The Evolution of Manufacturing: Keeping Up with a Millennial Workforce

Morrison Industries CEO Jacob Wilson discusses employee engagement at a FABTECH 2018 panel discussion.

It’s no secret that today’s manufacturing workforce is rapidly changing.

With a steadily growing millennial pool that is on its way to making up about half of the total U.S. workforce by 2020, many employers are finding that the old way of engaging their employees is simply not working anymore.

A young generation with a fresh outlook is demanding more, and companies are left scrambling to find out exactly what that means.

Raised by hardworking tool and fab entrepreneurs, Morrison Industries CEO Jacob Wilson knows a thing or two about manufacturing. He also knows what it takes to appeal to today’s growing millennial workforce – because he’s one of them.

Wilson recently took to the stage at FABTECH 2018 to discuss how manufacturing companies can appeal to this new generation of employees.

“As a young CEO and someone who grew up working on the factory floor, this was a great opportunity to share with other manufacturing leaders my unique experience,” Wilson said.

He explained that engagement is a high priority for younger generations. Mentorship is one practical and effective way to engage younger or less experienced employees while passing down many lessons that have been learned the hard way by their more seasoned counterparts.

Another area of focus within his own company is “treating employees the way you would a customer,” according to Wilson. “It makes it easier to evolve if you see the relationship through that lens.”

Wilson is also a fan of embracing the grit. “Capturing the beauty of sparks flying and getting your hands dirty” has its own appeal to a very hands-on generation that values authenticity.

While these adjustments have a positive effect in gaining and keeping millennial workers, Wilson also notes that the benefits don’t just stop with young people. “I’ve learned that empathy and engagement are more important than policies and pay structures, regardless of generation. Manufacturing must learn to evolve with the times in order to capture the attention of the best and brightest.”