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Working in old age: software reveals hidden talents

Older employees have a valuable set of experiences and competencies. ZHAW researchers have developed a software kit for online platforms which make this wealth of experience visible. The Zurich Insurance Company has tested the software and deemed it helpful.

Older employees at work
Older employees at work

The “Altersvorsorge 2020” pension reform could soon move the retiring age in Switzerland up to 67. The average life expectancy is rising continuously and employees are able to work longer. At the same time, people over the age of 50 increasingly struggle to find work and, thereby, to remain integrated in society. Paradoxically, however, this generation has a great wealth of experience and is quite willing to pursue further education. In order to preserve experienced employees’ motivation and pass on their expertise, researchers from the ZHAW School of Management and Law (SML), supported by the School of Health Professions, have developed a multilingual software kit within the EU project “ExpAct”. This software kit provides a simple way to set up suitable web platforms.

Pilot project indicates usefulness for employees and employers

In a pilot project, about 20 Zurich Insurance Company employees tested such a platform. They created profiles by selecting from the categories “I can”, “I am” and “I would like to” in relation to their practical experience, their social skills and their hopes for their own future development. The software then compared their profiles with the needs of the company and identified potential matches. For example, Otto Stuber, Head of Household/Assistance, Product Underwriting Personal Lines at Zurich, says: “I could envision applying my expertise in another company department one day per week and to work occasionally when I’m retired”. Another Zurich employee is learning Italian in his free time and would benefit from being assigned to Zurich’s Ticino office for a few weeks. In times when flexibility in terms of work location and hours is in ever greater demand, such an arrangement would benefit the company as well. “For us, this isn’t about retraining our employees”, says Alex Stöckli, Head of Strategic HR Support at Zurich. “We want to tap into their wealth of experience by giving them tasks especially suited to that purpose – for the benefit of Zurich as well as the employees themselves.”

Improving quality of life in old age

The findings from the pilot project feed into further development of the software kit created in the “ExpAct” project. This EU project, entitled “Experiences keeps people Active”, was carried out by the ZHAW in collaboration with seven partners from Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Hungary. “The software enables a wide range of organisations to build online platforms suited to their needs without much effort”, says ZHAW project leader Andri Färber. “We want to help older people improve their quality of life and preserve their autonomy within their own living environment. The current demographic trend suggests that there is considerable need for such assistance throughout Europe.”

Broad-based EU research project

The two-year EU project “ExpAct”, with a budget of 2.5 million euros, was concluded at the end of October. It is part of the Active and Assisted Living Joint Programme (AALJP), which is financed by the European Union and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). All the projects in this programme have the common aim of using new technologies to develop innovative products and services for older people. In addition to the Institute of Business Information Technology and the Center for Human Capital Management of the ZHAW School of Management and Law as well as the Institute of Physiotherapy of the ZHAW School of Health Professions, the following partners were involved in “ExpAct”: Aktivsenioren Bayern e.V. (DE), Alpnet Engineering AG (CH), Andrássy University Budapest (HU), Ethical Software Coop. Soc. (IT), the European Academy in Bozen-Bolzano (IT), the PowerAge Foundation (CH) and the University of Innsbruck (AT).


ZHAW School of Management and Law, Institute of Business Information Technology, Andri Färber, phone: +41 (0) 58 934 62 94, e-mail  

ZHAW Corporate Communications, Media Relations, phone: +41 (0) 58 934 75 75, e-mail