Appealing to the Next Generation: 6 Ways to Attract and Retain Future Leaders

Manufacturers must address key generational changes within company leadership and workforce

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If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses any one thing, it’s how dynamic and adaptable business models can become when needed.  This resilience bodes well for businesses as the challenges surrounding their workforce gaps, future leadership uncertainties, and workforce adaptations have been an active, ongoing issue.

“Essentially, businesses have proven to themselves that they can survive and learn to thrive when change is thrust upon them,” says Justin Mentele, partner at K·Coe Isom.  “With business owners and executives already in high gear to pivot and make adjustments, now is a prime time to look ahead and begin implementing the plans and changes that can accommodate the generational differentiators of your workforce and future leaders.”

As the manufacturing industry continues to struggle with attracting, cultivating, and retaining the younger talent from the Millennial and Z generations, adaptation will be key for businesses.  These generations are known for their desire to learn more and excel fast and will work hard in order to receive all the benefits that come with advancing in their career.

With the current shortage of approximately 500,000 manufacturing workers of what we need today (according to Industry Week), and the current perception of manufacturing/industrial jobs as undesirable to younger generations, the plan for businesses should be urgent and immediate.

Next gen workforce manufacturing

6 Ways to Build a Long-term Workforce with Next Gens

Here are some changes and adaptations that should be considered and implemented to attract Gen-Z talent and retain Millennials and position them for leadership roles.

  1. Adapt to New Values. The Millennial generation has overtaken the Baby Boomers generation as the largest living adult generation. On top of that, more than half of Americans are Millennials or younger.  Most of today’s workforce is no longer valuing the same attributes in jobs as it used to, and because there is no shortage of jobs, your company and leadership must make a concentrated effort to stand out.  If you aren’t recruiting and thinking differently, you’re already behind.
  2. Utilize Technology. This is a technology-driven era, and these younger generations will be at the forefront of leading this charge. Technology must be at the top of the list in terms of importance going forward in the company.
    • Make sure you are showcasing your technology in recruiting campaigns.
    • Companies need to focus on getting rid of the stigma of old manufacturing plant jobs. Make a concerted effort to mitigate the perception that manufacturing jobs that are dirty, dangerous, menial, manual labor-ridden, long workdays in dark facilities.
    • Create a social media presence to communicate about careers, facility tours, etc. Millennials grew up with social media and will consider you out of touch and nonprogressive if you don’t have it.
    • Make applications easier. Younger generations see many options and will move onto the next company if it’s not a quick process to apply.
  3. Implement Flexible Work Options. Working remotely and/or finding opportunities where there is scheduling flexibility is a request that’s here to stay and outdated perceptions about it can’t be tolerated.  The next generation will find a way to work remotely if they want to, whether it’s with your company or another. Incorporating work-life balance and making remote work, if possible, for people is a must.
  4. Engage in Social Responsibility. Demonstrate that you are making a difference in your community and/or customer’s lives with your products. This is more important than ever for the younger workforce to see and experience. It’s easy to say you’re involved with local charities, but are you living your mission and helping change the world for the better?  Communicate how and when you do this both internally and externally.
  5. Increase Trade Representation. High school students are rethinking their options and choosing not to take on massive amounts of debt often needed with the traditional college route. Use this opportunity to educate and partner with local trade schools to find and enlist manufacturing talent while building your brand reputation.
    • If necessary, offer incentives or help younger talent to acquire the additional education required for future leadership positions.
    • Consider implementing apprenticeship programs to younger kids.
    • Show routes to have successful careers in the company that don’t require traditional education.
  6. Create Internal Mentorship Programs. Leadership today needs to become a ‘player-coach’ type of position and not someone who leads from afar.
    • Offer regular mentorship to younger talent.
    • Generate constant learning opportunities for your workforce.

By enacting at least a few of the efforts above, manufacturers can hopefully begin to fix the skills gap crisis.  Inspiring the next generation of talent to become the workforce leading the charge into the future requires changes and a concerted effort by businesses today.

Contact a K·Coe Isom manufacturing advisor with questions regarding implementing a strategy around workforce recruitment or retention.  K·Coe has a dedicated HR consulting team that helps manufacturing operations with solutions and services around these needs.

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