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BMW Teaches Old Dogs New Tricks

Posted By ML Admin, September 18, 2010 at 1:21 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

It’s well known that  manufacturing faces a workforce crisis as young people forsake it for  other industries. Thus, it’s incumbent upon manufacturers to find new  ways to attract young talent. But there’s a corollary: Manufacturers  must make better use of their existing, senior workforce.

BMW has risen to the challenge. A Harvard Business Review article co-authored by BMW executives and INSEAD professors describes a  concerted effort by the German automaker to sharpen the skills of a  group of workers with an average age of 47. The company shifted them to a  gearbox assembly line in Lower Bavaria and supported them with skills  training and change management, at a cost of €20,000. The effort paid  off. The “pensioners’ line,” as the gearboxers were affectionately  called, increased productivity by 7% in one year.

“Traditional approaches to the problem include firing older workers  or forcing them into early retirement,’’ the article states. “But this  is not an option for companies like BMW, which earn their workforce’s  commitment by being dependable employers.” BMW is pleased with the pilot  results, and, according to the authors, “is now testing and refining [it] in plants in the United States, Germany, and Austria.”

For more, see the Harvard Business Review article.

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