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I recently had an opportunity to serve as judge for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) middle school project titled “The School of the Future.” The project was based on 4 criteria: the learning environment, the physical environment, community interaction and environmental impact.  Some of the students had amazing ideas and designs while some of them didn’t seem to embrace the project.  As I listened to over 30 presentations, I started to pick-up on some themes including:

  • Students find value in project based learning.  They reject the notion that they need to learn individually.
  • They want to be in control of their curriculum
  • Most of their research is done on Google
  • They believe that learning should be fun
  • Utilizing technology is important
  • Protecting the environment is a priority for them

I’m not suggesting that I completely agree with them and there were times when I questioned their thought process.  But, it was an interesting glimpse into how millennials think.

So, how does that impact us in the work place? This is a different generation and they aren’t going to think like we do. So, we need to adapt our approach so we can keep them engaged.  Some suggestions on how to do this include:

  • Consider providing opportunities for your employees to work together on a project, such as Kaizen events, department specific 5S or even utilizing process improvement tools such as Brainstorming/Cause and Effect Diagrams.
  • Incorporate technology into your plant.  This doesn’t need to be a complete overhaul of your plant.  Some less expensive ways to use technology to engage your employees could be a company e-newsletter developed by your employees, or transition training into an interactive portal where they can establish their own curriculum and schedule (within reason, of course).
  • When you do conduct live training, ensure it is interesting and engaging.  If it isn’t, check out this article on ways to improve it.
  • Identify a company sponsored project outside of the plant to help millennials feel engaged at work.  Perhaps your company can get involved with Earth Day, or some other cause that resonates with your employees, industry and/or your community.

Millennials aren’t going to change and it is up to us to modify our approach so they can stay engaged at work.  Because, if we don’t, they will find an employer who will adapt their approach to meet their needs.

For more practical tips for manufacturing professionals to attract, train and retain your hourly workforce, go to