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Millennials to Manufacturers: Get Better at Collaboration

Posted By Jeff Moad, June 10, 2015 at 12:56 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

If manufacturers want to attract, engage, and retain the best and the brightest of the Millennial Generation, they need to do a better job of embracing collaboration, and they need to be prepared to give Millennials a wide range of on-the-job experiences beginning as soon as the walk through the door.

That was the message delivered last week to executive attendees of the 11th Annual Manufacturing Leadership Summit by three manufacturing Millennials who participated in a panel discussion. Greg Claire, a senior at the University of Cincinnati and a participant in GE Aviation’s Early Leadership Identification Program, Erin Morris, a launch coordinator at L’Oreal, and Russ Grant, director of operations at BullEx, told senior manufacturing leaders at the event that they enter the workforce wanting and expecting to find highly collaborative cultures and flat organizations where the ideas of even young workers are taken seriously.

“Collaboration is how projects are done now in school, with the group coming to a goal regardless of where ideas come from,” said Claire in response to questions from panel moderator Paul Tate, research director and executive editor of the Manufacturing Leadership Community. “So that’s what we expect in the workplace.”

Often, however, those expectations for collaboration and openness to new ideas regardless of their source are not fulfilled. “What hasn’t met my expectations is the level of integration across sectors,” said Morris. “We do work cross-functionally, but when you are an entry-level person, your recommendations aren’t always taken as seriously.”

But Grant said he has found a much more collaborative culture at BullEx, a maker of fire suppression equipment and training facilities. “The culture of BullEx has been young and collaborative,” said Grant. “It’s a very flat organization, and we are able to collaborate cross-functionally which allows you to come up with the best solution for a problem.”

The Millennials also said, even as they enter the workforce, they are looking for the opportunity to experience a wide range of roles, and they fear being stuck in one function or one job for too long. If employers aren’t open to providing this type of varied experience, the Millennials said, they will find it on their own.

“We’re getting bombarded to go to other companies, and management realizes that, to keep up, we need to get more variety,” said Morris.

And, if manufacturing employers don’t adopt a more collaborative culture and work at providing Millennials with a varied work experience, employers will be at risk of losing much more than their current Millennial workers. They’ll miss out on attracting new Millennials who are not shy about sharing their thoughts about the merits of their employers on social media.

“With social media, people get immediate insight into companies,” said Claire. “Now everyone knows what working at a company is like.”

The good news, the young workers said, is that the image of manufacturing careers among Millennials is slowly improving. While many still think of manufacturing as “a dirty, dingy place where nobody wants to work,” said Claire, “as soon as you say Industrial Internet, 3D printing, and predictive maintenance, it’s seen as an upcoming opportunity.”

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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If the company's collaboration is focused on the business economics, the benefits will be amplified for both the millennials and the company. This article expands on this point: http://www.gilcommunity.com/blog/want-engaged-employees-try-opening-books/
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Thanks, Bill
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