In 2007, the luxury automaker set up an experimental assembly line with older employees to see whether they could keep pace. The production line in Dingolfing, 80km northeast of BMW’s Munich base, features hoists to spare ageing backs, adjustable-height work benches, and wooden floors instead of rubber to help hips swivel during repetitive tasks.
Getting these programs to work, though, is tricky. Management experts say it is all well and good to send employees to classes, but to get the lessons to stick, employees need to apply them to their daily work lives. Employees often take a class and “say, ‘Gee, this is great,’ and go back to their jobs and do the same old thing,” says Professor David Bradford, director of the executive program in leadership at Stanford University.