The Factory of the Future

Young professionals millenialsRecently, I was waiting in the lobby of Amazon headquarters at the Day One building for a contact of mine. As I watched the movement of hundreds of workers in and out of the secured entryways, I was fascinated by how much our workforce has changed. They were almost all young or at least under 35, dressed in every sort of clothing you could imagine, all ethnicities, shapes, and sizes, and almost a quarter of them had dogs with them. It suddenly dawned on me that this is truly the factory of the future.

So, what do these workers of the future want and need? How as employers do we compete with the global players like Amazon to attract great talent? From my own observations, I would say the first thing they want is flexibility. I was told that the volume of “people traffic” going in and out of the building is the same at any time of day, so it wasn’t a shift change that I was watching. It seemed clear that flexibility to work the shift or times they want, do the work they want, bring pets, and the opportunity to live and work in the same community so they had time to actually “live” in the community beyond work were core priorities for this workforce. I suspect many, many others share these same priorities. Amazon has intentionally created community near their headquarters, creating an urban environment that is attractive to this demographic.

Another thing that seemed to be a priority was diversity. It was really striking to watch and see the mix of genders, ethnicities, age (except anyone over 50!), and individual character on display. There didn’t seem to be one “uniform” or one look, it was whatever you felt was your way to be.

Now, I was just watching this so my conclusions might not be correct, but it was a striking comparison to the factories of 40 or 50 years ago. For smaller employers, it will obviously be more difficult to provide the flexibility that some are looking for but remember, not everyone wants to work from home. A good slice of the workforce today actually likes coming into an office, for a variety of reasons, they just want flexibility on schedules and days. You can probably work this into your businesses depending upon the types of jobs you have.

The last thing is not something I observed, it’s something I know – this workforce wants training. Any way you can help them grow their skill set will be a bonus to most of them. The caveat is that you may not be able to take advantage of it fully because you won’t have them for more than 3-5 years. However, just by making training and development a priority, you will keep them longer and create an attractive business culture that includes learning where most can do their best work.

Is your company ready for the workers of tomorrow?