August 9, 2013

Jan Angell is the Vice President, Compensation & Benefits for 3M Company, a diversified manufacturing company employing about 80,000 people in 64 countries worldwide. Her role is to help 3M attract and retain high performing talent through the delivery of competitive and valued total rewards, including executive and employee compensation, retirement and health care benefits, and wellness strategies. Jan shared her reflections and lessons from the conference, particularly as they apply to her work at 3M.

Looking back on the conference, what major lessons and/or points stand out?

While we expect there to be a significant war for talent eventually, it’s only happening in pockets here in the U.S. at this point. So, rather than being in a position where companies are looking for ways to keep older workers in the workforce, companies are more focused on moving them out to open up the pipeline. Eventually, I assume this will change, but we’re not there yet. Programs to retain older workers seem to exist only for workers with key engineering or technical talent.

One key thought that stood out to me is that we need to move from thinking about a long retirement to a long middle-age. People will need to work longer. This is a key diversity issue. Diversity initiatives focus more on gender and race, and on how to attract/retain the younger worker. Little is being done to address the diversity issues relating to an aging workforce, such as intergenerational communication.

What lessons/takeaways did you take back to your colleagues?  What has their reaction been?

I talked with our HR team (and specifically our Diversity Officer) about working on diversity initiatives to address the aging workforce. This would encompass more of a focus on generational diversity, how to work with people at different stages in their careers, etc., as well as helping the aging workforce address key issues they are dealing with. We are discussing how to add more resources for 3Mers on preparing for retirement, not only financially, but from a social/psychological/living perspective.

Do you anticipate making any changes based on what you learned at the conference?  What changes are you considering?

We are trying to add the generational diversity piece to our diversity initiative. In addition, we are working on adding resources to help with broader “retirement planning” addressed above.

What questions are still unanswered?

How soon will we see a shift in retirement patterns? Will we be able to engage the aging workforce to capitalize on their skills and experience and to enable them to have longer, fulfilling careers? How do we make that a reality?

At the conference you raised the issue of how to apply workplace flexibility to the older population. What challenges do employers face in implementing workplace flexibility, particularly among older employees? What are the potential benefits? Have you begun to create flexible work arrangements at 3M?

We do offer flexible work arrangements at 3M, but we have few “takers.”  We are working on creating more leader and supervisor training to make the business case for workforce flexibility and to shift the paradigm so that our supervisors feel that being flexible with employees is an expectation, not a bother.  At present, more flexibility demands are coming from our younger workforce, but I expect that to become more broad-based as time goes on.

We discussed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) only briefly at the conference, but there are obviously many implications for employers to consider. How will the ACA influence or change any of your policies at 3M? What challenges, if any, do you anticipate for employers as the ACA is implemented?

There are certainly administrative challenges and added costs, particularly related to certain fees and penalties (e.g., the reinsurance tax).  I think the ACA fundamentally shifts the insurance marketplace since, once the exchanges are established, anyone will be able to get (hopefully affordable) coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions. This will enable many older workers with chronic illnesses/diseases to retire before they are Medicare eligible and still be able to find affordable coverage.  At present, many people stick with an employer even when they’re disengaged just for insurance coverage. I think it is likely that many companies will move (over time) to more of a defined contribution (DC) approach to health care. That would enable lower-paid employees to take advantage of federal subsidies. In general, I could see a trend toward more cash and fewer benefits in the future, kind of a parallel to what we’ve seen in the switch from defined benefit (DB) to DC on the retirement income side.