How Can IT Managers Make Their Old Business Look Like New Business?

Just because you work at an old business doesn't mean it has to look that way to job candidates
Just because you work at an old business doesn’t mean it has to look that way to job candidates
Image Credit: Donnie Ray Jones

As an IT manager one of the most critical tasks that has been assigned to you is to use your IT manager skills to build a world-class IT team that will be able to provide your company with the tools that they will need in order to be successful. However, if you find yourself working for an “old school” firm, you know like one that does manufacturing, just exactly how are you going to get the best and the brightest to join your team? You’ve got to keep in mind that you are competing with the Google and Amazon’s of the world who have shiny buildings filled with sleek computers and no manufacturing artifacts lying around. None of us have any IT manager training to deal with a situation like this, what’s an IT manager to do?

What’s The Problem With Manufacturing?

So what’s the problem with being an IT manager at a company that does manufacturing? The big deal is that millennials (and their parents) view companies that make things as being exactly the companies that tend to move their operations offshore. Working for companies like this is generally seen as a backup; the primary companies that these workers want to work for don’t own or operate factories.

The need to fill IT positions at manufacturing companies is important now and will soon become critical. The need for IT workers at these firms is increasing as the adoption of technology increases. The current workforce is made up of older baby boomers who are starting to retire at a fast clip. A recent study predicts that by 2025 there will be 2 million unfilled manufacturing jobs. Millennials appear to really want to go to work in the technology field and they are turning away from manufacturing jobs. What millennials don’t seem to understand is that technology has become an important part of modern manufacturing.

What today’s millennial workers have not yet come to understand is that today’s manufacturing uses a great deal of cutting edge technology. As proof of this, a recent study showed that more than two-thirds of U.S. manufacturing companies are currently in the process of adopting 3D printing technologies. The same study showed that half of the firms are also currently using robots. It also turns out that manufacturing industry pays its workers well. The average manufacturing worker made $79,000 in comparison to average workers in other industries who made $64,000.

How Can Old School Companies Get Millennials To Join Them?

IT managers need to realize that in order to hire millennials for open IT jobs, the first step is to get them to apply for the job. In order to make this happen, you need to take a look at how millennials are living their lives and what would make it easy for them to apply for your job. In the past, all job applications were done on paper (remember seeing people at McDonalds filling out forms?) Then we moved to online forms. Better, but you still needed to have a nice big monitor to deal with all of the little fields that had to be completed. Now manufacturing firms are finally getting smart and since they realize that millennials live with their phones, they are making their job application process phone friendly and discovering that the number of applications that they are getting is increasing.

One of the biggest challenges that a manufacturing company has is that the types of jobs that they are trying to hire IT talent for may be completely foreign to them. The potential worker does not understand how the manufacturing process works or the critical role that IT plays in ensuring that things go smoothly. Since it would be too expensive to bring the factory to a career fair, what more and more manufacturing companies are doing is to create virtual reality (VR) simulations of manufacturing environments. Because of the novelty of VR, visitors to career fairs flock to the VR demo and have a chance to understand just how complex a manufacturing process can be and the role that IT plays in making it happen.

One of the biggest challenges that manufacturing companies have is that manufacturing jobs are still viewed by many potential workers as being dark and dangerous. What these firms need to do is to find ways to overcome these outdated views. One of the most powerful sources of information about the reality of manufacturing jobs that millennials will both listen to and believe is their peers. That’s why a number of manufacturing firms are sending their younger employees out to college campus to have talks with prospective employees. What they discover is that students don’t have a good understanding of what jobs there are in manufacturing. They want to know what a person with this type of job really does all day. Once they learn this, manufacturing jobs can start to look quite attractive.

What All Of This Means For You

IT managers who work for firms that actually manufacture things have a real challenge on their hands. These firms are often considered to be “old school” and when people are looking for jobs they tend to look for jobs in the technology field at shiny new firms that spend a lot of time doing IT team building things.

The problem is that people have old, outdated views of manufacturing firm. They can remember when firms were closing down and shipping jobs abroad. However, things have changed and manufacturing firms have a real need to fill positions. It is anticipated that by 2025 they may have as many as 2 million unfilled jobs. Millennials and other potential workers need to understand that manufacturing firms are using a lot of cutting edge technology. These firms need to make sure that their job application process works with the mobile phones that millennials are used to using. They need to use innovative tools like virtual reality and they need to have their younger workers tell other younger workers just how exciting manufacturing jobs can be.

The good news is that the manufacturing industry is no longer the way that it used to be. IT managers who work in this area are well aware of the complex technology that has been adopted to speed up and improve the quality of the items that are being constructed. However, now we’ve got to get the word out to a new generation of workers that manufacturing jobs are “cool”. If we can do this successfully, then we will be able to build the team that we need to get our work done.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to show someone the role that IT plays in a manufacturing process?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

With a little luck, we all enjoy being an IT manager. Unlike back in the days when we were simply rank-and-file workers in the IT department, now that we are managers we get to control things. We are in charge of a team of IT professionals and it’s our responsibility to use our IT manager skills to show them how to be successful. However, in order to do all of this, it turns out that there are two skills that each of us has to take the time to master.