Narcissistic, attention seeking, distracted, disloyal, Snapchatters…the list goes on.
Given that they make up half the workforce and just over one in four are already in management positions, it’s worrying that such negative stereotypes haunt the millennial generation.
But the reality is that manufacturers who embrace millennials in the workforce stand to gain.
Back to basics: who are ‘the millennials’?
There’s a plethora of definitions for the millennial generation, so we’ve narrowed it down to some fast facts:
- Millennials broadly refers to those born between 1980 and 2000-ish.
- Millennials account for 20% of the Australian population. (source)
- More than half of millennials are university educated. (source)
- Millennials were the first generation in history to grow up with computers at home.
- By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. (source)
- They are also known as Gen Y or the Digital Generation.
Why you need millennials in your workforce
According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, technology is the most sought-after industry for millennials choosing careers. They are digital driven. Unlike their older colleagues, they grew up with sophisticated technology. Digital technology is a ubiquitous part of their lives; it’s how they play, relax, learn, shop and socialise.
For manufacturers, these digital natives offer tremendous opportunities for innovation and change. They will pave the way for a digital transformation in your company. As champions for emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), collaborative robots and the Internet of Things (IoT), they enable you to test out next-generation technologies and drive innovation.
Consider mobile apps — the lifeblood of millennials. Accessing machine data, checking equipment, inventory management … these are all tasks that millennials will expect to be able to do remotely. If they can’t, they will quickly push you to put the technology in place.
How to manage millennials in the workforce
Beyond their techno prowess, millennials have significant behavioural differences to their older colleagues. While on the surface this might seem like a challenge, it opens up a world of opportunities for your business:
Millennials have a desire for flexibility. According to a PwC survey, less than a third of millennials expect to work regular office hours. Another study by Bentley University in the USA revealed that 77% of millennials believe flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. (Given their reliance on digital technology, this shouldn’t come a surprise.) It’s also important to note that 82% of millennials say they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.
Shared social values are important to millennials. The PwC survey revealed that 59% of millennials actively seek an employer with the same attitudes towards corporate responsibility as their own. Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey showed millennials want businesses to focus more on people (employees, customers and society), products and purpose, and less on profits.
Manufacturers can use this as impetus to push a sustainability agenda and corporate responsibility program, which is not only the “silver lining” to retain great talent but a good thing for the company’s reputation.
Millennials are highly educated. In fact, social researchers McCrindle reported that one in three millennials has earned a university degree compared with 20% of their parents. But this doesn’t mean they expect to know it all. In fact, research shows millennials expect more coaching and mentoring than any other generation in the workforce.
They are also insatiably curious. Rather than just being told to do something, millennials want to challenge the status quo and make a difference. Whether it’s simple things such as processing timesheets or bigger changes for example machine automation, manufacturers can embrace as an opportunity to improve “the way things have always been done”.
Collaboration is on the top of their list. You need to accept that millennials don’t work for you – they work with you. Millennials want employers to nurture a highly innovative, collaborative culture where there are plenty of opportunities to learn, grow and move up. It’s worth looking at developing a leadership and mentoring program that will tick these boxes if you want to retain great talent. Don’t expect these best and brightest to stick around unless their goals are being met.
The bottom line
Millennials offer tremendous opportunities for future-thinking manufacturers. But you cannot expect to manage your multi-generational workforce with a “one size fits all” approach. Embrace their differences, work with them and invest in them; after all, they are the future leaders of your company.
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Image credit: Nadia Bormotova