Micro-Generations in WorkforceAs more Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age, equipment manufacturers who want to stay competitive are going to need to attract and retain younger workers. But many companies don’t have a plan for appealing to Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z.

And those that do might be basing it on false notions about generational thinking and mindsets. So in this edition of the podcast, Trend Hunter’s Senior Vice President of Research Services Courtney Scharf outlines their new, more precise framework of micro-generations, and shares some best practices that construction and agriculture equipment manufacturers can use to build an inter-generational workforce.

 

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SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Courtney Scharf: In order to survive as a business today, it's really important that you have a workforce that's as diverse as the world itself is. Gaining a deeper and more nuanced understanding of what different generations value and more importantly, where there's common ground can be hugely instrumental in attracting and retaining employees of all ages.

Dusty Weis: Hello and welcome to another edition of the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast, advancing the equipment manufacturing industry. I'm Dusty Weis. If you take a look at the people who work at your company, it's not going to take you long to see that the faces are starting to change. Baby Boomers are retiring from the workforce, and Equipment Manufacturers who want to stay competitive are going to need to attract younger workers. Many companies don't really have a plan for how to do this and those that do might be basing it on the false notion that everyone born in the same 20 year time span thinks the same. That is just not the case.

Dusty Weis: In this edition of the podcast, we're going to talk to Courtney Scharf from Trend Hunter about their more precise concept of micro generations, and the best practices for building an intergenerational workforce at your company. These are the sorts of critical insights that we work to dig up here on the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast. Each month we explore a new subject area to help keep your business on the cutting edge of the heavy equipment industry. If you haven't yet, make sure to subscribe to our podcast feed so you don't miss an episode. We also want to know what you think. Post a comment, rate us or leave us a review in whatever your favorite podcasting app is. It helps other industry pros like you find our show, and helps us keep it relevant to you.

Dusty Weis: In that vein, we hear regularly from AEM members that one of their greatest pain points is recruiting and retaining new employees, both on the manufacturing floor and in other roles as well. While that's certainly not a unique situation in the current economy, in manufacturing, construction and agriculture especially, it's become apparent that there's a bit of a generational shift in play.

Dusty Weis: Part of the issue is that younger workers have different experiences, different attitudes and expectations that they bring to the workplace. In some cases, part of the issue is that employers have had a hard time evolving. In fact, the mental framework that we use to define generations in the workforce, is itself a bit of an outdated concept. To help us develop a new approach to this challenge, today's guest is Courtney Scharf, the Senior Vice-President of Research Services at Trend Hunter. Since 2012 she's been a part of the team at Trend Hunter, a web community where big data, research and human insights are leveraged to help enterprises stay on the cutting edge of societal trends.

Dusty Weis: Courtney Scharf, thanks for joining us here on the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast.

Courtney Scharf: My pleasure, happy to be here.

Dusty Weis: I appreciate you making the time. How are things up in, you're based out of Toronto, right?

Courtney Scharf: I am. It's already quite cold. I'm wearing a full length winter jacket, so that's what we're dealing with.

Dusty Weis: Yeah, I can't say I'm necessarily pleased with our introduction to winter here in Wisconsin either. In fact, it's snowing as we speak right now and that's just, that's not okay.

Courtney Scharf: You know the struggle.

Dusty Weis: My heart goes out. As we begin this conversation, I think it's important to acknowledge the role that generational stereotyping plays in shaping the dialogue between different cohorts. What are some of those stereotypes that are associated with generations in today's workforce? Why are they so counterproductive to building a good workforce?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, so this is a fun question, and I just want to reiterate that these are not my own opinions. These are just the stereotypes that are out there. The basic ones that we hear over and over again are that, Boomers are wealthy and they're technologically inept. We hear that Millennials are of course, the classic, very entitled. Gen Z are basically just a bunch of tech obsessed robots with no social skills. Frankly, everybody says that nobody cares about Gen X. It's pretty harsh.

Dusty Weis: I was worried there for a second that you were actually going to forget about Gen X and confirm that stereotype. Those aren't necessarily true statements about any of those generations. In fact, I would imagine they can be really counterproductive to creating an intragenerational workforce that works well together.

Courtney Scharf: Absolutely, they're so counterproductive kind of in the same way that any stereotype is. It creates a bit of a ceiling and an expectation set and a total bias against individuals. It can really put a cap in terms of what people's potential are and what kind of people you're bringing together to create a better outcome.

Dusty Weis: I feel like you only need to tune into the discussion on Twitter right now for a sampling of why generational stereotyping is so counterproductive. Right now Twitter is like 90% Millennials and Boomers sniping at each other and it's just, it makes my head spin.

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, it's funny that we're having this conversation this week after the OK Boomer epidemic. It's just this huge backlash to all of this kind of exhausting, really reductive conversation around different generations so people are tired of it.

Dusty Weis: All right, so let's turn it on its ear then. What are some of the strengths that each generation actually brings to the workplace?

Courtney Scharf: Yes. Okay, so we're going to go into micro generations later, but here I'm going to keep things pretty broad just for the interest of time. For Boomers, of course the number one thing that they bring to the table is just that life experience. That's really not something you could even take a course on, so it's something that we should really respect from them and take into account. With Gen X, you have a really interesting mix there and the older Gen X you have that resilience and dependability after living through a couple of recessions. You also have the rebelliousness that's sort of inherent and that we know about Gen X. The majority of startup founders are actually in Gen X, so they are some of the ones that are sort of re-envisioning the way that we do work and what a modern workforce looks like.

Courtney Scharf: For Millennials, they of course bring a fresh perspective and they're really used to the idea of disruption. They're great at helping a company really navigate an up and coming competitor and how things are going to look in the future. Gen Z is not really in the workforce so far.

Dusty Weis: Yeah, we haven't really figured them out yet.

Courtney Scharf: No, no. TBD, but they are very entrepreneurial and we know that they have a huge desire to really change the way the world is. I wouldn't be surprised if that extends to the workplace as well.

Dusty Weis: I looked into a little bit of your research at Trend Hunter and I saw that Millennials are universally the most despised generation, even among themselves, among Millennials. Speaking as one millennial to another, why is that? Why do people hate us and is that a fair characterization of our generation?

Courtney Scharf: It's a really interesting question because I mean, the basic thing about Millennials is that, it's such an enormous group. To say that you hate Millennials, it's like saying that you hate a huge portion of the entire population. It's just kind of absurd, but I think what's happened with Millennials is that, a lot of it has to actually do with media. It became a very literally lucrative thing to write about Millennials and sort of argue about why the world was changing and how Millennials are sort of at fault for a lot of the things that older generations don't like.

Courtney Scharf: We've sort of become the scapegoat when it comes to a lot of the things that people don't like that's changing about the world today. I don't necessarily think that it's fair or even accurate a lot of the time.

Dusty Weis: Looking at this then from an employer perspective, why is it so important for employers to have a good understanding of the different generational mindsets that are out there? Why does it seem like so many employers struggle with that issue?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, so the reason why understanding generational mindsets is so important is because, age diversity is something that you not only should want as a company, but it's something that I would argue you need in order to stay competitive. I don't understand how some companies think that they can have just one generation in their company, and still plan to appeal to a broader group when it comes to consumers in general. Diversity is a strength, and understanding the nuances of generations can really help you attract and retain those generations as well.

Dusty Weis: I think it's important to have a discussion about what industries and companies can do to sort of broaden their appeal across a vast variety of generations. First I want to ask, are there any specific industries where, in your opinion, employers are doing a good job of that and they're better at managing different generations?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah. It's really sad to say, but in researching generations, I haven't come across a specific industry that has excelled at this.

Dusty Weis: Oh no, swing and a miss.

Courtney Scharf: I know, I know, but it's too bad and it's something that everybody's sort of grappling right now I'd say. Interestingly, from what I've seen, it's actually something that older companies are better at than newer companies. What we see happening in Silicon Valley especially, and all sorts of startups, is that they tend to skew so millennial and they're really struggling to appeal to older generations as well. It goes both ways and honestly as a legacy company or as a company at that, it's a little more established. You actually have a bit of a better chance at accomplishing this than some of the others.

Dusty Weis: What about then, maybe not from an industry wide perspective, but are there any companies that spring to mind as being employers where they've done a really good job at integrating their generational workforce?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, so AT&T is one that stands out as a company that's put a lot of work, not only behind establishing and creating that age diversity, but all sorts of diversity as well. They've been really intentional about how they went about that. One of the specific practices that they used was actually creating these cross-generational mentorship programs. Not only are these different generations tolerating each other in the workplace, they're actually actively benefiting from the different things that they bring to the table.

Dusty Weis: What lessons then can we take from AT&T and apply to the Equipment Manufacturing industry and the manufacturing industry in general? Manufacturing as a sector right now was having a bit of a tough time finding the talent that it needs. In manufacturing, we see a workforce that is primarily composed of Baby Boomers and some Gen Xers. As those people reach retirement age and exit the workforce, we're seeing this growing vacuum where Millennials and Gen Zers aren't necessarily being drawn into the manufacturing industry. What lessons can we apply from case studies of AT&T about how AEMs members can take a generational mindset to their own workforce?

Courtney Scharf: I think a lot of it comes down to really, not just relying on say putting a ping pong table in the conference room in order to draw Millennials.

Dusty Weis: Oh that is my least favorite stereotype about how to bring Millennials in.

Courtney Scharf: It's very condescending, so the thing I'd say is, it's kind of important to be really explicit about the ways in which you're catering to what the generations need. Generations like Millennials, like I said, don't just want the ping pong table in the conference room, they want a lot more than that. Of course every generation wants the basic things like respect in the workplace and work-life balance and that kind of thing. What makes younger generations' sort of unique in terms of what they expect from the workforce is, really that flexibility in terms of their work schedule. If there's any way that you can sort of make some considerations with that, I think that would go a long way, even if it's just a shift in the right direction.

Courtney Scharf: I think it's important to, again, foster those really positive relationships between different generations within your company. It's important not to just assume that that's going to happen on its own. At Trend Hunter one thing we do is we really purposely create these collisions between different teams in order for them to sort of benefit from each other and sort of shake things up in terms of who they're interacting with. I think sort of instituting a regular place where these groups can come together and learn from each other is super important as well.

Dusty Weis: Sort of this notion of tearing down the organizational silos that keep employees in the workforce separate from each other then?

Courtney Scharf: Absolutely and different departments tend to be very siloed as well. At traditional corporate offices, the development team is often very young because these are people who know how to code and they've become masters of it. That's just one example of where it becomes all the more valuable to break down those silos and bring people together for a common goal.

Dusty Weis: In my experience at various organizations throughout the years, I've often found that there's like a little bit of pushback to those sort of efforts to break down the silos, because ultimately I feel like silos happen because they're comfortable. A lot of people like to stay in their comfort zone and they don't necessarily like to go out and introduce themselves to Bob from marketing or Jane from human resources. Is there an exercise or a best practice that you know of that companies, especially manufacturers can use to sort of build those bridges throughout the workforce?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, so I can do it. I can actually talk about how we do this at Trend Hunter and it happens through sort of one of two ways. One of the, I guess more fun ways that we institute this is by having a fun bonding experience with the entire team, where we'll go out and actually experience one of the trends that we write about, so that's an easy poll. Everybody obviously wants to go out for ice cream and socialize and that kind of thing, so that's an easy way to do it.

Courtney Scharf: Actually a more effective way that we've done it and we're leaning more into now is having these, about once a month we'll have a workshop where we're actually all coming together to solve one team's problem. This is happening through a workshop that we all do, and the thing that I think drives at home is that there's always actually solid results that everybody can see as a result of coming together from those workshops. I think really making sure that it's purposeful and that the results of that coming together is actually showing up and being visible to everyone, is really critical to making sure that people feel like it's a good use of their time.

Dusty Weis: I like that notion a lot actually, not just because it draws people together, but because it sort of allows a fresh perspective in to help solve a problem that you're having come up regularly. I know that very often myself, I get stuck in sort of this feedback loop of I'm having a problem, I can't figure out how to fix it and so I get upset. Then it makes my problem worse and I get stuck going around and around. I like that notion of bringing in a fresh perspective to help a team solve their problems.

Dusty Weis: I would imagine that the first time that you did that as a group, whichever department had to go first felt pretty awkward about it. Like nobody likes stepping up to the plate and saying, "Oh we've got a real problem here guys. Can you help?"

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, I think it was actually probably one of the more senior groups that went first just to sort of get over the hump. We didn't experience a ton of that, I think just because of the nature of the company here. We're very open about the problems that we do have, but we made sure that this didn't feel like it was a drag. We made sure that even though this is a workshop that has results, it's still something that's enjoyable to be a part of.

Courtney Scharf: At 3:00 PM there's wine involved. We do it at a hotel down the street where it's a pleasant environment to be on, and we always do them on Fridays in the afternoon. There's actually a sort of casualness that's a part of the process as well that I think also keeps it pretty light and enjoyable.

Dusty Weis: I've found that the introduction of wine into almost any process really takes the edge off a little bit and makes it easier to tolerate.

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, true words never spoken.

Dusty Weis: AEM as an organization has more than 1,000 members. Many of them are longstanding manufacturers that have been in existence for more than 75 years in some cases, more than 100 years. In fact, AEM this year is celebrating its 125th anniversary as an organization. As an industry, Equipment Manufacturing has been through a few generational shifts overtime. Do you think that this topic of generational mindsets is a new one? Or is this just something that we talk a little bit more about in this day and age?

Courtney Scharf: It's an interesting question because I think it certainly feels like we talk about it more and more these days. There's certainly more platforms where people can make that discussion louder, I would say. Honestly, people assigning specific different attributes to specific generations is really a tales oldest time. There's examples of Aristotle talking about young people and stereotyping them, and that goes back God knows how many centuries. This really is sort of something that's been going on forever, but it's just getting a lot more lip service today.

Dusty Weis:  I actually, a couple of years ago, I was talking to a fellow who does management consulting for construction firms. I'm glad that you brought that up because he mentioned sort of the same thing that some of the exact same Baby Boomers now who are cutting on Millennials and Gen Zers about how they're soft and how they don't know the value of a good day's work. When those Baby Boomers joined the workforce 30, 40 years ago, they got ripped on by the older generation that had been there before they had as well for being soft and not knowing the value of a good day's work. I really think that a good deal of this can just be written off to good old fashioned curmudgeonism

Courtney Scharf: That's probably fair to say. I mean, yeah, people have always taken issue with young people on the way that they do things differently. There probably is some credibility to a number of those arguments, but I think the thing that Millennials have taken on more than any other generation is that, we are young in a way that is very public thanks to social media. There's all the more material for older generations to pull from in terms of creating those stereotypes and reinforcing them and sort proving them in a way.

Dusty Weis: Is the advancement of technology beyond just social media and cellphones, is that impacting the gap?

Courtney Scharf: I think it is because in a lot of ways you see, like I said at the beginning of the interview, there is that assumption that Boomers don't know anything to do with technology. They're technologically inept, they're unwilling to learn, but we know actually in our research that that's by and large not true. Even just the perception of that being true, really holds a lot of Boomers for instance back from roles that they might take on. Conversely, it actually sort of, it kind of pigeonholes Millennials in terms of what their skills are as well.

Dusty Weis: I want to dig in a little bit then on this concept of micro generations. This is something that Trend Hunter is focused extensively on defining. Before we get into that, we kind of got to examine how generations have traditionally been defined, how demographers have delineated between different generations. Is it really just as simple as drawing a line every 20 years and saying, "Okay, this is a new generation here. We need to come up with a catchy new nickname for them,"?

Courtney Scharf: It's kind of hard to believe, but it actually by and large does take place that way in a way that's really sort of very arbitrary. It seems like aside from Boomers who are obviously inspired by the post World War II boom, a lot of them were sort of tossed around by the media. It took a couple of years to figure out what everybody could agree on, but they sort of come to fruition in that sort of organic way. It's really not something that's done with a lot of intention in mind, to be honest. Just maybe why they're so messy and broad.

Dusty Weis: They just kind of threw it at the wall and saw what stuck.

Courtney Scharf: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dusty Weis: Okay, well you guys have developed a better approach I would say personally at Trend Hunter. You've delineate generations into what you call micro generations. What are those and how do you go about divvying them up?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, so there are nine micro-generations. What we've done is we've taken those four basic generations that everybody knows and we divided them by these delineations that are a little bit more meaningful, because we find more in common with these specific groups than with the larger Gen X let's say.

Dusty Weis: Essentially what causes these micro generations to stick to each other here, is this more of a shared experience sort of a thing?

Courtney Scharf: Exactly. We broke them down to be a little more specific in terms of the time range. What they all had in common was the specific moments and their general lifespans, and their general characteristics that resulted from and during those specific events. Again, this is obviously very broad and it will not apply to everybody in every micro-generation, but we find it a lot more useful in terms of targeting and really understanding the nuances of each group.

Courtney Scharf: Under the Boomers, we have the Leading Boomers, so these are the oldest Boomers. They're between the ages of 65 and 73, and with this group we see that they are primarily people exhibit characteristics like being very dutiful, very adventurous and actually highly idealistic, which is something that I don't think they get enough credit for.

Courtney Scharf: Beneath them we have the Neo-Boomers, so this is another very rebellious group. They're between the ages of 55 and 64, and we see that they are highly self-preserving. Again, they have that rebellious edge, and they're actually very restless. Because of all of this, they're redefining what it means to grow old, which is really exciting to see.

Courtney Scharf: Under Gen X we've broken this group out into two as well. We have the older group, which is Gen XS, and because of all the recessions that they lived through and all that they've been through in general, they're an incredibly independent, they're a very inquisitive group. They're very persistent as well, which has led to the fact the average age of the Fortune 500 CEO falls within this group at age 50.

Courtney Scharf: The younger sister group of Gen X is actually Gen Xenos, so they're between the ages of about 38 to 45 now. These are sort of the classic Gen X that we've come to know and love. They are very anarchistic is the word that we use. They're also incredibly pragmatic, so they're very practical and they're actually more tech savvy than they get credit for as well.

Courtney Scharf: Under Millennials, this is such a huge group that we actually had to split them into three. At the very top we have the Pro-Millennials, so they are very competitive. They're about 32 to 37. Then we have the Mid-Millennial, I'm actually in this cohort between 26 to 31 and lastly, we have the Nouveau-Millennial from 21 to 25. The nouveau millennial are actually the ones that were helicopter parented at the most, which has resulted in a lot of the things that we hate about Millennials, I guess you could say. The Pro-Millennials were actually the last group in the Millennial generation or the only group to escape helicopter parenting. They actually show up in the world a lot differently than you might expect.

Dusty Weis: I actually fall into that category myself, and I've heard the Pro-Millennial generation be called the Oregon trail generation. The idea being that we grew up playing the eponymous video game Oregon Trail, which not only did you play on a really old 386 style computer, but you had to load in using three and a half inch floppy disks and load from the DOS prompt. We're sort of the micro generation that didn't grow up with social media. We didn't grow up with smartphones. They came to us when we were already in college or in our mid to early 20s sort of like that.

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, and what we've seen interestingly with that group is that, because social media came out at a time when your group was just beginning to have these huge accomplishments, like getting into university or graduating university, that group has actually shown to be the most competitive on social media and just be more competitive in general than we see in other groups.

Dusty Weis: Oh, go on, say more nice things about me.

Courtney Scharf: It's not a bad thing. They're very accomplished, very reliable people as well.

Dusty Weis: Using this framework then, what else could we use this framework for? Like when we're looking at the difference between the two generations of Baby Boomers as a for instance, how can we use this more specific understanding of those generations to build a stronger workforce?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, I mean I'll say that I think it's important not to overuse a framework like this or any other framework that is about broad points about generations. I think that's where you can get in trouble, especially if you misunderstand a data point and over apply it in terms of your strategy. As long as you're using it in a way that's like more leaning into it and using it as context, I think it could be really helpful in terms of understanding how to appeal to a specific generation, how to keep them happy in the workforce. Which is another whole piece of the puzzle is, making sure that they want to stay at your company.

Courtney Scharf: It can be useful just in terms of understanding what's going on with them more broadly. For example, that Nouveau-Millennial, they're dealing with student loans that are much worse than we see with the Pro-Millennial, which kind affect what they expect in terms of their salary and that kind of thing as well. It's very nuanced, but it's always helpful to just have that information to use as context and background information.

Dusty Weis: I'd like to kind of plumb the depths of that a little bit more here. What are some of the other things that you can do to make your workforce more attractive to people from the different micro generations? Can we kind of go through case by case and pick out something that can really help motivate people in the workforce if they are of a certain cohort?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, sure. I mean, I said this earlier and you have to make sure that you have the basics down. You're paying people fairly, people are getting that respect that they desire in the workforce. They just have the general conditions that we all expect in terms of the baseline. Beyond that we actually see that Gen X and Millennials actually put a bigger emphasis on salary than Boomers, and that might be because of the debt that a lot of them are under.

Courtney Scharf: For Gen X they really value flexibility, which is something that shows up with Millennials to a huge degree as well. It's something that they really value and work-life balance sort of falls into that as well. For Millennials we also know that they have a really strong desire to feel like they're a part of something bigger and that they have a lot of room to grow.

Courtney Scharf: Another thing I'll add with the Millennials is that, we're in a bit of a loneliness epidemic when it comes to North America right now. You could see that more broadly too, but we really see it in North America most predominantly. For Millennials, and we see them really seeking out these communities and that's very true of the workplace as well. Not to go back to the ping pong table that I was talking about earlier, but whatever you can do to help facilitate those bonds and that feeling of community when people come to work, is actually going to be really valuable when it comes to attracting and retaining talent especially.

Dusty Weis: Just sort of creating that feeling of belonging. I like that you brought this notion of needing a sense of one's place in the world. I think that that's something that as companies in the Equipment Manufacturing sector go about trying to recruit and retain this younger workforce, I feel like the focus has sort of shifted from, well how much are you going to pay them and what benefits are you going to provide? To taking the approach of, this is why what you do has a larger effect in changing the world and making the world a better place.

Dusty Weis: Are there any other sort of specific tips that you have for manufacturers as they're trying to retool their approach to hiring and recruiting and retaining talent from a labor pool that is getting younger and they've not necessarily been able to have a lot of success drawing from in the past?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of what it comes down to is treating your prospective employee kind of the same way that you would a prospective consumer or a prospective client. You really want to draw these people in and make sure that you're putting experience at the forefront of what it's like to engage with your company. Not only being explicit about what those benefits are and alleviating what worries they may have. Like you said earlier, making sure that they're going to feel like they're part of something bigger and something that's moving the world forward in a way that aligns with their values.

Dusty Weis: When it comes to employers, specifically manufacturers that are trying to attract, recruit and retain younger workers into their workforce, what are some of the most common mistakes that employers are making?

Courtney Scharf: I think something that they do is they assume they can pull in Millennials and maybe they even succeed at doing that. They're not very intentional about the way in which those groups interact with each other. I think the biggest misstep of all is just not doing any coaching about how people can manage and can really effectively coach people who are from different backgrounds and different ages specifically. It's kind of something that's left out of the diversity equation we see a lot of the time. I think just even putting a little more money, a little more investment behind that coaching would make a huge difference.

Dusty Weis: I think you're onto something there because I feel like for years and years, the approach to building an intergenerational workforce has just been, okay, well we'll put them together and they will figure it out. Not sort of counting on the human nature of finding your silo, finding your comfort zone and then staying within that. What programs are available for employers to do a better job of stirring the pot with that?

Courtney Scharf: I mean, I think always tapping into your human resources department to be really prescriptive and very specific about what actions they can take in order to facilitate more of that coaching and more of that involvement that I think is a really powerful step. For many companies, it's just getting started on this because frankly, I haven't seen a lot of programs in action. There's not even a lot of research out there, so it's just a matter of getting started on making that happen. Even maybe just getting from people who work at your company on how they could better be aligned and sort of learn up to that.

Dusty Weis: Does that responsibility lie exclusively with human resources departments or are there other folks that need to pick up the slack as well?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, it definitely shouldn't and you know what, that's a really good point. It may be a good place to start because this is of course something that can be very sensitive as well. I think your ideal point would be where everybody at the company feels empowered and feels educated in terms of how to navigate this kind of issue.

Dusty Weis: Given the specific nature of the equipment manufacturing industry, is this place where companies have had a lot of success doing the thing that they've done for decades and decades in a row here and there are certainly some entrenched mentalities. How should AEM members position themselves to better compete for top talent in 2020 and beyond?

Courtney Scharf: Ooh, that's a good one. My big point here would be not to over rely on your company's legacy, because Millennials have seen so many huge companies topple out of the new era of disruption that we're in. Saying that you're going to go work for a huge company, it doesn't really have the same panache as it used to. It certainly doesn't hold up to something as cool as saying that I'm going to go work for say Google.

Courtney Scharf: Young people today especially, they want to work for companies that are driving the world forward. As much as of course the legacy is hugely important, it's also really important to focus on the vision for the future.

Dusty Weis: Courtney, we've talked a lot about the classic generations that many employers know and have played a big role in the workforce up to date, but there's this new trend coming just when you think you've got it figured it out. Gen Z is starting to enter the workforce now. Who are they and what can we expect as they start to become a part of the work?

Courtney Scharf: Yeah, it's certainly going to be interesting to see them entering the workforce because they are by and large the children of Gen X. They definitely have inherited that rebellious spirit and their entrepreneurial spirit as well. Many of them probably won't even come to work at your company, they will start their own thing. Rather we're seeing a shift in terms of how many of them are actually going to get formal schooling. Many of them are shunning these student loans in order to sort of go do their own thing, but that entrepreneurial spirit is really going to be an asset in terms of whatever company that they join. For them it's just going to be really important that they can exercise that entrepreneurial spirit and see their ideas in motion.

Dusty Weis: I guess what's the best way to get value out of a generation that values in entrepreneurial spirit? It sounds like they're just going to come in and disrupt everything, and if they do, is that really a problem?

Courtney Scharf: I think the best thing you can do with a generation like that is just empower them and give them some guardrails of course. They are really going to value that independence and that flexibility, so you might actually just be really capping what it is that their potential is by keeping them too specific within a scope or a specific project to see the full potential. You're going to have to loosen the reigns a little bit I'd say.

Dusty Weis: Well Courtney, this has been a fascinating discussion. I think there are a lot of insights that Equipment Manufacturers can look to apply to their own workforces so thank you for those. Senior Vice-President of Research Services at Trend Hunter, Courtney Scharf. Thank you for joining us on the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast.

Courtney Scharf: My pleasure.

Dusty Weis: Courtney and Trend Hunters take on micro generations in the workforce is a great example of how AEM continues to expose its members to bold new ideas for staying on the cutting edge of the industry. Another example that you're not going to want to miss is coming up next year's CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in Las Vegas. In the tech experience pavilion, AEM will unveil a 10 by 22 foot model of the smart city of the future, complete with sensor networks, data processing, and the ability to respond to changing conditions.

Dusty Weis: It's a very cool chance to see some of the future forward concepts that we talk about on this show. Get deployed on a model scale. If you haven't made your arrangements to attend CONEXPO-CON/AGG yet, you'd best get cracking. It's March 10th through the 14th, visit conexpoconagg.com to learn more.

Dusty Weis: Also make sure that your calendar is marked for the AEM Product Safety seminar, that's April 27th through the 30th in the suburbs of Chicago. It's a great chance to meet and network with other professionals like you and learn about business strategies that drive safety in our industry.

Dusty Weis: Well, that is going to wrap up this edition of the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast. For more valuable industry insights make sure that you're signed up for the AEM Industry Advisor, our twice weekly e-newsletter visit aem.org/subscribe. If you need to get in touch with me, shoot me an email at podcast@aem.org. The AEM Thinking Forward Podcast is brought to you by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and produced by PodCamp Media, branded podcast production for businesses, podcampmedia.com. Little Glass Men does the music for this show and for AEM thanks for listening. I'm Dusty Weis.

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