Gen Z-ers, millennials have been called lazy and entitled. Could their loyalty be key to innovation? 

Our industry is currently facing a big shift in its workforce composition, we are not manufacturing the same way we used to, and our threats are evolving:  

  • Constant push to use automation to reduce costs.   
  • Government pressure for sustainable manufacturing and sustainable innovations forces the design, supply chain, and manufacturing process to constantly change. 
  • Cybersecurity  
  • And coming technological changes with artificial general intelligence (A.I.), for instance.

Our workforce composition will determine success in all of these.

The age gap is evident in several technologies like A.I.

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For instance, just open any YouTube video on A.I. and there is likely a millennial or GenZ-er describing it and demonstrating new uses for it.

More innovation has occurred in AI in the last four months than in the last 20 years and younger generations are driving the change.

While the GenX-er and Baby Boomers are brainstorming how to best take advantage of A.I. technologies, millennials and GenZ-ers are innovating, driving them to see how far it can go.

And it’s the same in cybersecurity, sustainability, and automation.

Companies that retain the best and brightest talent, will be in a greater position to lead and implement new technologies.

For instance, the A&D sector most commonly reporting robust ability to retain talent is commercial space where companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin offer attractive roles.

This gap is not because of better pay or more benefits, on the contrary, in more traditional A&D, pay and benefits are comparable and often better.

These are the things that GenZ and Millennial talent value most: 

  • A culture of experimentation, where breaking things and mistakes is encouraged. 
  • Connection with the greater purpose of the organization to their personal future 
  • Greater demographic diversity in culture and talent

None of this requires increasing benefits or pay.

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Aerospace and Defense players who are unable to retain young talent risk losing out to competitors

This competitive disadvantage will show up as: 

  • Struggling to innovate and develop new technologies at the pace required 
  • Limiting their ability to address emerging customer needs. (ie. government initiatives for sustainability). 
  • Missing opportunities in automation makes it difficult to compete on price with rivals that leverage talent to drive automation.

We are at a critical point where A&D companies must innovate or watch the new players following a different talent playbook take the stage.  

Creating teams that are problem-solvers, not task executors, will change the team’s ownership of solutions and therefore their loyalty. 

This stability will help us face the ever-changing landscapes we are now facing.   

  • A supportive and innovative workplace culture that prioritizes work-life balance, employee development, and freedom to explore cutting-edge technologies. 
  • A career path showing a larger purpose to the work. Fostering a sense of community and collaboration driving high performance and innovation. 
  • In a brighter future, we’ll have strategies to implement a developmental plan, succession plan, and provide guarantees for stability in the organization.   

Millennials and Gen-Zers value this above pay and benefits.

With this loyalty from younger talent, we can accelerate our product development cycles and reduce time to market, empowering them to solve their problems and tackle organizational challenges, freeing up managers to focus on strategic thinking and planning to see what’s coming ahead.

Attrition reduced from 111% to 58%

When Jon Trevor joined Master Electronics as Head of People, he immediately recognized a big opportunity for improvement. The operations department—the largest team and hub of orders, shipments, and all the nuts and bolts of fulfilling customers’ needs—had a turnover rate of 111%, more than double the industry standard.

Since working through a process to hire better candidates and cultivate better working relationships, the Master Electronics leadership has shown employees they’re committed to making the company a great workplace.

The results speak for themselves: 

  • Total company attrition dropped from 71% to 38%. 
  • Distribution center attrition reduced from 111% to 58%, a 53% decrease. 
  • Headcount increased by 13% while new hire attrition dropped by 32%. 
  • By reducing turnover, the company saved $2 million in recruiting, onboarding, and training costs.

Building the Future of A&D with Talent Loyalty 

KMP’s NextGen Excelerator program gives A&D leadership the tools and skills to engage and retain the next generation of leaders, thus ensuring a stable and innovative future for the industry.

Through the Engage, Develop, Loyalty framework we help leaders:

Engage them with a sure path of success within the company, not just in a vertical, but options that cross-utilize their abilities in other areas of the company.

Develop them by leveraging the expertise of Gen-Xers and Boomers to mentor Gen Z into more emotionally aware and relational leaders. Also, prescribing a roadmap by which they can successfully transition into new positions.

Create loyalty from young professionals with a personal, less transactional approach to work on an individual level. Giving them a feeling of being valued and essential to the organization.  

Get in Touch

I am passionate about working with A&D leadership teams to help take them to the next level of innovation. If you would like an informal conversation about how we can help, please send me a direct message here on LinkedIn or you can schedule yourself in my calendar by clicking here

Karen Pierce is the founder and CEO of KMP Consultants, a former aerospace corporate leader with extensive experience in leadership development specifically for hi-tech manufacturing, aerospace, and defense, she’s helped organizations like Sauer Danfoss, Northwest Airlines, and Honeywell. Karen also is a flight instructor, former charter pilot, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics from the University of Minnesota.