When people talk about millennials in manufacturing, preconceptions abound. They are seen as having a poor work ethic, being in constant need of praise, and possessing no loyalty to their employers. Not only have we found these stereotypes to be divorced from reality, but, far from succumbing to the demands of an entitled generation, we’ve seen firsthand how embracing the expectations of a millennial workforce can help manufacturers succeed.

The Workforce of The Future (And The Present)

Millennials will make up 35 percent of the global workforce by 2020. Not only that, but millennials aren’t just “kids.” Some are approaching forty. In other words, they can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

To ensure manufacturers have a talented pool of trained professionals to draw from, they need to work to correct outdated misconceptions about the manufacturing industry and ensure they are fostering a culture that is attractive to a generation with a new set of expectations and norms.

And, when we talk about millennials’ professional ”expectations” and “norms” it’s important to remember that every generation has had them. These concepts were certainly not invented for today’s young workers. In our experience, when even the smallest amount of skepticism is applied, the stereotypes about millennials quickly unravel.

How Millennials Are Changing Manufacturing… For The Better

Younger workers are certainly challenging more traditionally-minded employers in their desire to change long-standing practices. Certainly that is true in manufacturing. However, what many modern manufacturers are learning is that the rewards – in recruiting, retention, productivity, and innovation –  far outweigh the costs of changing policies. And, when new policies and procedures are implemented, and leadership embraces change, a cultural shift is sure to follow.

In a 2017 Gallup poll, millennials were found to desire flexibility when and where they work, seek work with a purpose, hope to speak more frequently with superiors, and display a willingness to change employers when the fit isn’t right (though they were found to value stability).

Meeting those expectations head-on means fostering an engaged and innovation-focused workforce where everyone – not just millennials – can grow and thrive.

Connected And Dedicated

Being connected to everyone and everything at all times is obviously something millennials have embraced throughout their lives. This, more than anything, has upended traditional models of the workplace.

The trade-off for millennials raised in the internet age means that, yes, they are willing to be available more often, and from more places, than their predecessors. But in exchange they require flexibility about when and where they work.

Some industries have embraced this change and the benefits of an always-connected workforce more rapidly than others. To be sure, in our view, when logistically possible, the trade-offs seem to benefit both employers and employees. However, more traditional industries like manufacturing still – in many cases – are in the process of undergoing this cultural shift.

When a company culture embraces the freedoms that technology provides, millennials are incredibly productive, dedicated to a company and their future in it, and are important collaborators throughout the manufacturing process.

Purposeful Work is Good Work

The drive to find work with purpose is another reason for manufacturers to embrace the expectations of today’s younger workers. When being part of a production team means more than checking a box, and instead involves a team of people invested in helping businesses and individuals succeed, everyone benefits.

And, no matter what the role, there’s always room to foster individual talents. When ideas are encouraged from contributors across an organization, not only are valuable insights gained, but those who want and need to feel a sense of purpose understand they have a voice and their talents are being utilized.

Manufacturing Has Its Own Stereotypes

Despite possessing advanced technologically capabilities and using them to build the world’s most sophisticated products, manufacturers are still seen as outdated by many young entrants to the workforce. Some students do not see engineering and other manufacturing-oriented paths as a modern career choice. This could not be further from the truth.

Education and outreach regarding today’s modern manufacturing industry is required – and required early – to ensure an eager young generation of skilled professionals is available to manufacturers.

On a micro-level, individual organizations also benefit from these outreach efforts by establishing relationships early for an increasingly frictionless recruiting process.

Reaching Millennials

Once an organization sees past the stereotypes and recognizes the incredible strengths this young generation of professionals possess, the next question is, how do you reach them?

Even during the recruiting process a company can drive home some of the concepts that millennials expect from employers. At MME group, Inc., for example, we are open to creating unique job descriptions based on an individual candidate’s skills and interests. When desired and appropriate, we let candidates know we see real benefits in catering roles specifically to them.

We also recommending extensive outreach to educational institutions to highlight – through real world examples – the benefits of careers in manufacturing, the technological innovations teams take part in, and opportunities for advancement.

Finally, reaching millennials where they live – online – can help set manufacturers apart by conveying key aspects of the company culture, the team, and the experience.

The Future is Bright

When we see the dedication our young generation of professionals brings to the table, we can’t help but be bullish on the future of manufacturing. They are a workforce that is raring to go and eager to learn. As more and more manufacturers recognize that the stereotypes about millennials are, in reality, benefits, we can’t wait to see what the future brings.

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