Millennials and Manufacturing Don’t Mix; Let’s Reverse the Trend

Those who keep America’s manufacturing industry churning – many of who hail from either the Baby Boomer or Gen X age groups – don’t quite know how to train, attract or retain Millennials.

The disconnect among generations isn’t surprising. Let’s consider the following:

The G.I. Generation (largely comprised of WWII soldiers) showed Baby Boomers that “true grit,” hard work and self-reliance would lead to prosperity, and they were right.

Then came Gen X, who were taught the same lessons: keep your head down, work hard, and you’ll gradually rise through the ranks of a company.

Yet, a shift occurred as Gen X reached their 20s and 30s. Women joined the workforce, the economy boomed, and by the 1990’s, Gen X began investing the newfound wealth in their children.

Suddenly, Millennials not only had the full backing of their parents, but they also had coaches, educators and counselors who guided them, built up their confidence and gave them structure.

In the process, that ingrained sense of self-reliance slowly faded among Millennials, and older generations often concluded that laziness had consumed overly coddled kids.

In some cases, the stereotype probably holds true, but generally, Millennials can be recruited to the industry and motivated to work as hard as anyone else if companies adopt some of the following practices:

Work/life balance: Enable Millennials to prioritize their lives, so they can devote enough time to their work, their lifestyle and their spiritual beliefs. Help them set the balance, and enjoy a more motivated and productive workforce.

Connectivity: Give them a voice within the company. Create an open door policy, and encourage fresh perspectives and insights that can help to optimize manufacturing processes.

The Right Tools: Millennials leverage technology far better than any generation. They operate in real time, so let them use the tools (smart phones, tablets and laptops) that can work to accelerate various aspects of your business.

Gamification: Millennials are competitive, and value a well-earned distinction or reward within a company. Put them to the test, and watch your productivity rise.

Instill Self-Reliance through Apprenticeship: Instead of handing them a project or job with minor direction, give them an opportunity to ask questions and get comfortable with the work. As they show improvement and gain confidence, give them more autonomy and build up the self-reliance that was instilled in you decades ago.

Etc.: Be positive. Keep your company grounded in good values. Empower Millennials to make a difference, and don’t be surprised if they leave you within 3-5 years once they gain enough experience, or hit a hierarchal ceiling at your company.

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