Attracting millennials: How to talk to people like me

As a millennial, it’s intriguing to receive a report advising non-millennial manufacturers how best to talk to people like me.

But it’s perhaps not surprising that such pieces are being written, especially given the talk of skill gaps in the manufacturing sector. The Manufacturing Institute, for example, estimates that 2 million jobs will go unfilled by 2025 because there will not be enough workers with the training to be successful in engineering, skilled trades, or production.

The report I received from Tooling U-SME, a training organization owned by the  Society of Manufacturing Engineers, was a recently released whitepaper titled “Embracing Millennials: Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap and Gaining a Competitive Advantage.” It begins with some troubling statistics: 80 percent of manufacturers say they are worried about meeting workforce needs in the next five years, and 78 percent say that millennials are important to future operations, yet just 40 percent say they understand us young-uns. 

The rest of the document is dedicated to advice for training and attracting millennials. Just for fun, here are their “seven tips for working with millennials” and the reaction of one real-life millennial (me).

1. Don’t generalize. The point here is to avoid stereotyping, and that sounds like good advice to me regardless of the age of the employees.

2. Communicate your corporate mission. In other words, give real answers to the “why” questions. I know that’s important to me — not knowing if or how my contribution is important to the company’s success would be demotivating.

3. Show them their future. This is about ensuring them that they can advance in their career. The days of the “I’ll work in the same job 40 years and my employer will take care of me” mentality are largely gone.

4. Provide continual learning opportunities. This is closely related to the third point.

5. Go digital with online hiring, training, etc. I admit I’m technologically old-fashioned, so my lack of enthusiasm on this point is probably not representative of my peers.

6. Allow them to share their ideas. Yes! With the caveat of point one (don’t generalize), I think all employees feel more valued if they think their boss is listening.

7. Provide regular and immediate feedback. This is a big one for me. Both positive and negative feedback are important, or else I don’t know how well I’m doing (point three) or if I’m helping the company (point two). The white paper makes an interesting point that millennials may be trained this way because we grew up with copious feedback from parents and coaches.

I think these tips may be helpful, but to see a real influx of millennials in manufacturing, there is going to have to be a cultural change. Children need to learn from a young age that manufacturing jobs are no less desirable or important than professional jobs, and you can get them with a lot less debt.

As a millennial with “college memories” in the form of a monthly bill, I can certainly attest to the value of that.

Daniel Walmer

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