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ResourceMFG | Manufacturing Workforce Specialists
There's a growing generational gap in manufacturing.

"Okay, boomer."

It's a phrase often joked about on social media when referring to the beef often stemming from the generational differences between older baby boomers and millennials. Although there are plenty of differences between these generations, on the manufacturing floor, everyone should be working towards reaching the same goals. When these differences become an issue in employee relations and the productivity of the team, someone needs to address them.

How big is the generational gap in manufacturing?

As the older generation gets closer and closer to retirement age, younger generations will need to step up to the plate in manufacturing environments to ensure the continued flow of the economy. In fact, manufacturing is one of the top industry players in determining economic health. According to the CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance, for every job created in a manufacturing environment, there are 3.4 jobs created in other sectors. Something no other industry comes close to matching. It's important that any generational gap is dealt with promptly before it impacts the future of our country.

With ¼ of the manufacturing workforce being over the age of 55, retaining younger employees is essential. Pew Research reported that 3.2 million more baby boomers retired in 2020 than in 2019. There are expected to be 2.1 million industry jobs open by 2030. This means that 25% of the manufacturing population will need to be replaced in fewer than 8 years. So what should human resources (HR) professionals be doing to help close the generational gap in manufacturing?

How to close the generational gap in manufacturing

HR managers should be implementing multiple strategies to begin bridging the gap as early as possible. Opportunities include:

  • Offering more part-time employment possibilities to high school and college students, incentivizing them with apprenticeships, tuition and career advancement opportunities.
  • Holding job fairs in areas where younger generations will notice. Consider hosting events online or in-person that attract potential employees with contests and food.
  • Trying to bring generations closer together while on the manufacturing floor, providing them with culture-building options that both build employee engagement and help them find common ground. A mentorship program could also be beneficial.
  • Focusing on methods for long-term sharing of knowledge. Many employees who have worked in their focus area for years have decades of accumulated knowledge and experience that shouldn't leave with them when they retire.
  • Reevaluating the way manufacturing environments are led and how employee salaries, paid time off and bonuses could be negatively impacting the retention rates of younger employees. Some staff may enjoy longer shifts with more days off and others may like shorter shifts – aim to meet them where flexibility allows.
  • Innovating in areas with advanced technology when possible, which will support employees in making their workload lighter as well as keep the workflow consistent with less need for manual power.