What To Do About Millennials & Generation Z in the Manufacturing Workplace

 

By Guest Blogger: Skip Weisman

I continue to hear complaints from business owners about the younger “millennial” generation in the workplace. I find it comical. I really do.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

1) The “younger” generation has always been a problem in the workplace. Even the more senior/veteran generation in the current workplace was the problem in the workplace when they were the younger generation.

2) This “younger” millennial generation is currently leading some of the largest, most highly valued companies in the world, so they can’t be all bad. I’m talking about people like, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and:

  • Lyft found John Zimmer, 34
  • Spotify founder Daniel Ek, 35
  • Instagram founder, Mike Krieger, 32
  • WordPress founder, Matthew Mullenweg, 34

Before you give me a hard time that it’s all men in that list, check out this list of 15 female millennial and Generation Z (the generation after the Millennials) entrepreneurs you haven’t heard of yet, but you may very soon.

3) A generation is a very long window of time, between 15-20 years. As I have posited to my audiences in my seminars on this topic, “do you think an older Millennial at 35 years of age, has the same needs, desires, and interests as a 21 year old Millennial?” They all agree the answer is “no.”

My point is that there are good and bad people in every generation, there are wide variances in needs, desires, and interests across the timeline of people in each generation. It’s time to stop blasting an entire generation.

Do those in the Millennial generation and Generation Z have different attitudes, habits, work ethics, and interests than those in the older generation? Absolutely!

Is the younger generation growing up without an interest in working with their hands beyond typing on a keyboard or using their thumbs to communicate? Absolutely!

Is this going to make it harder for manufacturing companies to find qualified, skilled, and already trained workers to step into roles? Absolutely!

Just like every younger generation always has different quirks than the older generation.

Yes, it may be more acute than ever for manufacturers and other trade industries because of the dearth in fundamental skills required in those work environments, but it’s not impossible to overcome.

It starts with a mindset shift on the part of the leaders of the manufacturing firms. Instead of expecting ready made machinists, welders, and others needed in a manufacturing process, it may require an expectation of finding those who want an opportunity to learn a trade and invest in them first.

This may have some advantages:

  • They come with little or no bad habits in doing your type of work.
  • You can mold them to be what you need them to be and teach them your way from the beginning.
  • They become pretty loyal since you and those at your company gave them a chance and became their mentor.

Every generation comes into the work environment with some deficiencies that cause challenges for those in charge and need to get things done. It’s just our turn now to be on that side.

Some may remember that back in the 1950s and early 60s when the older generation was thinking Elvis Presley and the Beatles were undermining society?

At the beginning of the 1970s the flower children of the late 60s came into the workforce with an attitude to “not trust anyone over 30.”

Not long after I started my small business coaching and consulting,  about 10 years ago, I had a client who complained to me about the work ethic and the focus of his Gen Y employees.

His complaint was that they weren’t motivated enough for advancement. They were too complacent and comfortable and only wanted to focus on their personal life and family. They weren’t ambitious enough for him.

Now, this generation, for some, is too ambitious. They have an “entitlement” mentality, think they know it all and should be advancing before they’re ready.*

You can’t have it both ways.  And, I will argue you should want more of the latter and less of the former. They’re easier to mold and coach to become what they want and what you may need.

I say embrace that latter mentality and use it to your company’s advantage.

Every one of my clients has at least one young millennial who is a superstar at their company, pushing older generation folks to get better, faster, up to speed on technology.

I think that’s a good thing.

Maybe the problem isn’t the younger generation in the workforce but the older generation doing the hiring.

And, remember, if you’re still worried about the Millennial generation in the workplace, it’s too late. You better start learning about Generation Z, which is already starting to infiltrate the workplace.

*(SIDE NOTE: You may also have the alternative “entitlement” mentality. That’s the other end of the generation scale with veteran employees who expect to have their job and their salary increases without improving their skills, keeping up with technology, not expecting to have to bring any additional value to the company as they wait for the calendar to turn the page to retirement.)

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