Communicating with Your Multigenerational Manufacturing Workforce

Manufacturer with Tablet

As if running a manufacturing organization wasn’t already challenging enough, we are at a rare time in the industry where the workforce consists of 5 different generations. Each of these generations have unique criteria that motivates them to do their best work and why they choose to stay with an organization. From preferred forms of compensation, to work life balance and manager recognition preferences, no two groups are exactly alike. That’s why it’s critical for employers to understand these characteristics to ensure they are creating an employee experience that is exceptional for each age demographic. 

Multigenerational workforce differences 

One of the key differences when it comes to the multigenerational workforce is their communication preferences, especially now that there are so many different mediums to choose from. For example, most millennials avoid phone calls at all costs and prefer email or texting, while the older generations typically prefer face to face interactions. When it comes to Gen Z, appropriately nick-named iGen, the large majority would rather a quick video recording or video chat versus a long email they need to read. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gen Z comprises roughly 11% of all production employees and that number is growing every year, representing a significant portion of the workforce.  Manufacturers must take this into consideration when deciding on appropriate communication methods as legacy communication styles simply won’t cut it with this group.

While generational characteristics may be a potential reference point for organizations to base their decisions on, you will always have employees that don’t align to the typical attributes of their respective generations. To combat this, some industry consultants recommend grouping employees by their attitudes and values rather than generational demographics, however this can be a difficult and time-consuming exercise.  Add to this the complexity of the manufacturing workforce comprised primarily of hourly workers spread out across multiple locations who may not even have corporate email addresses.

Manufacturing organizations need a robust strategy to effectively communicate with their entire workforce. How can they create this? The answer is to let their employees shape the communication strategy for themselves.

Leveraging technology to diversify communication channels

When relevant information needs to be quickly shared with the frontline manufacturing workforce, many organizations still rely on bulletin boards or in person meetings. In the past this may have been the best option, but not always the most efficient—especially  given the new operational procedures adopted as a result of COVID-19. This is why leading technology vendors are enabling mass one-way communication to be sent to a configurable group of employees to quickly broadcast important messages via text message, email, or phone, depending on employee preferences. This same type of functionality can be used to notify workers if an open shift becomes available, allowing manufacturers to minimize the impact of unplanned absence while letting employees pick up shifts in a way that is most conducive to their everyday life.

To take it a step further, some companies are completely integrating their communication strategies and other workforce management technology into one digital workplace platform. This enables teams to easily communicate with each other, allows for company-wide news to be shared through various communication channels (including video clips), and can even incorporate employee work schedules into the platform.

By deploying multiple communication options, manufacturers can gain a competitive advantage when recruiting the next generation workforce. They can do this all while maintaining familiar communication channels for existing employees to achieve a best-of-both-worlds outcome.

More than just a communication strategy

When considering the best approach for communicating with the workforce, it becomes more than just a tactical decision. Having consistent forms of communication in place helps to build a foundation of trust in the employer/employee relationship, which is especially impactful during times like we have experienced over the past year.

Organizations can no longer rely on outdated practices to keep their frontline employees engaged and productive. Manufacturers must adapt their communication strategies to meet the needs of their evolving and diverse workforce. By making communication more consumable, it will pay dividends by helping to create a positive work experience and lead to higher levels of employee engagement for team members in all stages of their careers.