Millennials are the largest demographic group in U.S. history at more than 80 million strong. They are digital natives and include the first group of children to grow into adulthood online. And while it’s important to avoid over-generalizing, Millennials, like the generations that came before them, have a distinct set of values and preferences that can present new challenges to employers who are integrating members of the group into an established workplace.
These challenges can be especially acute in manufacturing enterprises, some of which have been in business for many years and tend to have older than average workforces. Boomer and Gen X bosses at some of these plants are mystified by Millennials and looking for new ways to reach out to them. Others are simply searching for the ideal methods to attract and retain the best and brightest Millennials. Here are seven tips that can help:
- Let Millennials collaborate. Maybe since they’ve been wired from toddlerhood, Millennials tend to prefer teamwork to solitary pursuits. This can be a real strength in manufacturing, which often involves complex processes that benefit from group focus, so look for ways to allow employees to work together to improve productivity and employee satisfaction.
- Let them work while on the go. Thanks to mobile technology, Millennials (and other employees as well) aren’t tethered to a workstation as past generations were. Millennials are used to moving about freely while staying connected, so meet their expectations for freedom of movement on the job whenever possible.
- Offer training and development opportunities. Millennials appreciate the chance to expand their skills and learn new things, so it’s a good idea to provide strong training programs and on-the-job learning initiatives. It’s beneficial for employees since it keeps them challenged and prevents boredom, and the company benefits by having skilled staff.
- Set clear career paths. Like most employees, Millennials crave recognition for their accomplishments and want to move up in the company. But unlike previous generations, Millennials are typically accustomed to a more structured environment. A clearly delineated career path is a great way to keep them focused.
- Be open to integrating new technology. Having grown up in a world that adopts new technology at an unprecedented pace, Millennials believe in technical solutions to streamline workflows and improve productivity. Companies that demonstrate a willingness to integrate new technologies into existing processes are attractive to Millennials.
- Create a mentoring program. Mentoring programs can be a great way to bring new hires up to speed quickly and retain employees with hard-to-find skills. Such a program can be especially important in a workplace where older employees outnumber younger ones. Mentors can help Millennials integrate into the company culture more quickly.
- Give Millennials a purpose. One millennial trait that shows up on survey after survey is a desire to be part of something meaningful; Millennials tend to rank this higher than salary as a motivator. Make sure millennial employees understand how their role contributes to the company’s overall success; that underscores their value to the organization.
Millennials may be the most misunderstood generation ever, even though they’re also among the most studied. But managers who get to know members of the group well quickly realize the stereotypes (Millennials are self-absorbed, unfocused, etc.) are false. However, Millennials do tend to have values and preferences that are distinct from predecessor groups.
Managers who realize this and build programs and processes that take Millennials’ core traits into account can attract and retain the best and brightest of the group. By keeping these seven tips in mind, manufacturing leaders can build a workforce for the 21st century.
Pat Dean is Director of Recruiting at Advanced Technology Services.