Older Innovators: The Surprising Answer To Our Country’s Talent Gap
Four years ago, I was fortunate enough to lead Panasonic’s people efforts for the world’s largest startup, the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory. As my team was tasked with bringing on nearly half of what would ultimately be a 7,000 employee plant, there were times when we brought on more than 300 new team members per month – a colossal challenge for a factory in the middle of the desert, employing technology completely new to the US, and in a relatively small labor market known more for blackjack dealers than battery engineers.
So, I guess you could say that I have some firsthand experience with America’s high-tech labor shortage. In reality, my struggles were not that much different than what any other company experiences. Whether a company is a 7-person tech startup or a 7,000-employee Gigafactory, they all grapple with the same 3 issues – workforce, workforce, and workforce. America simply needs more people going into the innovative sciences to fill the gaps in our nation’s new economy.
To address this labor crisis, there has been an almost single-minded focus on inspiring youth to go into these fields, because they seem to be our last best hope.
But what if our focus is all wrong? And what if flipping the script on everything we think we know about age and innovation, is the unlikely answer for solving our nation’s talent gap?
It was with these questions in mind that I embarked on a year-long quest that revealed answers compelling enough I was asked to share my findings and recommendations in this TedTalk.
As shared in my talk, demographics and research reveal we have a capable senior workforce 100+ million strong who just might be the answer to our country’s labor problems. However, we are shooting ourselves in the foot by pushing 56% of those 50 and older, just when they’ve hit their innovative primes.
I have a lot of ideas on how to change the paradigm and tap into the talent of our greatest innovation generation: (1) admitting our current paradigm is broken, (2) making a serious study of innovation centers, (3) promoting public/private partnerships to enact senior-friendly policies, and (4) calling HR leadership to action to create corporate cultures and benefits that re-engage older innovators.
However, it is going to take a larger national discussion to reach the tipping point where talented, tech-savvy seniors are seen as the answer to our problems and not as liabilities dragging down our economy.
If you are interested in joining that discussion, please connect with me on LinkedIn to find out how you can get involved.
Together, I am confident we will create a future where it will be common for innovators to start world-changing companies well into their 70’s and 80’s, and a corporate America where innovators of all ages collaborate to build a brighter future for all.
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Mark Anderson serves as the Director of Nevada Industry Excellence (NVIE), a consultancy focused on Leadership Development, Advanced Mfg., IoT, Cybersecurity, and Blockchain Technology. Prior to joining NVIE, Mark led companies in the Japanese OEM Automotive Industry for 22 years, including Panasonic as their first US employee tasked to lead the startup of the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory. Mark is also a singer/songwriter, recently releasing his first album at the age of 52.
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