Manufacturers are facing transitional and educational challenges in their workforce, now more than ever. Finding and keeping skilled employees has been a constant struggle for many manufacturers, and recent surges in the economy have added to the challenge of keeping up with production. Close to one third of manufacturing employees are over the age of 55, which means companies have to strategize on how to deal with the imminent gap in knowledge and experience. Management has had to consider some creative tactics to retain its human capital.  In this two part series, we will identify specific tactics to consider in addressing these challenges.

Entice Baby Boomers to Stick Around Longer

Though it appears to be somewhat of a short-lived solution, some manufacturers are making company policy changes to delay retirement for the most loyal and experienced employees in their workforce. Programs like flexible schedules and job-sharing are making potential retirees re-consider making a clean break at 65. Creative manufacturers are taking measures to make their workplace more physically comfortable for this generation by making ergonomic adjustments to shop facilities. If these efforts to keep baby boomers working prove successful, companies can reap the advantage of having these “veterans” mentor and teach the younger, less experienced employees. Smart managers see these boomers as playing a crucial role in their succession plan.

Proactively Plan for a Changing Work Culture

How will management deal with succession planning when the new hires don’t think like the outgoing generation?  Baby boomers and millennials don’t play the same, and it stands to reason they don’t work the same either. Jack Finning, a partner at AAFCPA, summarizes this well in his article The Massive Retiree Wave Demands Manufacturers Embrace Planning: “…boomers are known for using a direct management style through which they dictate the process for workflow management. Younger generations, on the other hand, are more open to a holistic managerial approach… motivated by transparency, engaged with workers in the field and thriving off ideas that help move processes along or evolve in a new direction.” Generational differences can become barriers to transitioning from senior to more junior workforce. The most successful companies planning for the inevitable changing of the guard will do so by collaborating with their workforce to establish thought-out best practices, determine common expectations, and stay communicative.

For more information, the following links offer two perspectives on how today’s manufacturers are adapting to the changing landscape in America’s workforce.