In this era of Millennial Madness, when many people you meet in the workplace think of Star Wars as an old movie, it is gratifying that General Motors recruited about 160 retirees on a contract basis to help with a number of projects, including launching the redesigned Chevrolet and GMC full-sized pickups.
Those of us who took our kids to a 2-D movie theater to watch the exploits of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo remember that this is not the first time an automaker has been that clever.
For example, in the late 1970s, when wolves and scavengers were circling the old Chrysler Corp.'s ancestral corporate headquarters in Highland Park, Mich., that company caused thousands of white-collar employees to be laid off or take early retirement. Once the workers were off the books and no longer part of Chrysler's overhead cost structure, many of the recently departed were tapped to come back and do their old jobs as per-diem consultants.
A year or two after that, John DeLorean used retired Ford manufacturing engineers as consultants to get his stainless steel sports car into production in Belfast, Northern Ireland -- when Lotus and DeLorean engineers couldn't get the job done by themselves.
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Desperate times demand desperate measures, as Shakespeare well knew: "Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more."
Still, GM's recent coup in mustering retirees is a little different.
Rather than going back to the same old jobs they were doing before the downturn disrupted the industry, many of the retirees are serving as coaches and mentors to current GM employees, working with suppliers to ensure a smooth flow of parts for startup projects or running an internship program for Detroit-area teens.
They're needed. And they're using their knowledge, skills and wisdom to help their former employer -- and themselves. That's a symbiotic relationship.
It is easy to understand how not every retiree would want to go back to work.
But it's also easy to see how it could be fulfilling to assist a company that was like extended family or stay part of an industry you love or just share a lifetime's experience instead of letting it wither.
Almost certainly, many of the retirees heeded GM's call to have an adventure, not because they needed the money or didn't have anything else to do.
But for some, it may have been as simple as just wanting to be wanted again.
That's OK, too.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]