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Welcome back to TST, Troubleshooters! Thanks for joining us today for Part 2 of our series on how to attract Millennials to your maintenance workforce (and keep them!).

Last week we saw that Millennials are now 50% of the workforce (and predicted to be 75% by 2025). While all industries are feeling the pinch of the labor shortage, it’s hitting the manufacturing industry hard. Manufacturers who are feeling the effects need to understand what Millennials (and Gen Z) are looking for in a job if they’re going to have the workforce they need.

Today we’re looking at how manufacturers can create a corporate culture that appeals to Millennials and will keep them.

Create a Millennial-friendly culture to attract and retain younger workers 

In 2018, the number of Millennials who said they think that business has a positive impact on society fell from 61% to 55%. And the number who think business leaders are committed to improving society fell from 62% to 47%. So it’s clear that business has an image problem with this demographic, and it seems to be getting worse pretty fast.

A high priority for Millennials is “quality of work life.” According to Fidelity Investments’ Evaluate a Job Offer study, Millennials would take a $7,600 pay cut for better career development opportunities, more purposeful work, good work/life balance and positive company culture.

If this doesn’t describe your workplace, you may need a systemic change to your corporate culture. And if that sounds difficult or expensive, remember that making an effort to retain employees is much cheaper than losing them—for every three months that a position remains unfilled, a company loses an average of $14,000 (for some companies it’s over $25,000). That’s for a single position. HR managers surveyed in 2017 reported that the average annual cost of long job vacancies is $800,000.

Manufacturers need to establish and nurture a mission-driven culture that inspires this demographic, gives them a sense of purpose, provides opportunities for professional development, and respects work/life balance. In other words, they need to provide Millennials with more than just a job.

Overcome manufacturing’s image problem

While all industries are coming up against the labor shortage, the manufacturing industry has an extra hurdle to overcome—its image problem among Millennials. Millennials are the most-educated generation in history; they typically aspire to white collar jobs rather than skilled trades. A Deloitte study recently found that only 3 out of 10 families in the US would encourage their children to enter a career in manufacturing, and that fewer than 5 in 10 Americans surveyed believe manufacturing jobs are interesting, rewarding, clean, safe, stable, and secure. (Hollywood portrayals of the trades certainly don’t help the perception!).

The good news is that perceptions are changing; the Deloitte study also found that a large majority of Americans surveyed believe that future manufacturing jobs will require high-tech skills and will be clean, safe, and innovative. Manufacturers need to show potential employees that this future is already here. It needs to be overt in their branding, advertising, social media presence, and all other aspects of their recruitment strategy.

Maintain an appealing social media presence

A LinkedIn study on recruiting Millennials found that the number one thing they want to know about is a company’s culture and values. But here’s the catch: more than other generations before them, 1) Millennials don’t know much about the companies offering them the jobs; and 2) not knowing about the company is a bigger obstacle for them than for past generations. More than any previous generation, they’ll turn to social media to learn more about whoever is offering them a job. Manufacturers need to be intentionally and continuously projecting a brand that resonates with them and clearly communicating it on social media.

Play up high-tech

Millennials love technology and have grown up on video games, so using technology and the principles of gamification in onboarding and training programs to help create a fun culture that keeps them coming back to work each day. It’s important to signal this as early as possible in the recruiting process to remain competitive. For example, gamified simulation training can be used remotely to vet applicants even before the initial job interview as a tip-off that your manufacturing culture stands out from the rest.

Map their path to success

Because Millennials rank professional development as a high priority, it’s important to outline their path to success clearly, both in the preboarding and onboarding phases of recruitment, as well as with regular, career-focused meetings with management, to help employees form and attain professional development goals such as skills development. Ongoing interest by management in their plans for future and opportunities for team building will demonstrate a forward-thinking culture, and reinforce employee trust that they’re not just tiny cogs in the corporate machine.  

That’s it for today, Troubleshooters! Be sure to tune in again next week when we talk about a related topic—the benefits of using technology for effective preboarding. 

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