General Motors is a technology company that makes cars, and the skills its employees had yesterday are continuously becoming outdated.
Experts said that is the underlying message of GM CEO Mary Barra's move on Oct. 31 to offer voluntary buyouts to GM's North American salaried workers with 12 or more years of experience with the company. On the surface, it's typical to cut costs ahead of a potential dip in new-car sales and rising raw-material costs. But look closer.
"GM is signaling a change in vehicle technology. If they go into electric more rapidly, then they do not need the same engineers they have now," said Maryann Keller, principal of Maryann Keller & Associates in the New York area. "The advent of electric vehicles has profound implications for employment in the auto industry's competition and the skill sets needed to compete."
This means redeploying the workforce and freeing up significant capital, said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University. The company's changing focus opens up opportunities to millennials, those people ages 22 to 37 who might change their perception of GM from that of a stodgy carmaker bankrupt a few years ago to a technology company that offers some advantages over that of a startup, said Masters. But for older workers already in the auto industry, it means they must improve their game and continuous training is a requisite.