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The Key to Fixing the Industry's Talent Shortage: Millennials

Oct. 2, 2015
In this Manufacturing Day special report, USG's senior director of talent reveals how they entice young people to join the industry.

The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte recently released a study showing that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled in the United States over the next decade. However, with the working age population shrinking and baby boomers planning to retire, the pool of young talent needed to fill those jobs is sparse. Simply put, it is a supply and demand issue that has created a “war” for millennial talent among the industry.

To combat this problem, industry leaders established Manufacturing Day, taking place today, to inspire younger generations to pursue careers in the field. It is a day to spread the word that manufacturing is not the same as it was 30 years ago—or even one year ago. It is a rapidly changing field where a variety of different skills are needed in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math.

Manufacturing Day also serves as a reminder for industry leaders to examine their own organizations’ initiatives to attract and retain millennial talent. What are you doing to entice young people to join the industry? How is your company adapting to the changing workforce? What can your company do better?

At USG Corp., a manufacturer of building materials and technologies, we take the “war” for millennial talent seriously. That is why we are continuously improving our recruiting programs and talent management initiatives to better align with the changing workforce. It is proving successful: Approximately 52% of our full-time hires during the past three years have been millennials and that number is continuing to grow.

How are we doing it?

Mobile Recruiting

Millennials are mobile. Many use smartphones to access the Internet more frequently than they use a desktop computer, and some have ditched computers entirely. Last fall, USG rolled out a mobile application that allows candidates to apply for jobs right from their phones. Nearly 7,000 potential employees submitted their applications on a mobile device in the program’s first year, which is roughly 20% of all completed applications.

Social Media Job Postings

It is no surprise that millennials are active social media users. According to Pew Research Center, 89% of 18-29 year olds who use the Internet are active on social media. Therefore, we are going to where millennials are spending their time and recruiting for jobs on social media. During the past year, we have increased the number of job postings and recruiting events that we share on USG’s social media channels. The use of videos and SEO in our recruiting efforts has also helped garner greater visibility of our job openings.

“Tours of Duty” Approach to Staffing

Millennials like variety. We took a lesson from the military, which actively moves all professions and working staff around to different roles throughout their careers, and developed a “Tours of Duty” approach to staffing at USG. This has really resonated with our millennial-aged workers, who are interested in moving around the company and trying out a variety of different roles. Approximately 12% of salaried employees in the U.S. and Canada are working in a different functional area than they were in 2010. It is also helping millennials grow, with 41% of salaried millennials in the U.S. and Canada promoted during the past three years.

Specialized Training for Working with Millennials

Millennials are different than baby boomers. It is important for professionals of all ages to understand and adapt to how different generations work. We inform our teams on the differences and preferences in each generation and train on ways we can all effectively work together.

For our manufacturing plants, we recruit and hire millennials to work as engineers, many of whom are female. We started a group called “Women in Manufacturing” to help mentor, guide and support new female engineers, helping them to not only succeed in a manufacturing environment, but excel. This is an investment in our future leaders.

These are just a handful of examples of how USG is combating the millennial talent shortage, but there is so much more needed to be done to solve this problem facing American manufacturers. We must take it upon ourselves at a personal, organizational and industry level to ensure American manufacturers have the resources and talent needed to stay competitive—not only on Manufacturing Day, but in the weeks, months and years to come.

Gina S. Max is the senior director of talent management and diversity for USG Corp. During her long tenure with USG, she has worked in a number of human resources and field leadership roles in both the subsidiary and corporate business units. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to play a key role in manufacturing and distribution leadership where she led cross-functional teams to update organizational structure, create new programs, and implement change. Max leads USG’s talent management and diversity function where she brings with her the experience from the manufacturing and distribution organization, including operations and sales, as well as extensive expertise supporting the corporate headquarters. She has responsibility for workforce planning, talent acquisition, training and development, performance management, succession planning, organizational design, and diversity and inclusion. Max received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Penn State and a master’s degree in business administration from Capella University.

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