Attracting a New Generation of Leaders


Guest Blogger: Bill Frahm
President, 4M Partners, LLC

Sheetmetal forming has many challenges and opportunities to offer students and new employees. New metals, new forming technologies, and evolving information and simulation technologies offer opportunities for engaged employees to shape the future. Adapting to change and leading the industry discussion requires the experience of seasoned employees, along with the energy and new ideas of knowledgeable young employees.

The market for talent is competitive. Your competition includes other manufacturers, Silicon Valley, Wall Street and government. Successful recruiting and retention involves attracting students to the industry and building a rewarding work environment. Unfortunately, manufacturing has to overcome negative perceptions.

The old Johnny Paycheck song, “Take This Job and Shove It,” has been around for 40 years. It’s been a standard of American blue-collar culture. The song’s sentiment counts among the reasons smart, young talent chooses employment in industries other than manufacturing.  Manufacturing was a staple in building and supporting America’s middle class. Unfortunately, the success of manufacturing came with a dark side. For many, manufacturing employment represents abusive managers, nepotism, work limiting efficiency and production, endless drama over salaries and working conditions, safety issues, and rigid management. While many of those issues have improved, the perception remains.

Today’s students are arguably among the best prepared to take on productive challenges and offer creative solutions. They are technically competent, eager, and capable of learning and exploring opportunities. In an “employees market,” we must put the effort to understand their expectations and clearly define your own. Young employees want challenges and growth. Students desire intellectual flexibility, rewarding careers and supportive management. The old standard of finding a secure job with a large firm and coasting to retirement is obsolete.

There are many changes evolving in materials, forming technologies and information technology. The changes create challenges for engineers that keep work interesting and allow individuals to contribute to the conversation. Are you promoting these challenges to prospective talent? Are we doing a good job of pushing innovation down to tiered suppliers and staff-level employees? Are we taking the opportunity to allow employees to engage with advancements and offer ideas and solutions?
Attracting and retaining quality employees requires us to change perceptions. We must promote the challenges and opportunities we offer and allow for productive conversation. The modern workplace must be challenging, safe and comfortable. Managers should clearly communicate expectations, offer immediate and constructive feedback, support continuing education, and demand a civil and respectful workplace for all employees.

We must begin our discussion and select the best alternatives to recruit our next generation of leaders. We must also understand that bright minds will always find opportunities.  Let’s make our opportunities available and attractive.

Learn more at the 2018 Metal Stamping and Tool & Die Conference from Bill and many more top-notch speakers, who will discuss emerging technologies for the metalforming industry. To register or view the full schedule, visit the event website

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