We now move on to the issue of managing millennials. It’s a common complaint from managers that millennials simply don’t want to be managed. First, we have Eric Hassen, the vice president of test engineering at Saline Lectronics, to give his views on the millennial workforce in manufacturing, along with tips to successfully manage and grow them into becoming strong leaders.
Davina McDonnell: Tell us a little about the type of generations that you manage.
Eric Hassen: I manage a few different groups, which have varying degrees of skills and education. The mix is approximately 65% millennials to 35% baby boomers. The technical staff is made up of mostly baby boomers.
McDonnell: What are some of your greatest challenges when managing and leading millennials?
Hassen: Keeping them interested and focused on their work. They are easily distracted and need to have clear direction, and defined expectations, to keep on track.
McDonnell: With the increasing number of millennials joining the manufacturing industry, how do you see the way you manage or train your team evolving?
Hassen: I believe that training of millennials need to evolve by using technology and interactive participation as ways to keep them engaged in learning new things. Hands-on experience with immediate feedback is also necessary when training new skills. Millennials need all of the information to understand the importance of following the process, and clear, concise work instructions. Managing them requires keeping them involved in problem solving, building their knowledge base and confidence, and allowing them to understand the impacts of change.
McDonnell: Some analysts say that millennials have a difficult time being loyal to one company for very long. Do you find that to be true?
Hassen: Yes. They seem to be internally focused and are only loyal to themselves. I see far less commitment to the organization and their job, and more focus on social and personal needs. I also feel millennials have a difficult time on solving hard problems; they look for an easy solution and lose interest if results aren’t achieved quickly.
McDonnell: Do you think companies need to have a new set of engagement policies to accommodate the millennial generation?
Hassen: I think all company policies should be reviewed and adjusted, as the company evolves, whether from a business perspective, or changes within the workforce. From the perspective of changes for millennials, I think companies need to look at ways to retain them, by keeping them engaged and contributing to the success of the organization. The cost of training employees to be effective contributors to the company are high, and retaining them is essential. Many companies are making changes by becoming more flexible and casual with business requirements.
McDonnell: What unique challenges do you find in training or managing millennials?
Hassen: A challenge I have is making sure I’m clear in my communication. Sometimes, I’m amazed at what someone heard versus what I said. They seem to have a high confidence when they say they “got it”, but later we find out a detail was missed. Some struggle to take notes. I also find that millennials are not observant and don’t challenge things that don’t make sense, they just keep going along. Another challenge in managing is the conflict between the baby boomers and the millennials. It can be a struggle having them see things from different perspectives, both sides. Boomers see millennials as lazy, unproductive, and careless. Millennials see boomers as picky, cranky, and micromanagers. When conflict arises, both parties need to talk through the issue with a third party to get to common ground, which is easier said than done.
McDonnell: How do you inspire the millennials in the company to strive more and perform better?
Hassen: Keeping them involved with problem solving and new assignments. Empowering them to make changes they believe will improve things.
McDonnell: What advantages are you finding that millennials bring to the table?
Hassen: They are more technically advanced, pretty easy to work with, and eager to learn. When asked, they have ideas on how to do things differently.
McDonnell: The older generation will eventually vacate many leadership positions. Do you think millennials have the patience and perseverance to become leaders?
Hassen: Yes. I believe they will figure out what’s needed and adapt to be successful.
McDonnell: Finally, how do you attract millennials to join the company?
Hassen: We are in the right industry for them, most think they know everything about computers and electronics anyway, so it’s easy to get them in. Our challenge continues to be keeping them challenged, valued, and interested in the manufacturing processes can be repetitive.