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millennial workforce onboarding

Effective Onboarding for the Millennial Workforce


Your bottom line demands that you understand what makes the Millennial workforce tick and how to best onboard them for their new or temporary job.

4 minutes read Published on 30 April 2020

Our needs are changing and so is our deskless workforce.

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry is changing due to new technology and faster, more effective digitized processes. In fact, we can expect 69% of skills traditionally required in manufacturing to change because of Industry 4.0. But alongside this technological revolution, the teams who keep our shop floors running are changing.

We’re facing the skills gap of the century, as 25% of our workforce is retiring this decade. As they retire, a younger and digitally native workforce will take their place. 

What does this mean for manufacturers? It means an influx of the Millennial workforce - those born in the mid 90s to early 2000s. These new employees need to be taught new skills quickly, and in a very different way. 

We need to reimagine the way we onboard and train this new generation of workers in order to meet the demands of this digital era.




Onboarding should be better.

Humans are a forgetful bunch, and modern technology certainly hasn’t helped.

  • Only 8% of information is retained after traditional training methods. 
  • If an employee has to search for information for longer than 30 seconds, they will fall back on tribal knowledge.
  • Google has created a new “Transactive Memory” for the Millennial workforce. Instead of remembering, they google. Source.
  • Younger generations are used to instant feedback, and thus struggle with traditional training tools like paper and .PDF.


Current onboarding models at most companies usually break the process into three distinct stages:

Before: HR responsibilities such as payroll and contracts are processed, and sometimes a new employee will receive health and safety information.

During: This is where most companies spend a majority of their training and onboarding effort. It’s often presented through a Learning Management System via methods and materials that new employees won’t recognize when they reach the shop floor.

In fact, much of the During phase doesn’t even happen on the shop floor. It’s often of classroom learning - where most people forget up to 95% percent of what they learn.

After: A new employee is transitioned to their new role on the shop floor and must rely on the knowledge of their supervisors and, far too often, outdated paper and PDF work instructions. This is when on-the-job training and experiential learning should take place, but often doesn’t.


These methods have been used for decades, but leave significant room for improvement. The combination of outdated and unfamiliar learning materials, and a lack of immersive digital support on the shop floor means that traditional onboarding rarely sticks.

Instead, it’s our responsibility to take every new recruit on a journey of continuous skilling with actionable knowledge - digital onboarding should support learning long after a new employee has started their work.


millennial training



Design principles to promote effective onboarding.

So how do we transition from a traditional onboarding structure - before, during, and after - and facilitate the “always?”

Use a combination of great technology and a number of design principles to continuously promote learning and growth for new employees.

Here are some examples of design principles that stimulate the Millennial workforce and promote effective onboarding for new and temporary workers.



Better Preboarding - Engage new recruits and build anticipation from the get-go. A number of apps can help train new employees on company policy and culture in an immersive format - one that’s instantly familiar to a generation raised on smartphones. Beekeeper and Slack are great examples of internal communication tools with a wide range of functions to support dynamic preboarding.

“A day in the life” - Communicate expectations and familiarize new employees with new roles by creating engaging “a day in the life” videos and content that offer a preview of daily work. 

Familiarize new tools - New employees will be apt to effectively use tools on the shop floor if they are introduced and acclimated to them during the early stages of the onboarding process. 



Promote purpose and action - Deliver training and content that is always actionable and focused on the user. This ensures a deeper learning experience and a more productive team on the shop floor. The right work instruction platform can encourage the creation of action-oriented content by design.

Use “Training Nuggets” - Nope, not chicken, but bite-sized chunks of information with a clear purpose. Also known as “Chunks,” “Nubs,” and “Bricks,” Nuggets allow a user (a new recruit in this case) to work through a logically structured lesson while performing the work at the same time. This creates purpose and action and also delivers immediate results on the shop floor.

Buddy up - Don’t put new employees on the shop floor and expect them to succeed on their own. Pairing a recruit with a more experienced team member for their first days on the job is a great way for the younger workforce to gain crucial knowledge. The added benefit is the recruit’s ability to capture essential tribal knowledge with a digital tool.


millennial onboarding


Better onboarding is a must, and digital is a prerequisite.

The way we work in manufacturing is changing, fast. And this means that the tools and mindset we use to train a new workforce need to change. We need to offer digital solutions that keep pace with that of industry 4.0, and make sense to a generation raised on smartphones and instant access to information.

But we also need to rethink the way we approach training and onboarding. More and more, we need methods that encourage and support a continuous transfer of knowledge as this new workforce learns and grows. The Millennial workforce - and soon generation Z - are the new face of the manufacturing industry. It’s our job to support them in a way that makes sense.


Want to learn more about onboarding in Industry 4.0? Click here to check out our webinar, Effective Onboarding of New & Temporary Workers in Uncertain Times, hosted by Digital Transformation Expert and SwipeGuide CEO Willemijn Schneyder.

Picture of Chris

Chris loves to share his expertise on future-proof work instruction software for frontline teams in manufacturing. Particularly, how digital, visual work instructions can make a lasting impact on motivation, productivity, and operational excellence culture.

Published on 30 April 2020