Old-guard engineers who bring their knowledge and experience to the job are vital to the company. Increasingly, though, engineering companies realize the importance the new guard, that is, young engineers in their first or second job out of college, can mean for their companies.
We’re at a strange time in history in which the differences between the millennial and the mid-career engineer—even if that mid-career engineer is in his or her forties—is wider than any gap between generations in history. Recent college graduates, for example, have trained on and successfully worked with a variety of CAD programs, likely many more than they’ll work with at an engineering company.
Because of this, they’re not afraid to adopt new design methods and software programs. They have cutting-edge information about design and analysis programs now on the market and coming down the pike and can share their insights with managers and coworkers.
National Instruments, of Austin, Texas, which makes automated test equipment and virtual instrumentation software, has a longstanding policy of hiring engineers who are right [out of] college and have interned at the company. To its great success, National Instruments maintains relationships with these young employees as they grow through the ranks. The company has been named one of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune Magazine.
Young engineers are not necessarily idealists. Rather, they are free thinkers who—in the popular parlance—think outside the box, leading to product innovation, an enthusiasm for new technologies, whether design or social media tools or hardware like 3D printers, and a willingness to test designs of which their seniors may be skeptical. New-career engineers can bring access to a youth culture to the engineering company may want to reach or be part of: an Apple or Google of the engineering world, for example.
Also, engineers now entering the job market are versed in and often have new thoughts about the very issues facing engineering companies today. They can be passionate about environmental issues like sustainability, green design, and design for end use, and other country’s environmental requirements. Many, if not most, products will face additional environmental requirements in the near future and it can be invaluable to have staff members who understand not only how to design for those requirements, but also their importance to continued business.
These young engineers have been thinking globally their entire college careers. Not only do they understand how engineering works in other countries, they know how to best collaborate with partners and colleagues in other company offices around the world.
This is no small matter: engineers commonly work together from various global branches and offices and must be familiar and comfortable with the design and collaborative technologies that allow this. These collaborative systems include Skype and other voice-over-Internet products, product data management (for managing continually updated product information), and CAD in the cloud technologies. That’s not even to mention the more and more engineering applications made for mobile devices and meant to serve engineers while they’re working in the field or out on the manufacturing floor or to let them capture their ideas with quick napkin-style drawings for later use.
In fact, you might even tap into your millennial engineers to help your company build your brand and keep it relevant on social media streams. They will certainly have many ideas and may be pleased to be take part.
But perhaps one of the biggest reasons to hire millennial engineers is one of the best, a reason with results that can’t be qualified: young engineers can lighten the company atmosphere, with their jokes and joshing and playful aura. A fun company (within reason of course!) encourages innovation and boosts productivity.
To attract young engineers, meet them where they’re at—by recruiting on college campuses. Encourage your younger engineers to recruit their friends for open positions. To retain engineers, encourage a campus more than corporate environment—as Google and other technology companies have famously done.
After all, as Fortune Magazine said about National Instruments: When employees aren’t hard at work, they play foosball, socialize with co-workers at onsite deck parties, and participate in the annual talent show.
But treat millennial engineers as adults too of course. Ensure they are receiving the responsibilities and advanced jobs for which they’re qualified. They can’t shine unless given the opportunities to shine, after all. Hold regular meetings of new and younger engineers and encourage them to share their ideas.
It may sound counter-productive, but young engineers can help your company move forward, remain on top and, boost its bottom line.