A Proud Gen X’er Asks: Are U.S. Millennials Really Impacting Manufacturing and Engineering?

Posted on May 11, 2017

Without a doubt, they are. Not only are millennials making impacts within manufacturing and engineering, they are also impacting healthcare, and IT and myriad other industries.

Although this shouldn’t really be news to any of us by now, this 80 million strong generational cohort is reshaping our society and by consequence, has impacted the American workplace in ways that we couldn’t have imagined even 10 years ago.

As a guy born in the 1960s (thankfully, my children are still young enough in age and aren’t yet calling me “old man”… yet), I’ve been interested in better understanding the experiences of engineering and manufacturing managers about how this group might be changing the workplace, what they really want from employers and how both may find mutual success.

In case you’ve forgotten, millennials can be broadly defined as follows:

  • born from 1980 to 2000
  • they spend $600 billion annually
  • put off big ticket purchases (such as cars, homes, etc.) until later in life
  • are totally digital

According to an opinion piece penned by Gallup’s CEO Jim Clifton in the May 11, 2016 blog, “Millennials: How They Live and Work”, if you can implement the right organizational changes in the workplace, you can truly make a difference at your company for the long term, regardless of business or vertical.

After reading the Gallup blog, I queried a couple of social media groups dedicated to engineering asking them to share some of their workplace interactions with their millennial colleagues. Although no one that wrote me back would agree to go on the record about their experiences with millennials at their company, I did learn a few things that I gladly share below.

  • Engagement — Keep millennials engaged and let them know where they stand at work and how they contribute to your department and company goals. Shoot straight with them and you’ll gain their respect. This is a good formula for working with any employee, but millennials especially expect this approach.
  • Mentoring — Although dependent on the resources available at your company, one way that your company may find success with this group of younger Americans is to offer a structured mentoring program. Truly, here’s a golden opportunity for senior employees to help better assimilate younger employees more quickly into a company’s culture helping make for a smoother, more successful transition.
  • Development — Millennials seem hungry for personal and professional development opportunities in the workplace, and they want to make a difference in the world. Report after report and survey after survey support the point that millennials wish to be part of something that has meaning for them at work.
  • Energy and Perspective – In turn for this investment of development and mentoring, Millennials will bring fresh eyes to the challenges and opportunities in your business. This is especially true for digital growth initiatives. And once engaged, they will jump in with enthusiasm that might cause you to question your own level of commitment.

Although we may not relish talking about it out loud — I certainly don’t — we are all getting older. And, we all have our preferences, values and biases shaped from a lifetime of experiences, failures and accomplishments that make up who we are as people. It is up to us to offer a welcoming approach to development and learning for our younger colleagues. Additionally, as the current “stewards of the American business experience” it is up to us to lend a hand to maximize their workplace experience.

It’s been said that each successive generation eventually leads the one before it. So look for ways to build bridges to the millennials in your workplace. Find out what is important to them, and help them achieve their goals.  You might be pleasantly surprised by the energizing impact this will bring to your own work life.

What are your workplace experiences with millennials? And are they making an impact at your company? How are they improving your engineering team?

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Diba is Fluid Intelligence!

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