Manufacturing a Team of Millennials

April 21, 2016

Manufacturing in the United States has shown significant growth over the last 10 years.  However, the industry is now facing one of its greatest challenges.  Finding enough quality, trained individuals to fill manufacturing positions as baby boomers retire.  A report by the Manufacturing Institute found that American manufacturers could face a deficit of as many as 2 million workers over the next decade.

To address this, the manufacturing industry will need to recruit the millennial generation.  Unfortunately, to date employers are finding it increasingly difficult to fill these positions and the challenge continues to grow. What do manufacturers need to do to attract and retain millennials?

First, we need to understand what characteristics millennials have and what environmental factors allow them to thrive and add value to an organization.

Millennials need to have a purpose.  They want to understand how their role will contribute to the overall growth of the organization and why it is meaningful.  With this comes the need to have a career path and an understanding of where they will be in five to ten years.   To support them along this career path they desire to have a robust training and development structure to allow them to continue to learn and grow.

The manufacturing shortage of skilled labor was clearly evidenced in our WeiserMazars 2015 Water Industry Outlook (//  Staffing issues were identified as one of the top three challenges facing the water industry today and into the future.  This shortage has led to delaying retirement of many people in the industry to allow organizations to address the issue and identify resources to fill the gap.

The water industry is addressing this with a focus on implementation of new technologies over the next 5 to 10 years.  When asked if technology will play a key role in the competitiveness within the water industry in the next 10 years, 80% strongly or slightly agreed with this statement.  Technology will address the staffing gap in two ways.

  • Advanced plant and distribution technology will attract millennials to the industry
  • Automation of processes will allow them to be accomplished with less resources

The manufacturing industry must focus on transforming their processes to a more technological advanced approach.  This shift which is already underway will change the millennials perception of manufacturing jobs and will provide them an alternative to other career paths.

Millennials have grown up in the IT age.  They are accustomed to highly user-friendly interfaces, universal data access and total mobile capability and they expect their workplace to follow suit.   Cloud technology allows companies to create a more flexible, mobile work place which will enhance the workers enjoyment of their job.

The current environment in manufacturing requires technological savvy and the ability to multi-task across multiple, simultaneous processes.

Millennials are innovative and dynamic individuals who bring with them the ability to think creatively and develop new and exciting ways to improve processes and add value to organizations. As manufacturers, especially owner managed businesses, continue to look for innovative ways to increase efficiencies, their ideas will be critical to the competitiveness and success of the organization. They have grown up with technology and feel comfortable implementing and adapting to new technologies more quickly and easily than baby boomers.  Similarly, millenials like to use mobile technology to move about freely, instead of being confined to a designated work space.  Cloud technology allows companies to create a more flexible, mobile work place which will enhance employee job satisfaction. Implementation of new innovative technologies will allow for this to become a reality in the manufacturing plant of the future.

To succeed in attracting and growing a workforce of millennials, today’s manufactures will need to understand and adapt their work cultures and environments to be compatible with how millennials think and like to work.  If they are successful, manufacturing will continue to grow and prosper in the United States, while continuing to provide exciting job opportunities for people who never thought they would work in manufacturing.

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