Preparing for Multicultural Generations in the Manufacturing Workforce

Posted By: Denise Ball, Workforce Development Specialist, Tooling U-SME on July 30, 2019

Everyone knows about needing to fill the manufacturing skills gap, but are you ready to integrate the influx of younger generations entering the workforce with your incumbent workers? Now is the time to prepare for the cultural shift that is rolling in as fast as the silver tsunami is rolling out.

Playing a large role is Industry 4.0, in which new technology is becoming the mainstream, and computers, robots and artificial intelligence are in need of fresh minds to implement new skills. At the same time, the tribal knowledge of the veteran manufacturing workforce is vital to the success of existing companies.

The question is how do we meld this multigenerational workforce and build cohesive and effective teams to make this cultural transition seamless?

Cheat Sheet: The Generations

For the first time ever, the manufacturing workforce comprises five generations at once. Fortunately, manufacturers are finding that this cross-pollination of diverse thought, experience and approach is actually strengthening their workforce and business.

Recommended solutions to the challenges inherent in this new multigenerational workforce are recruiting the right people, retaining incoming talent with new onboarding processes that include career pathways, and providing a structured training program that can benefit everyone of all ages. Without leadership’s understanding of and commitment to making this cultural shift, manufacturers could be affected by annual turnover of up to 20 percent or higher,1 and 70 percent of those employees who quit might have been retained.2

Tooling U-SME’s new report, 6 Ways to Build a Cohesive Multigenerational Manufacturing Workforce: Prepare for the Future – Now, has identified steps manufacturers can take to bring their workforce employees together, so they can benefit from the skills and knowledge of all:

  1. Build a culture that respects diversity
  2. Foster communication
  3. Create a collaborative environment
  4. Provide regular and immediate feedback
  5. Build a formal training program
  6. Ensure all feel invested in the company

There is no more time for debate about the new generation of workforce employees or preconceived notions of their profiles. At their core, people want similar things – to be engaged, feel valued and grow and develop during their careers. By adopting a fresh attitude and being flexible with new processes, manufacturers can expect different perspectives from younger generations, encourage collaboration with incumbent workers through a mentoring initiative, increase engagement through open dialogue with workers and management, and enhance productivity and growth.

Millennials and members of Gen Z represent our greatest opportunity to address the talent shortage in the manufacturing industry. These younger generations bring to the table an abundance of technology and an eagerness to be involved, and they can inspire a new point of view toward building a cohesive work environment.

1. Tooling U-SME Industry Pulse: Manufacturing Workforce Report.

2. 2018 Retention Report: Truth & Trend in Turnover, Work Institute.

Tags: "five generations", "Gen Z", "incumbent worker", "Industry 4.0", millennial, "multigenerational workforce", recruiting, retaining, training