Entering the mindset of today’s potential workers by Lisa Ryan

Entering the mindset of today’s potential workers by Lisa Ryan


 "The youth of today Jove luxury. They have bad manners, they disrespect their elders and they prefer chatter in place of exercise."

   Do these complaints ring a bell? The quote is attributed to Socrates, who issued it around 432 B.C. That means we have been complaining about our younger generations almost since the beginning of time.

   Some of the issues for us as bosses have remained the same over the years: we're trying to adjust to more relaxed thinking, wishing our youth had as much respect for our businesses and plants as we have. We might even translate "chatter in place of exercise" to: why do they always have their noses in their smart phones?

   But, as an employer in current, skills-hungry marketplace, those of us who don't understand youth at least enough to get them to work for us may well be in trouble. Unless you are ready to adapt your business strategies to both the generations currently in the workplace and those soon to be entering, you will not have the staff that can help you compete.

   Probably, the best place to begin is to simply understand the differences between the generations we have today.

Briefly, those include:

Traditionalists (also known as the "silent" or the "greatest" generation. Born before 1945, this group was raised to "pay their dues"-to work their way up through an organization. They were hardworking, fiercely loyal, and they trusted authority. They did not expect to be recognized for doing their job because it's what they get paid to do. Since these people are mostly retired today, we're not looking to hire them. But they helped to formulate the bases of our companies' leaders. Since many of the leaders in ICPA are now second and even third generation, the traditionalist attitude was their fathers' or grandfathers' thinking and some of that may have rubbed off.

• Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers are the generation for which the term "workaholic" was created. They lived to work because they were taught to do so, and they put in the "facetime" (and I'm not referring to iphones here) necessary to climb the corporate ladder. Their extreme dedication to career caused

some imbalance in their personal lives, leading to a high divorce rate and an increase in single-parent households. Many of our managers and industry leaders today are baby boomers or children of baby boomers and some of our part-time personnel might be balancing retirement with work.

• Generation X. Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen Xers were the first generation of latchkey children, and they were raised to be independent. They saw the toll that spending too many hours at the workplace put on their parents, and thus desired more time with their families. This is the generation that introduced the concept of work/life balance and many of our leaders today struggle with this balance. However, not only is this currently the smallest generation in existence, they also were steered away from manufacturing/trade occupations by their parents, thus causing today's large age gap in many plants.

• Millennials (Generation Y). Born between 1981 and 2000, the Millennials make up the largest percentage

of the workplace today. The group is almost as big as the Boomers (75 million Millennials versus 80 million

Boomers). Just like the Boomers, this group is poised to change business as we know it, and many of them are

tomorrow's leaders and managers. They were raised embracing technology, recycling and initiatives to take

care of the planet. They are the most educated of the generations, and many are dealing with the repayment

of large student loans. Because they are used to receiving continuous feedback, they expect the same level of recognition, respect, and relevance that's been ingrained in their values since their childhood. Serving a mission greater than themselves and making a difference is an important personal initiative for them, and they are looking to join an organization that makes the world a better place.

• Generation Z (sometimes known as the iGen). Born sometime after 1996-2000 (the years get fuzzy among experts when defining both the Millennial and this generation), this group has seen the struggles Millennials faced, including "helicopter" parents hovering while keeping tabs on how they are doing, high student loan debt,

and a negative perception from older generations that they are "lazy and entitled." This generation is distancing themselves from Millennials as much as possible because they are seeing these negative perceptions. Meanwhile, Gen Z is used to being part of a “gig" economy--a term used to describe an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations seek out independent workers for short-term engagements. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40% percent 0f American workers would be independent.

   Because the Reg Z generation values flexibility, they are much more likely to consider contract work and entrepreneurship.

   These are the generations that make up today's workforce from our leaders down to our part-time personnel. To understand how they can work together in your plant and office, you need to know how they think. However, by understanding the general traits of each generation, you can learn to accept and appreciate the differences and create a more harmonious workplace.

   Meanwhile, here are my ten strategies that can help you attract and retain the youngest of those generations.

1• DEVELOP CAREER PLANS AND PATHWAYS FOR PEOPLE TO RISE. For the first ten years of their career, Millennials, on average,will switch jobs four times. They will either move into different positions within one company, or they'll take their skills to a new company.

   By creating a personalized career development plan for new employees, an employer can provide more opportunities that this generation can see may offer different ways to advance within your company. They also can see the best fit for their skills. This plan requires listening to what employees want in their careers and then helping them to achieve their goals.

2 • START EARLY. Because Gen Z is less enthusiastic about value of higher education, many go straight

into the workforce. Tapping into this pool of candidates as early as possible can give your organization an advantage over companies that wait for potential hires to graduate from high school or college. One good way to do that is to work with local schools. Participating in events such as "Manufacturing Day" (first Friday in October. See the Fall issue of Cast Polymer Connection) is a good way to connect with elementary and middle school children as well as with their parents.

3 • LEARN TO BE FLEXIBLE. Today’s youth, with its “gig economy” mindset wants choices. Offering flexible schedules, opportunities for cross-training and time off to work on charitable projects are benefits that resonate with both Millennials and Generation Z. These younger generations thrive on life-long learning, career growth and having a mission, instead of just holding down a job.

4 • FIND WAYS TO CLEAN UP. Unfortunately, one of the problems with manufacturing today is image.  Many younger workers still see manufacturing plants as dirty, boring, smoky, dismal places to work. Providing a clean, safe environment with good air quality not only improves worker productivity, morale and retention, it also plays a critical role in recruitment. Today's plant managers not only need to make clean a reality, they need to be out there telling the world just how clean and safe their facilities are. Cleaning up the workplace also creates manufacturing employees who want to stay with you.

5 • LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Millennialsand Gen Zers don’t necessarily want to punch in, punch out, then go home and not think about what they did during their work day. They have a lot of energy, and they want to contribute their ideas and that energy. Why not take advantage of this? Create ways that you and your plant managers can embrace their unique perspectives and leverage their ideas. Find ways to recognize their participation in achieving company goals.

6 • LEARN TO RESPOND QUICKLY. Multitasking is a way of life for younger generations today. They are used to watching videos, hanging out with friends and texting-and are often doing all three of these at the same time. Because of this constant connection, they also expect to be able to communicate immediately with their bosses, and they expect a quick response. Learn how to effectively use that smart phone of yours, as well as email and other channels that allow you to respond as quickly and thoroughly as you can.

7 • PROMOTE SAFETY. Because both Millennials and Gen Z were buckled in a car seat as babies, taught to wear safety helmets while cycling or skate boarding, and have always had the feeling that someone was keeping them from harm, they expect the same in the workplace. As leaders, you need to convey everything your company is doing to protect its employees. You need to stress how you go beyond and above to provide them a safe workplace.

8 • LOOK FOR WAYS TO INSTILL CONFIDENCE. Millennials do not appreciate feeling like rookies. As the most educated of the generations, they already believe themselves to be leaders. Even if they are not there yet, you need to let them feel like working for your company will get them there. Today’s younger generations want to be recognized for what they bring to the table. They also desire to confidently contribute from day one in position. This group likes to learn skills and technology – encourage them to do so by offering good training programs and opportunities for bettering themselves such as the Certified Composites Program.

9• TAKE FIELD TRIPS. Have you signed your managers up to go to POLYCON 2019? Why not? The younger generations need to be exposed to industry trends and best practices and one way you can do that is by taking them or allowing them to attend tradeshows, supplier open houses and demo days. You don't have to be able to afford to take the entire staff to a national show, of course. But there are many opportunities in your own communities. Let your entire team experience the excitement of the cast polymer and manufacturing worlds. Find ways they can see new technology and assess today's business trends for themselves so they can see where their industry is going.

10 • USE METHODS TO SPREAD THE SKILLS. Companies that want to get ahead today have to learn to set up mentoring, not just reporting relationships between employees and their managers as well as other tenured employees who can show them the ropes. Set expectations for both mentors and mentees so they know what is expected of these mentoring relationships. Then schedule frequent check-ins to see how the relationship is working and have a defined period with an option to continue if needed and wanted.

   When it comes down to it, the youngest of your workers ultimately wants the same things most of the rest of your workforce want. They want to be treated fairly and with respect; they work best when acknowledged for their efforts; they need to feel valued by the organization.

   There are differences of course. The rapidly changing workplace of today means leadership teams have to study every aspect of their businesses so they can make changes necessary to keep up with the technically savvy, ever-multitasking people who are seeking today's jobs. But finding ways to do that means you're building the pathway to a future that includes the best quality staff.


LISA RYAN is founder of Grategy, is an award-winning speaker and is a best-selling author of ten books, including "Manufacturing Engagement: 98 Proven Strategies to Attract and Retain Your Industry's Top Talent."

She is keynote speaker at POLYCON 19 Kansas City. Learn more at www. LisaRyanSpeaks.com.

Lisa has studied the entering workforce and their mindset to accomplish personal and company goals.