By Susan Hileman, NWIRC Strategic Business Advisor

Generational diversity often looks at issues with generations communicating ineffectively resulting in lost productivity. Often, we hear “They don’t do things (ie, work, learn, have the same values) like we do.” The newest generations don’t now, nor will they ever, have the same perspective. Why? Society has shifted. Common behaviors, attitudes and beliefs have shifted. As an industry, manufacturing is often slow to reflect the changes it sees, especially when it may take more effort and costs to the company. Like turning the Titanic, industry will adopt new practices, but often only after a period of resistance…slowly coming to terms with a new way of doing things.

Think OSHA. For years manufacturing operated in unsafe working environments, accepting it as the norm because “Hey, that’s the way we’ve always done it!” Prior to 1970, there was little effort or money invested in safety programs. Early adopters of new safety practices quickly realized that it not only provided productivity gains, but companies became preferred employers in the region because workers felt safer. Industry slowly changed. Manufacturing injury and fatality rates dropped. While it required an investment into programs and practices, employees no longer had to take risks that were likely to cause physical harm or put their families at risk of losing their main source of income due to workplace accidents or fatalities. It was a shift and a win for everyone. Unsafe work practices once considered the norm, have become the exception.

Today’s industry shift to become a preferred employer means you take human resources seriously and listen to what is important to the newest generations about the way you do business: your approach to work, community, balance, family and what you value. While many companies say, “People are our greatest asset” it’s a shift—a change—in the way they do business to be more transparent, authentic, ask for input, use technology, invest in training, provide options for flex time, job sharing, mentoring, career pathways, etc. Do you have to put these practices in place? No. But early adopters are finding that it not only provides productivity gains but positions you as a preferred employer in the region. And THAT gives you access to the best and brightest talent out there! It’s a shift change you should consider.

Side Note: Susan Hileman presents an educational program on Generational Diversity as a Competitive Advantage in Oil City on January 23rd. See for details.