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Filling the Pipeline of Next-Generation Manufacturing Leaders

Posted By Jeff Moad, July 22, 2014 at 1:51 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

Manufacturers should care a great deal what members of the so-called Millennial Generation think. That’s because, by 2025, Millennials—those born from the early 1980s through the early 2000s--will make up 75% of the global workforce. Manufacturers hoping to cultivate and grow the next generation of leaders will need to understand what Millennials want and how they think.

And, it turns out, they think a lot differently than their predecessors. They have higher expectations that the companies they choose to work for will play a much more active and innovative role in solving many of society’s problems. They also expect that their employers will cultivate a highly innovative, collaborative culture, and that they will be provided with ample and early opportunities to grow into leadership roles.

These are a few of the findings of a global survey of 7,800 Millennials recently conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. The survey asked college-educated, employed individuals who were born after 1983 what they expect and value from an employer.

The most consistent finding of the survey is that Millennials believe that, in addition to delivering financial results, corporations have an obligation and an opportunity to provide innovative solutions to what they perceive as major societal problems such as climate change, resource scarcity, and income inequality. In the survey, the largest group of Millennials—44%--said businesses are most likely to generate the innovative solutions needed to address society’s most pressing problems. Meanwhile, 23% said universities will come up with innovative solutions to society’s problems, while only 22% said government would.

Eighty-six percent said businesses have a great or fair opportunity to solve climate change problems, about on par with Millennials’ expectations for government. Seventy-eight percent said business has a great or fair opportunity to solve the income inequality problems of society, only slightly below the 83% that believe government has a great or fair opportunity to provide solutions to those challenges.

They expect the companies they work for to collaborate with government to solve those problems. And they want to be part of the collaborative mix in solving those problems.

Fifty percent of Millennials said they want to work for businesses that adhere to ethical practices.

Unfortunately, Millennials believe most businesses are not doing enough to solve many of society’s most pressing problems. Millennials said business today delivers a net negative impact on societal problems such as climate change, income inequality, resource scarcity, and privacy.

Millennials, meanwhile, believe businesses are delivering a net positive impact on major challenges such as education/training, cyber-security, and the stabilization of national economies.

They also value being part of what they perceive as a highly innovative business culture, and one that values collaboration. More than three quarters of Millennials surveyed said, when deciding which companies to work for, they are strongly influenced by how innovative the organization is. This is especially true among Millennials living in emerging markets. Roughly 90% of Millennials in China and India said they value a company’s reputation for innovation when deciding for whom to work.

But, in many cases, they say are not finding those things. Roughly two-thirds of Millennials responding to the survey said the outlook and attitudes of management—such as the reluctance to take risks--are barriers to innovation. Millennials said their managers also are often too reliant on existing products, services, and ways of doing business and they are unwilling to collaborate with other businesses or academia.

Millennials were also critical of businesses’ poor communication and lack of formal processes to enhance innovation.

And they are impatient with the leadership training they are receiving. Only roughly half of Millennials agree that their organization does all it can to develop their skills as a leader.

Millennials’ criticism of their current managers is perhaps not surprising. Today’s manufacturing leaders are from an earlier generation. They came up through a system of top-down, command-and-control decision-making and a much narrower vision of the role of corporations within the broader society.

But I am beginning to see even older, more traditional manufacturing leaders attempting to change, even if it means hiring coaches to help them understand and connect with high-potential Millennials in a more collaborative fashion.

Millennials will demand this type of accommodation, or they will leave, often to work for themselves. The Deloitte survey showed that roughly 70% of Millennials expect at some point to work independently rather than being employed within a traditional organizational structure. The danger of losing talented Millennials is even greater in emerging markets. While 52% of Millennials in developed markets expect to eventually work independently, this figure rises to 82% in emerging markets.

The bottom line: businesses that align their cultures to the values and expectations of Millennials will enhance their pipelines of next-generation leaders. And they will remain more competitive.

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit

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