The Boomer generation is getting ready to retire from the manufacturing industry they’ve dominated for decades. 

Which is good news for Boomers, but bad news for manufacturers. Because once Boomers rightfully retire, who replaces them in the workforce?

Many manufacturers are asking themselves this question (even now) as more and more of the manufacturing workforce moves towards retirement. Who is next to fill these open roles when the Boomers exit the workforce, especially when the industry still isn’t an employer-favored hiring environment?

Anyone hiring in the manufacturing industry right now knows that it’s still very difficult to recruit and hire people to fill open positions. And that is going to get increasingly harder once Boomers really exit the workforce and there isn’t a steady stream of candidates to take their places. There is a real talent shortage of new talent coming into the manufacturing industry and any manufacturing company who is not figuring out how to overcome this shortage is going to be left in the dust.  

So what is the answer?  It’s inspiring about 73 million people to consider manufacturing for a career path. Those 73 million people make up the millennial workforce which is on track to be the biggest share of the workforce in the next few years. 

Talking about millennials gives many a sour taste, but it’s important to understand the generation, what motivates them, and how manufacturing businesses can really inspire them to join the ranks in the manufacturing industry and stay long enough to create a clear and rewarding career path and to fill in the open positions manufacturing business big and small have right now.

What do millennials care about when it comes to finding a job?

There is actually a lot of data out there, studying how and why millennials do what they do. Looking at this data clearly shows that millennials care a lot about connecting with the business and their mission. The data that has been collected points to a desire for truth, clear communication and transparency, and being authentic as ways that millennials want to connect to the company they work for. So what does this important point mean?

Serious male worker using digital tablet in juice factory

It means that a clearly stated vision and mission can inspire a millennial to join the ranks of a business. Keeping a millennial means having that clear mission and vision communicated, displayed and executed at all levels of the organization. For instance, if you promote an inclusive environment but haven’t taken the time to foster clear ways in which someone can raise issues when they feel an environment is not inclusive could cause your best millennial employee to find greener pastures.

This generation wants to be part of something bigger than themselves – and want to find an organization that can express to all of those working there what impact their work does for the greater good of their customers. 

Their contribution to the manufacturing process is important, but why? 

The overall “thing” that’s manufactured has what impact locally, statewide, or globally? 

This may seem like a lot of “feel good” messaging but it really boils down to a good understanding and articulation from the executives on why the business does what it does. Clearly conveying that overall mission and vision is a good exercise for any business to take on, despite if it’s trying to inspire millennials to work there. A move like this can unify staff and create a renewed sense of pride in your current employees.

Portrait of a young worker at a large metalworking plant. The welder engineer works in a protective mask.

Millennials also care about a positive and open work environment. That includes clear communication channels and ways to express their thoughts and concerns. Not every single person all the way up the management chain needs to have an open door policy, but there should be a clear and outlined way in which someone can express an idea or concern and know it will be heard. 

Having open communication channels must also happen quickly as well. Millennials (and honestly a vast majority of people) are used to being able to have quick feedback and conversations on the fly and a business would be smart to develop ways that communication can happen that fast between employees in your organization. Emails, instant messaging, and intranets can all work to find fast ways for communication to happen. 

Another important note is that millennials value great company culture. A great company culture goes a long way too in attracting and retaining millennial talent. This not only helps in recruiting millennials but helps in recruiting any top talent of any age. A great culture also helps keep that top talent working hard for you and not looking for other opportunities elsewhere. 

What motivates a millennial at their job?

Besides a clear mission and vision that explains the greater goal of the products and services a business produces, there are a lot of other ways to motivate all employees, including millennials, to give it all they can and foster innovation and good ideas. 

Highlighting all the tech-forward jobs someone can have at your business is a good way to attract millennials to your company. Showcasing jobs like CNC machinists, technicians, and programming can open someone’s eyes to the possibilities of the future of manufacturing. 


Millennials also care about health, safety, and cleanliness. This is timely considering businesses have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic – but showing this and talking about these initiatives can go a long way in attracting and retaining millennials. But this type of transparency in initiatives also goes far with your other employees too! 

Another motivation for millennials is having an outlined career path to show them just how they can move around a business and advance their career. Millennials have been taught to work hard and reach for the sky when it comes to advancing in a company and are eager to do so. Outlining career paths helps keep millennials on track and motivated and again, motivates your current employees as well. (Do you see a theme here??)

Part of a career path also includes continuing education. Keeping millennials (and current employees) up to date on training and finding new ways to train staff means a more skilled worker. A more skilled worker saves the company more money in the end and should be considered a great investment. Engagement like this shows employees you are invested and want to see them successful, learning new skills to make them better at their current position or even transfer into a new and better position. 

What can employers do to attract and inspire millennials to work for them?

Going back to our original point of creating a clear vision and mission and conveying it in everything your business does, it’s important to have that message available on all of your digital platforms. Further, having an inspiring message about how your business is integral in this sector, or how your products help solve a problem for your region means that other great talent (besides just millennials) can see and be attracted to your business. It’s really a good move!

Industrial workers with face masks protected against corona virus discussing about production in factory.

Industrial workers with face masks protected against corona virus discussing about production in factory.

Another thing that employers can do is to highlight all of the positives that come from joining the honorable ranks of the manufacturing industry, like security, pay, and longevity of career. While there is a move toward more automation, there is still a great need for talented people to work in the manufacturing industry to help with these processes. Highlighting things like how manufacturing has the highest average wages of private sector industries at about an average of $81,289 and also includes the highest tenure for workers at 9.7 years. 

Also important to note – make sure you have a strong and clear digital presence so that you constantly work to attract this top talent in a lot of places they’d go looking for you. A clear website and a consistent social media presence both help to show off the great things your company has to offer anyone, especially millennials. It can also help you connect with talent early on, before they even look for a job with you, creating a really strong and positive relationship before employment even starts. 

Worker cutting metal with plasma equipment on plant.

Don’t rely on those older articles that talk about “nap lounges”, free snacks, and scooters to get around the building. Those stories are for tech businesses out on the coasts and are not truly reflective of the way millennials truly think about perks at work. 

Perks that are great for millennials and all other employees are comprehensive health care packages, employee wellness incentives, ways to connect and have fun with their peers, and connection with upper management as often as possible. 

Why do you want to attract the millennial generation to your workforce? 

It’s no surprise to any manufacturer that their seasoned workforce is exiting due to a variety of reasons – and this mass exit is leaving many scrambling to fill open positions with qualified and eager candidates. Since millennials are one of the biggest generations working in society now, it makes sense to target and attract them to your companies because there are so many of them. In 2020 millennials make up about 50% of the current workforce*. 

Confident female applicant smiling at job interview with diverse hr managers, young happy professional candidate talks to multiracial recruiters makes good first impression, employment hiring concept

The value of having millennials part of your workforce is they begin to force businesses to improve communications and technologies. While this seems like it can cause disruption, it very likely can create an opportunity for a business to evolve and improve efficiencies and compete better in their industry.  

Millennials’ desire to have clear career goals and career planning contributes to better talent management strategies for companies.  The clarity that comes from mapping out career paths means every one of your employees benefits. Current employees can realign with career paths and these new career paths can help a business with employee success planning and working on ways to keep their “bench warm” with other employees who are working on skills that allows them to transition to the next job role when necessary.

Millennials in the workforce may not be what you originally planned, but not working on ways to attract this generation means missing out on the talent you need to fill your open positions and ultimately keep your business running in the future.   

Don’t do all the “heavy lifting” yourself. 

Trust a partner like GTR to help you find great talent, including top millennial talent. We’ve got more than 18 years of experience helping businesses big and small put extra muscle behind their hiring efforts. We have dedicated staff and the right resources to help you lighten your hiring load. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.