Bridging the Trades Gap

It’s no surprise the demographic landscape of the workforce is evolving rapidly. Millennials now officially make up the largest segment of the workplace; graduating Gen Zers are quickly becoming a part of the mix; Gen Xers are stepping into leadership roles; and for many Baby Boomers, retirement is just around the corner. But while the people are changing quickly, workplaces are evolving slowly.

One way we’re helping organizations tackle these demographic shifts is through our Generational Readiness Assessment® (GRA). We’ve developed the GRA to help organizations uncover their most critical generational pain points and the solutions that can lead to measurable results. Specifically, we focus on improving recruitment and retention practices for Millennials and Gen Zers and uncovering concrete ways to engage a multigenerational workforce. Our holistic approach to assessing organizations allows us to uncover key gaps in strategy and tactics and propose targeted, actionable solutions to help them reach the next level and stay ahead of the game.

To illustrate a high-level approach to the GRA, we’ve applied this tool to the trades and manufacturing—an industry that’s been struggling with a growing talent shortage for the past decade. Experts and leaders aplenty have tried to get to the bottom of this issue, yet few have approached it with a generational lens. In response, we’ve used a few of our GRA indicators for recruiting, retaining, and engaging to offer some broad-stroke ideas and suggestions for how to get more fresh-faced workers in the industry.


As easy as it would be if every generation were attracted to and motivated by the same things, that isn’t the case. Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute have consistently found across surveys (2011 and 2015) that manufacturers depend on outdated approaches for recruiting. Rather than get lost in the noise with the same strategies you’ve always used, consider Millennials’ preferences for work and how your company matches them. Many young workers don’t know you have variety in daily work, opportunities to grow, financial stability, or chances to literally build the community. Highlight these desirable features in job postings and other recruiting efforts! Striking that great first impression with Millennials will be a total game changer in getting the right people in your door.


Sometimes you can get them in the door, but you can’t get them to stay. Many industries and organizations struggle to capture the hearts of young new hires because they’re recycling Boomer or Xer retention tactics. Don’t make this mistake. Reassess feedback structure and opportunities for on-the-job learning, and make sure they align with younger generations’ needs without alienating current employees. While developing a culture of continuous learning and improvement is important across industries, it is especially so for you. For trades and manufacturing, it means funneling talent through internships and apprenticeships, then continuing to focus on employee development beyond that. Taking young employees preferences into consideration while balancing seasoned workers’ preferences is a tricky task that few have put forth the effort to accomplish, but those who have are undoubtedly reaping the rewards.


You’ve recruited and retained your very own Millennial. Congratulations! Now, how do you keep them productive and motivated? At risk of sounding like a broken record, don’t assume what fired up previous generations will also click for younger ones. Take the concepts you advertised for Millennials in your job postings and truly infuse them into your work culture—make them a priority. Keep employees passionate and engaged by regularly contributing to and improving the greater community. Prove that your work thrives on making an impact so young employees feel that sense of purpose that wakes them up every day. Give your workers a reason to be connected and engaged in their work.

Solving the skilled trades’ conundrum of hiring and retaining engaged employees will take more than skimming a simple article, but instilling generational curiosity and wisdom in trades leaders is essential to understanding the next batch of employees and moving forward. We hope we can help you take that next step forward.