Lifelong Learning for employees’ adaptability to their changing workplace

15th December 2015

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Location / Country / Region

Lisbon, Portugal

Time frame

In the last 4 years the company effectively responded to a demanding downsize of human resources as it has to deal with the delay on age retirement of senior employees. Since then CARRIS has been developing and already implemented a training management practice supporting the relocation practice of senior employees.

Short description

CARRIS is a centenary public urban transport company – founded in 18 September 1872 – that is closely related to Lisbon’s growth. Throughout time, it has been providing suitable conditions to satisfy the mobility needs of a changing population. As a public transport company, CARRIS has to comply with the government legal requirements that have an impact on the internal management schemes, and specifically in human resources management. In the last four years the company effectively responded to a demanding downsize of human resources of 20% as it has to deal with the delay on age retirement of senior employees.

The extension of the retirement age to 66 years old brings a new challenge to the company as the employees have to adapt to new functions once their initial jobs as drivers (for instance) present legal age limits. So, how to reallocate these employees in new functions inside the company?

Actors Involved

Government, CARRIS management board, employees from CARRIS, Employees’ Union.

Target audiences

Employees from CARRIS, especially mature workers.

Relevant links, websites, etc.


Links with the European Framework

This case reflects a lifelong learning strategy more responsive to change and developed to face the challenges posed by the “demographic change and the regular need to update and develop skills in line with changing economic and social circumstances” (in Strategic objective 1: Making lifelong learning and mobility a reality – Strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (‘ET 2020’).

Links with national / regional priorities

According to the Strategy Europe 2020, Portugal aims to increase the employment rate through the qualification for competitiveness and social cohesion and through the guarantee of a sustainable and quality employment. Thus, the country is already working and monitoring a set of plans that include training actions for competitiveness and innovation, accompanying employers and employees to perceive the strategic urgency of professional training, reconversion and updating.

Political and Economic dimensions

Portugal has been facing structural changes that are also a reality in other countries of today’s world. However, the financial crises of the last decade brought the country to a new economic and political reality. Portugal had to deal with economic and social constraints followed by external impositions in the internal management policies. In this case, one should focus on the effect that macro changes had in public companies, namely:

– Restricted State Budget Law – imposing human resources cutbacks;

– Revision of the social protection system – increasing the effective retirement ages in line with gains in life expectancy.

Social dimensions

The demographic changes across the world are also a reality in Portugal. Between 2001 and 2013 there was a decrease of the active population of less than 34 years old and an increase of the active population between 45 and 64 years old. Additionally, the previsions for Portugal show that, in the next decades, the number of older workers will increase more than expected compared to other European countries. Nevertheless, companies will have to manage an older workforce which is the group that participates less in lifelong learning training today and which moreover has the lower level of educational qualifications.

Technical dimensions

Knowledge is priceless for the majority of companies and mostly the knowledge that is created and evolved inside the companies’ walls which is not easy to find from external training providers. Or that kind of knowledge which is shared from one employee to another, from generation to generation and faces the danger of disappearing the following years along with workforce turnover.


In CARRIS, 67% of the total of human resources (data from 30th September 2014) is in driving functions which have legal age limits – a maximum of 65 years old to drive vehicles of category D (buses). In this operational area, up to 380 employees are 50 years old or more and the average age is 42. As the current retirement age in Portugal is fixed in 66 years old, the company is mandatorily faced with a challenge: how to reallocate these employees in new functions inside the company?

CARRIS doesn’t distinguish at generational level but there are strategies and initiatives considered in internal policies to optimize the transfer of knowledge between older and younger employees or potential successors. This happens in specific programs, such as the CARRIS Academia, but also in internal training offers.

CARRIS Academia is a program directed to younger employees in the company and aims to develop and improve their talent in different areas and skills, namely, but not only, in leadership. The positive results in the first year (2012) led to the replication of the program in 2013 introducing the concept of mentoring and reinforcing the relation and transition of know-how between older and younger workers of the company. The mentee selects his/her mentor from a different area of knowledge in order to increase and develop new knowledge and skills; together they select a theme and start to develop a project to present in the end of the program. This cycle of tasks involves also the attendance to specific trainings and workshops in the area of leadership. At the end, there is an ending session to present and discuss all the projects; all projects are also proposals with solutions to improve the mobility and sustainability in transport; in this event the board members are present and each team can invite external experts to attend and actively participate in the discussion as well.

Thus, CARRIS adapted their internal reality to external constraints by a lifelong learning cycle that guarantees:

– the involvement and recognition of employees;

– a better transferability of knowledge, know-how and experience;

– a wide diffusion of the organizational culture and, consequently, a good alignment with the company strategy;

– an overall satisfaction of the employees as their integration and career evolution is perceived as investment, trust and commitment from the company.




Although the demographic changes and the aging population are already recognized within Portuguese citizens and companies, the reality in Portugal (comparable with other countries) shows that employers are still far from implementing concrete actions needed to manage an older workforce. CARRIS successfully addressed the challenge of internal mobility of staff through a lifelong learning cycle that includes all employees, links generations and integrates all in the same culture, values and objectives. The unique knowledge and expertise created since the very beginning of the company is transferred and updated, enabling the integration and commitment of new comers and the reallocation of mature workers

Key success factors

CARRIS presents some elements that were crucial for the success of this practice, namely:

– A training center certified and recognized by external entities for delivering specialized training for drivers and mechanical operators, for example. This center is also an autonomous company (CARRIS owned) that was born from the knowledge created through decades with the experience in the transports sector and, now, updated by the technical evolution of the current century; thus, CARRIS’ employees have access to a unique knowledge generated inside the company and nurtured by external sources.

– The involvement of all employees and the management team. The inclusion and connection between generations get the best from the uniqueness that each employee could offer to the company and create the sense of belonging and commitment with a company that invests in employees’ careers through lifelong learning training – which means professional stability and long term management of their careers.


Lifelong learning practices are part of the overall people management strategy at Carris.

Since 2012 CARRIS and METROPOLITANO DE LISBOA have been merged and human resources processes have been reorganized with the same vision – an example refers to the extension of the training program “Academia” to the METROPOLITANO DE LISBOA’s employees, opening the exchange of experiences and knowledge between both companies; although in 2013 there were only some teams with employees from CARRIS and METROPOLITANO DE LISBOA, the third edition of the program in 2014 included more employees from both companies.

Contributions to LLL Policy 

CARRIS example lights up the need to invest in lifelong learning in all stages of the lifecycle. Traditionally, companies (and public institutions) tend to organize their training investing, preferably, on the youngster (due to the fact that they will supposedly be working longer for the company and therefore it would ensure the return of the investment). With the demographic changes taking place, organizations should now understand and act in order to invest in all employees, throughout their lifecycle. This investment should optimize the contributions that each employee can add to the company and to their peers and promote knowledge sharing.

What could be appropriated by others?

The strategy that underlines CARRIS activities is critical to all companies due to the demographic changes. Other companies should look to this example and, internally, run the same exercise – to understand how the demographic changes will affect their human resources and their pool of recruitment in the future. Additionally, all companies should also reorganize their training practices in order to implement a lifelong learning process that includes all employees and promotes the knowledge sharing.

3. Lessons Learnt

Regarding the building of a shared definition of LLL in LLL-Hub

A shared definition of Lifelong Learning should embrace the vision of learning as a process throughout the entire lifecycle, regardless of age.

Regarding the possibilities of having practices in LLL which evolve and become more innovative

Although there already exist training practices that include age-diversity management issues, yet European companies are not aware and, so, do not include this topic in internal training practices.

Regarding the key actors, their roles and activities in LLL

CARRIS management board found that CARRIS’ employees where open and enthusiastic to take part in the training program and to share their priceless knowledge within age-diverse teams. The company had overcome the dark side of change-making practices that are frequently an obstacle to concrete new management strategies.

Regarding the appropriateness between local / national and European frameworks and how to act upon them to make them converge

Facing the national legal requirements and overcoming the European demographic changes, CARRIS’ internal management practices are focused on guaranteeing the qualification of employees and their adaptability to different external settings and internal demands responding to the company management goals and the country commitments for competitiveness and social cohesion.

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