiate Lowe’s from its competitors.

The CCO’s functional areas will include customer experience design, merchandising, marketing and communications, digital interfaces, and pricing and promotion.

Bridgeford joined the company in 1982 and has served in a variety of increasingly responsible roles, including senior VP merchandising and senior VP marketing.

Damron, 49, will take the position of chief operating officer, responsible for delivering the customer experience. Functions reporting to the COO include stores operations, sales and service fulfillment, product fulfillment, real estate and facilities, and loss prevention and safety. Damron joined Lowe’s in 1981 and has worked in every aspect of the company’s store operations, and has also served as senior VP logistics. He has served as executive VP store operations since 2011, with responsibility for all of Lowe’s stores, as well as the company’s specialty sales businesses.

Both positions will report to CEO Robert Niblock. 

"As we continue to transform Lowe’s to a leaner, more nimble, multichannel company, we took a hard look at our organizational structure and opted to make changes to support our efforts to deliver outstanding customer experiences," Niblock said. "Lowe’s is fortunate to have a deep and talented bench of executives like Greg and Rick, with experience across home improvement disciplines. I am confident these leaders can deliver on our goals to serve customers whenever and however they choose to engage with Lowe’s."


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How much credit should be given to the co-op business model for the success of the independent hardware and building supply dealer over the last half century?

Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index



A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for April 20, 2012

*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.

Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report. 

Lumber: A gain in futures Wednesday gave SPF buyers the excuse they needed to purchase enough volume to firm prices in the West. Mill order files edged into the week of April 30. Mills in the East were able to raise prices as a result of solid demand. Demand for Southern Pine lumber remained strong, pushing most published prices higher. Solid spring sales of treated lumber led treaters back into the market to replenish. West and Central zone 2×12 #2 prices surpassed the $400 mark for the first time in two years. Prices were mixed in the Coastal species lumber market, made up of rising dry prices and soft green Doug Fir pricing. Cuts in dry production over the past three weeks have helped keep those supplies in check. Conditions at most mills in the Inland region encouraged firm pricing. Although it was difficult to get buyers to accept increases, it was easy for mills to refuse discounts. Both Radiata and Taeda Pine from South America are tightly controlled in availability and are firmly and stably priced. Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr remains unchanged in either 5/4 or 6/4. Little #2 Shop is available, and #3 Shop is “firm and flat,” according to another source. Ponderosa Pine 1×6 and 1×8 #2 Common are mentioned as good performers, on the basis of retail demand for pattern stock. This is also true of Eastern White Pine in both 1×6 and 1×8 Standard. Among items noted for their relative weakness are Ponderosa 1×4 #2 Common and all Eastern White Pine Selects. Western Red Cedar mills continued to try to press prices higher whenever the opportunity presented itself, although demand for most items was in line with supply.

Panels: OSB markets are in a stalemate. Prices are stable in all regions, but it is a fragile stability. Producers were not able to develop the power to push their order files further this week. Southern Pine plywood buyers fulfilled enough needs to keep mill order files moving as far out as the middle of May and rated sheathing prices edging higher. Any potential for lower prices continued to force yards into purchasing conservative volumes at a steady pace. Sales activity in the Western Fir plywood market was good enough to boost some sheathing prices $5 higher and propel ship times of some items into the week of May 7. Mills noted a return of western buyers to the market. Canadian softwood plywood mills sold sufficient material to move order files out a week, giving them leverage to lift the base price to C$353. Still trying to nudge MDF and particleboard prices higher because of urea cost increases, talk from producers of more cost related price increases again surfaced.

For more on RISI, click here


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How much credit should be given to the co-op business model for the success of the independent hardware and building supply dealer over the last half century?