With fewer graduates choosing trade careers and the age gap in the workforce widening, the manufacturing industry has collectively been struggling to attract, engage and retain new talent. The industry-wide workforce shortage has led business leaders to begin digging deeper into the motivations that drive millennial generation employees to not only want to work for a company, but stick around long-term.
The days of employees staying in one position for 20+ are no longer the norm, but benefits such as career development options, a positive company culture, and a mission-driven team environment, can drive many younger job seekers to remain loyal. These four actionable tactics are a great starting point for company leaders looking to transform their business in order to attract and hold the attention of millennial talent.
Share Your Vision With Everyone
Do employees of all levels clearly know your organization’s vision? If the answer is no, getting everyone on the same page is a perfect place to start.
Schedule quarterly updates with your staff. Think of it as a "State of the Company" to address company goals, how they've progressed, and where you're headed. Understanding the greater mission, or the ‘why’ behind goals and actions, helps to unify employees of all departments towards a common goal. Hearing this information directly from a company leader will also help your team feel involved and that you're invested in moving forward together.
Transparency shouldn’t just be reserved for State of the Company meetings. Along with being more purpose-driven, the millennial workforce wants to know that truthfulness is a two-way road. Meaning, employees want a say. As Ray Dalio said in his TED Talk, How to Build a Company Where the best Ideas Win, collective decision making is the path to success when it’s done right.
Which is to say, all feedback and opinions from employees may not be positive, but it’s crucial to listen to employee feedback and treat it as a learning experience. After all, even those that aren’t directly making decisions are still helping to propel the company vision forward.
Celebrate Success and Acknowledge Failures
Let your team share their successes. Those quarterly meetings? Give your staff a chance to submit 'wins' and pick someone to share theirs with everyone at the company. If there was a milestone accomplished, let the people who worked on it speak to it. Give them a voice and platform to be proud of their actual work. It creates social validation, healthy competition, and boosts motivation.
On a similar note, don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. While it may seem counterintuitive to admit to failure in order to keep employees inspired, this openness humanizes leaders. This level of honesty shows a willingness to learn and grow as a team and to dispel the leaders as being ‘untouchable.’ When communicated correctly, failure is the launch point of improvement. Acknowledge a mistake, and proactively address with it a plan for moving forward.
Most millennials entering the workforce now are looking for flexibility. The Strategy House team, along with most of our generation, are big believers that what truly matters is that you get done what you say you'll get done. It doesn't matter whether you started working at 7:00 am or 10:00 am, as long as employees complete what is asked.
Even in manufacturing, it is possible to entrust employees with the ability to get their work done in a timely matter without confining people to a strict schedule. One of our clients implemented a “four-nines” policy; to give employees the opportunity to leave early on Fridays, they allow employees to work four nine hour shifts, and one four hour shift on Friday. It’s a great perk in Wisconsin, where people like to take off early for fishing or hunting trips. The company still sees the same hours from that employee, but the level of employee happiness spiked considerably when presented with this option.
Providing early Fridays, flexible working hours, a limited work from home option, or even acknowledging that employees have lives outside of work and deserve quality time off through vacation policies can all impact the loyalty your employees, especially younger ones feel toward your brand.
Recently, a debate was sparked on Quora by a CEO asking why his employees weren’t committed to working longer than the typical 9-5 hours on a regular basis. What he got was 100+ answers from leaders and employees alike that enlightened him that his expectations were unreasonably high and a bit old school. The thread is full of great insight but overall it was clear that expecting employees to put their personal lives on the back burner in favor of the company dream is the fastest way to burnout, resentment, and turnover.
Put People First
The workforce continues to evolve and the manufacturing industry has a great opportunity to reinvent itself to better suit the new wave of employees. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, the key takeaway should be that investing in the people of your company, whether they’re new graduates or have been there for years, is where the real change happens. Without the right people in your business, there is no growth.