Attracting Millennials to Meet the Needs of Maryland’s Manufacturing Sector

Millennial in Maryland Manufacturing

 

Manufacturing Day was established six years ago, in part to help manufacturers showcase their organizations as economic drivers of the future to a new generation of workers – millennials!

 

This year, Manufacturing Day will be celebrated across the country on or around October 7th. It was initially founded by four organizations – Fabricators and Manufacturers Association International, National Association of Manufacturers, Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Manufacturing Institute –and has grown to 1,047 events across the country.

 

In Maryland, the Manufacturers Extension Partnership, Inc. and the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland will host their Gears on the Gridiron Manufacturing Day celebration at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium on Saturday, October 1, 2016, when the Maryland Terrapins play The Purdue Boilermakers.

 

Manufacturing Day is a great way to showcase Maryland manufacturing companies (As of March 2016 there were 2844 in our great state. They account for 5.8 percent of the total output in the state and employ 3.8 percent of our workforce.) and to educate those in our community, of all ages, about modern day manufacturing. In fact, the need to educate the public and attract prospective employees was one of the primary reason reasons for its creation.

However, before putting a significant amount of energy into an open house or an outreach program to attract new employees, we need to first consider how we feel about this generation and how our attitudes toward millennials impact our ability to attract and retain them in our workforce.

 

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Why do we need to attract millennials?

The economic outlook for manufacturing may be improving but the labor shortages are expected to continue, in part because of the retirement of baby boomers with insufficient new workers entering this sector. The millennial generation is a large part of the new workforce, but how do we as business owners attract and retain these individuals?

 

As a baby boomer business owner and parent of a millennial, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to reflect personally on how attitudes impact our expectations of this generation. Consider what we know about this generation and how they function in the workplace.

 

Millennials:

  • Tend to change jobs frequently;
  • Want to be part of an organization that shares their personal values;
  • Seek work-life balance;
  • Want business to focus more on people, products and purpose and less on profits;
  • Need career development and mentoring; and
  • Want the organization to put employees first.

 

I don’t know about you, but I find it nerve wracking to think about the so-called lack of loyalty by the millennial generation and how it impacts business. As I reflect on this dynamic, I find it difficult to know what is best for my organization and just how much effort should be given to developing new recruits that have a track record for not sticking around.

 

However, before writing off your millennial recruiting efforts, there is a strong positive factor to consider – millennials want to be part of an organization that share’s their personal values.

 

Hiring employees (millennial or otherwise) with similar values creates an opportunity to develop an aligned workforce. That’s important because the better the alignment of values, the more likely employees will be able to rally behind a common vision.   Since studies show that millennials will choose organizations that share their views, this task of hiring the right candidate that reflects an organization’s values may have become easier in the last decade.

 

Millennials also seek work-life balance. I don’t think this is a new concept that started with the millennial generation. After our society moved towards dual income families in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the need for balance became more important. Raising children, maintaining a home and staying healthy while both mom and dad worked outside the home continues to be a juggle, at best, where something is likely to give.

 

The last thing we want is for our employees to struggle with their health or family life. We also don’t want home life to impact performance at work. Are these aspects at odds with each other and therefor creating an impasse? One possible solution is to manage work performance with less time away from home/family (notice I did not say less time away from work). The technology available today makes our working lives much more conducive to attaining this balance than it did in the 1960’s and 1970’s, so why does it seem so difficult to engineer work environments that support work-life balance? We are faced with a generation that demands it, and as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. We are forced to look for options, if we are to provide the supports that keep our employees working and balanced.

 

The fact that millennials want businesses to focus on employees first is also not a new concept. This has been a changing attitude in the workplace since I entered it, maybe earlier. So we’ve been thinking about this for at least 30 years, but what has really transpired? How do we put our employee’s first? What does it mean to our bottom lines? Alas, I do not have the answers to these questions, but there are plenty of studies available that support the notion that putting employee’s and people first in an organization makes for a happier, more focused workforce that improves rather than damages profitability. It’s certainly something for all of us to consider.

 

Millennials want career development and mentoring, and as a generation they have shown that they will change jobs frequently. They also want to be valued by their organization, ahead of profits. All of this is asking for a rather large commitment on behalf of the employer.

 

Maryland is definitely stepping up, providing support for local companies and ensuring that millennials and later-career individuals have the technical skills required to succeed in manufacturing. One of the newest programs is Community College of Baltimore County’s degree program in advanced manufacturing. The school’s 2-year “…design, fabrication and advanced manufacturing associate of applied science degree will require students to study skills like digital design, rapid prototyping, production, computer-aided machining, 21st century manufacturing strategy and technology commercialization.”

 

Is it possible the sheer act of making an investment in millennials will encourage them to stay with our organizations? Isn’t that what we need, to continue to succeed as our companies change to meet the needs of our employees and subsequently customers?

 

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