How manufacturers can attract and retain Millennials and Gen Z talent

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Analyzing the past three years of Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, Awardco recently found that the manufacturing industry is hemorrhaging talent; 2020 had a manufacturing turnover rate of 44 percent; 2021 had a 40 percent rate, and 2022 sat at 39 percent. Baby boomers (1950-1965) have retired or are about to, with Gen X (1965-1980) hot on their heels. Millennials (1980-1995) and Gen Z (1995-2010) now make up the bulk of the workforce. Why does that matter? Well, in 2023, CNBC reported that 66 percent of Millennials and 72 percent of Gen Z were considering a career change within 12 months. What would you do if 72 percent of your workers up and left?

Different age groups will attribute different motivations, or lack thereof, to these statistics. A vocal segment of people attributes it to “nobody wanting to work anymore.” This is debunked rather quickly: Ask any person voicing that opinion what they would do if they won the lottery, and you would hear “quit my job” in a large portion of answers. After all, it wasn’t a Millennial that directed Office Space.

Similarly, Millennials and Gen Z still want to own homes, save for retirement, buy nice things, and take trips to cool places — a list very similar to Baby Boomers and Gen X. No, the more likely answer is there is a mismatch in career expectations and values. Ignoring that mismatch is part of what makes manufacturing’s turnover rate so high. Today, we’ll focus on two aspects of the mismatch: professional development and job flexibility.

Millennials and Gen Z tend to avoid what they perceive to be dead-end jobs. According to Harvard Business Review, 88 percent of surveyed workers rated professional development and growth opportunities as important aspects of staying at a job. Older generations may think, “Of course, you have to earn it by going above and beyond. Prove your worth of the company’s time and money.” Newer generations don’t agree.

The younger generations’ mentality is, “If there’s no clear path to gaining skills, certifications, or a promotion, the company doesn’t care about my growth. If these things are available to me, I will go above and beyond to achieve them, but I do not owe the company anything.” When put side-by-side, it’s easy to see how the two mentalities can come into conflict and result in the idea that “young people don’t want to work anymore.”

Whether or not you personally agree, it’s important that newer workers are provided with professional development opportunities, which is something that AGMA has already developed. Each year, AGMA offers 25-30 courses to help workers get the gear-manufacturing skills they need to succeed and develop professionally. You can browse all AGMA courses and learn about succession strategies at agma.org.

Professional development isn’t the only thing the newer generations want from their jobs, though. As reported by Deloitte in 2023, Millennials and Gen Z value flexibility and balance in their careers more than wages. This is a particularly tricky facet of the modern workforce that manufacturing has trouble adapting to in the United States. Manufacturing has traditionally used long shifts with plenty of available (and sometimes mandatory) overtime.

This is a hard no-go for many Millennials and Gen Z, especially if there’s a long commute involved. Given the nature of manufacturing, it’s hard for everyone to work remotely or have flexible scheduling. If that is the case, then there are two things to avoid whenever possible: Avoid swing shifts or any type of scheduling that changes the time of day an employee works (such as switching from days to nights). Avoid scheduling for more than five workdays in a row.

As a result of this mismatch of expectations, AGMA members have been reporting over the past few years they have trouble developing succession plans due to the skills gap or can’t attract workers to fill well-paying roles. If this a problem that you are struggling with, reach out to agma.org/membership. We’ll be happy to schedule a time to talk about how AGMA membership can help you alleviate those issues.

Register for 2024 Annual Meeting

Join AGMA and ABMA for this member-exclusive event nestled among the vineyards of Napa, California, at the Meritage Resort & Spa. Gear and bearing professionals from companies all over the world will gather to listen to experts in economics, trade, workforce development, supply chain management, political forecasts, and more. Aside from the informative presentations and interactive workshops, attendees will have plenty of time to network during curated events, dinners, and activities.

Don’t miss out on the event that brings together the leaders in our industries and is the best place for high-level, C-suite executives to receive tangible takeaways and actionable advice back to their businesses.

For more information and to register, go to: agma.org/event/2024-agma-abma-annual-meeting.

Upcoming Webinars

What’s going on with Section 301 and Section 232 tariffs? 

March 21 | 1 p.m. ET | Webinar

This year marks the sixth anniversary of U.S. tariffs on imports from China and separate tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum products from various countries. These tariffs — some as high as 25 percent — have had an effect on a range of companies and industries. In this webinar, we will examine the impact on the bearing and gear industries and prospects for the tariffs being continued or modified in 2024 and beyond.

What the Bearing and Gear Industries Need to Know about New Government Contracting Requirements

April 18 | 1 p.m. ET | Webinar

The start of 2024 marked many important changes to the laws governing companies that supply goods and services to the U.S. government — an especially important area for companies in the bearing and gear industry that supplies products to federal transportation and defense programs. In this program, we will highlight several of these key changes, including new cybersecurity requirements, restrictions on sourcing, and audit and reporting obligations that can often make or break project costs and tell you what you need to know to successfully navigate these challenges.

Upcoming Education

Basic Training for Gear Manufacturing

April 8-12 | Chicago, Illinois

Learn the fundamentals of gear manufacturing in this hands-on course. Gain an understanding of gearing and nomenclature, principles of inspection, gear-manufacturing methods, and hobbing and shaping. Using manual machines, develop a deeper breadth of perspective and understanding of the process and physics of making a gear as well as the ability to apply this knowledge in working with CNC equipment commonly in use.

Integration and Trade-offs in Gear and Bearing Systems

April 23-24 | Ann Arbor, Michigan

The purpose of this class will be to cover the concurrent design and analyses of gears and bearings in integrated systems such as gearboxes, transmissions, and electric motor drives, so as to allow for good integration and faster optimization of the overall system.

This will help gear engineers and suppliers better determine the trade-offs with the bearings, help bearing engineers and suppliers similarly with the gears, and system engineers better understand both.

The examples covered are generic but should be useful both within and across industries that use these components and systems.

New course: EV Automotive Transmission System Design

April 23-25 | Ann Arbor, Michigan

This course will cover all aspects of gearbox concept, development, design, and through the initial stages of analysis as related to product requirements.  We will review all the most common EV transaxle architectures, power flow, and layout and the “whys” of packaging as such.  Independent of the architecture and/or layout, there are many similarities in the functional and operational requirements of an EV transaxle gearbox. From a high-level point of view, the “big” difference between transaxles for EVs (electric vehicles) and transmissions designed for more traditional manual transmissions (MTs) and/or automatic transmissions (ATs) is the lack of the “noisy” internal combustion engine or ICE motor. An internal combustion engine driving into a typical gearbox provides a great deal of NVH masking. Thus, we obviously need to design quieter gearboxes to reduce the potential of observed gearbox NVH, now potentially unmasked by the lack of the ICE signature and magnitude. However, and moreover, the signature from an ICE is much different than from the electric motor. The new input signature, frequency, and magnitude cause a shift to higher frequencies and generally lower magnitudes of vibrational energies. That, in turn, becomes a more significant consideration in terms of gear design and application. We will discuss this and more throughout the course.

For a full list of the 2024 courses, go to: Course Offerings :: American Gear Manufacturers Association (agma.org)

Calendar of Events

March 14-15 — Worm Gear Committee — WebEx

March 14-16 — 2024 AGMA/ABMA Annual Meeting — Napa, California

March 21 — What’s going on with Section 301 and Section 232 tariffs? — Webinar

April 3 — 2024 Emerging Technology Webinar Series — Webinar

April 8-12 — Basic Training for Gear Manufacturing — Chicago, Illinois

April 16-19 — Detailed Gear Design — Alexandria, Virginia

April 18 — What the Bearing & Gear Industries Need to Know about New Government Contracting RequirementsWebinar

April 18 — Aerospace Committee — WebEx

April 22-26 — Worm Gear Committee — Paris, France

April 23-24 — Integration and Trade-offs in Gear and Bearing Systems — Ann Arbor, Michigan

April 23-25 — EV Automotive Transmission System Design — Ann Arbor, Michigan

May 1-3 — 2024 Strategic Networking and Leadership Forum — Milwaukee, Wisconsin

May 7-9 — Gear Manufacturing & Inspection — Wilmington, Delaware

May 14 — High Speed Enclosed Drives Committee — Webex