That Next Generation: Achieving Results, Retention and Reasonable Expectations

Posted By: Denise Ball, Regional Client Executive and Workforce Development Specialist, Tooling U-SME on November 29, 2018

That Next Generation: Achieving Results, Retention and Reasonable

Everyone’s talking about the manufacturing skills gap, and many are saying: “There are not enough skilled trained workers.” “My workforce bench is retiring and taking their knowledge with them.” “I don’t have the resources or patience to deal with training this new generation!”

Let’s face it, the problems are not going away. One solution is to change the way manufacturers are thinking about the future and about the generation that can help them pave the way to success.

By 2020, millennials and Generation Z will surpass baby boomers and represent the largest segment of the population, and they are the best opportunity we have to answer the urgent manufacturing skills gap.1 By understanding what motivates this new generation of manufacturing workers, educators and trainers can better build targeted training and develop programs that appeal to the desire for experiences and connections.

There are many misconceptions about this younger generation:

Millennials and Gen Zers are lazy.

Actually, they are highly competitive, and want to win and win again. Think about the Xbox — it perpetuates higher goals. Online education speaks to the younger generation, providing goals at every level.

They are arrogant.

They are confident entrepreneurs and like to work autonomously. To be successful, they expect an agile workplace where they can do their best work and see the results of their efforts.

Smartphones have created a totally distracted generation.

Born in a digital world, this generation is poised to embrace new manufacturing technologies and adopt its pace of change.

It's up to all of us to partner with industry and prepare for this new culture of learning and performance. Here are five best practices to help you leverage the newly minted generation of workforce employees:

1. Change the job description: Stop trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Manufacturers don’t just need people to fill jobs anymore. They need innovators and thinkers to keep up with changing technology. Make the job descriptions more appealing and the barriers to entry less daunting. Invite them in!

2. Appreciate their unique skill sets and perspectives: If millennials and Gen Zers are applying for jobs in manufacturing, you’re lucky. They want to be successful and make a difference. Take that seriously by challenging them and showing them the results of their efforts. As gamers, they love a challenge.

3. Provide strong onboarding with clear pathways: Start by asking questions and avoid making assumptions. Facilitate a dialogue with millennials and Gen Zers, and then show them how they fit into the big picture and can contribute to something bigger than them. They want a purpose that aligns with the company’s mission, profitability and operations. Show them the different opportunities within your organization, giving them little or no reason to look elsewhere.

4. Create mentor/mentee relationships: The younger generation can be seen as overstimulated. Use that energy by matching millennial and Gen Z workers with mentors who will keep them engaged and moving forward. Connect at a human level and show you appreciate their value and input. This is called “retention.”

5. Embrace the digital world: It’s no secret that millennials and Gen Zers expect information immediately. They don’t know a world without the Internet, so think about making iPad learning centers available. Use technology to help them find answers quickly and access information on manufacturing processes.

This new generation of workforce wants to contribute to the mission of your company and be a part of its success. That’s a win-win situation for them and for you. Manufacturers should focus on aligning the new generation’s personal goals with its strategies, so get curious by asking questions and listening. The best way to understand generational differences is to get everyone on the same page. From incoming talent to retiring mentors, everyone has something to contribute, and we all have everything to gain.

1. Pew Research Center:

Tags: "Gen Z", "generational differences", "manufacturing technology", "Manufacturing skills gap", mentor, millennials, onboarding, retention