Our next manager to highlight is Jeff Riedel, the Lean Champion at Saline Lectronics. A major part of Jeff’s work at Lectronics is to transform the organization from a conventional manufacturer to a lean, highly competitive company in order to set them on the appropriate course where they can compete with any electronic contract manufacturer in the business. In this interview, Jeff talks about the unique challenges of dealing with and training millennials, the advantages that they bring to the table, and strategies to help develop them into effective leaders as the older generation leaves the workforce.
Davina McDonnell: What are some of your greatest challenges when managing and leading millennials?
Jeff Riedel: Many times, millennials do not feel a shared responsibility in making the company better and more competitive; rather, they think it is the management’s job to do this. Lean implementation relies on employees using their unique skills to improve the workplace. If millennials don’t feel this is their responsibility, there can be poor participation.
McDonnell: How do you think should management or training be improved as more millennials join the manufacturing workforce?
Riedel: Most millennials are not used to doing “repetitive work”—they see it as a boring job—as manufacturing can require. They are typically used to a fast-paced environment with exciting entertainment, such as video games. Manufacturing is just the opposite. Having the millennials involved in developing the training—using media they are used to—is key. Also, being open to new methods such as rotating the workforce through different positions throughout the day to keep them engaged and challenged.
McDonnell: Do you think millennials have a difficult time being loyal to one company for very long?
Riedel: Yes. In some cases, millennials have a lack of loyalty to the company. Most companies today don’t have a structured retirement plan or help with further education. Many millennials feel the company isn’t taking a personal interest in their future, so they don’t take a personal interest in the company. To many millennials, it is “just a job” and that any other company will treat them the same. Not all millennials feel this way, though; there are exceptions where some millennials are loyal to the company they work for.
McDonnell: Should companies have a new set of engagement policies to accommodate the millennial generation?
Riedel: I don’t think changing the company policy to accommodate one group of individuals is the answer—unless those policies negatively affect millennials. I do feel millennials need to participate in how we engage their group. Having millennials have direct input will help attract more of them to the company as well as help retain them.
McDonnell: From your perspective, what unique challenges do you find in training or managing millennials?
Riedel: Conventional training methods do not work with millennials. They are used to online information and able to self-teach as opposed to group settings. They are also used to video instructions and do not learn as well with only written instructions.
McDonnell: How do you inspire the millennials in your organization to strive more and perform better?
Riedel: Many millennials want to move upward in the company, but they don’t know how. Coaching and counseling is critical to help the millennials find the positions that will challenge and keep them in the company. Encouraging them to “try it” and giving them the confidence to step out of their comfort zone is very important.
McDonnell: What advantages are you finding that millennials bring to the table?
Riedel: Millennials are quick learners—they need to be with the advancements in technology. They are very comfortable with technology and can master tasks, especially complex ones, quickly.
McDonnell: The older generation will eventually vacate many leadership positions. Do you think millennials have the patience and perseverance to become leaders?
Riedel: Leadership does take patience and perseverance, but so do many of the manufacturing jobs in today’s environment. Those millennials who see that they have the potential to become leaders and are encouraged by their mentors will learn to have patience and perseverance. The key for successful millennials in leadership positions is the mentoring process. Many of the current mentors are from the older generation and sometimes seen by millennials as their parents. If the older generation is able to encourage them, and the millennials are able to accept the mentoring and training, then they can become very effective leaders.
McDonnell: How do you think should electronics manufacturing companies attract more millennials to join the industry?
Riedel: First, engage current millennials in the company to help define what is important to them and what attracted them to the company. Then use this input to help market the company to other millennials. Also, have millennials participate in the interview process to help construct the process so potential millennial employees feel a connection with the company.