How to Attract and Retain Millennials In Advanced Manufacturing

ge hot sauce in silicon carbide Ah, millennials. The demographic group following Gen X, or anyone reaching adulthood around the year 2000, is probably one of the most misunderstood demographics we’ve ever seen. The Pew Research Center defines millennials as those who are ages 18-34 in 2015, and notes that as of late April 2016, millennials, at 75.4 million, have now surpassed the 74.9 million baby boomers.

As millennials hit the workforce, defining their characteristics has become something of an obsession for other generations: They’re freedom-loving, they want more than just a good salary, they’re free thinkers, they’re lazy, they’re a social generation, the list goes on.

The fact remains that no generalization about a demographic is perfect. However, as Ed Wiley from Wiley Metal points out, “Many manufacturing operations were initially started by Baby Boomers. This is a generation who are now at, or near, the end of their working careers. This means that millennials will play an increasingly important role in the future of these companies. Manufacturing millennials will impact your business, and probably your future.”

However, despite the imminent importance of millennials to the manufacturing workforce, companies like GE have struggled to attract younger engineers and skilled workers, who, as news writer Lydia Belanger explains, “. . . tend to gravitate toward buzzy startups rather than century-old conglomerates.” So, the company has even expanded into a new and trendy product line, hot sauce that contains the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the two hottest peppers in the world. The manufacturer hopes that nontraditional products, an emphasis on advanced materials and software, and a push to promote “buzzier” products will attract and retain that millennial demographic.

Do you need to create an entirely new product line to attract younger people? No—and most advanced manufacturers would scoff at the thought of adding hot sauce to their line of metal fabrication products. (You’re correct, Distefano is not announcing a hot sauce brand anytime soon.) However, there are certainly ways to make manufacturing an appealing career choice for younger generations. At Distefano, we employ quite a few millennials, and they’re some of our best and brightest workers. Here are a few tips for drawing more millennials into your workforce.

Make a difference. Business manager at KLA industries Paul Sturgeon tells Plastics Technology, “As a group, they are looking for very different things than previous generations . . . millennials want to work for a company they believe is making a difference in the world, or at least in their communities.” Making a difference can take many different forms. Maybe, like Distefano, it means working to increase the visibility of advanced manufacturing in your community, or maybe it means partnering with a philanthropic organization. Focus on showcasing the ways in which your company, by manufacturing product, changes or serves the world in some significant way.

Reward effort: Michael Browne is a director of Technology and Marketing at PI North America—and a millennial. He notes that, for millennials, feedback itself is often the best reward for effort: “Since millennials tend to be more task-oriented (getting the job done) vs time-oriented (putting in the hours), a paycheck alone might not do the trick. Millennials often prefer a bonus that correlates with success.” Establish a company culture that thrives on feedback and reward for completed tasks, and it will be a culture that allows millennials to function as they do best.

Challenge them: At Distefano, we offer to pay for continuing education for our employees who want to get certifications at community college. That’s because challenging employees and continuously finding ways to stimulate their brains helps them achieve personal goals. Once you have an employee, find out what they need so they can reach personal goals as well as professional. Millennials are interested in the whole person, and they don’t want to feel as if they’re pawns in a machine. So, continuous challenges and investing in education can make a major difference.

Does your company struggle to hire millennials? If so, how have you worked to surpass those challenges? Let us know in the comments section below!

Photo credit: GE via The Next Web 

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