Woodworking Labor Pool & Talent Top EBC Conference Concerns

By Bill Esler | Posted: 04/07/2014 6:00AM


Cam Marston Wood Industry EBC 2014Cam Marston at EBC 2014.  Young woodworkers from the millennial generation, ages 34 or younger, are a different breed, and hiring them - and tapping their talent - is proving a challenge for older generation woodworkers, says Cam Marston, an expert in leadership development.

Employees newly arrived on the woodwork job scene may clash culturally with older woodworkers, many from the baby boomer generation. The millennials do not expect to fulfill a traditional lengthy apprenticeship at the elbow of a master craftsman - "This model is questioned," says Marston - partly because they do not see the ultimate job position, as it currently is defined, as a desirable goal. "If I don't want what you have, then your model is unimportant to me."

Marston is speaking at the 2014 Executive Briefing Conference, taking place in Inversness, CO. The annual wood industry technology and business trends conference, sponsored by Stiles and partner companies 3M, Blum, Schuler consulting and Surrey tools.

Marston is also addressing “Leadership in a Distracted World” as well as “Developing and Keeping Qualified Personnel,” using research gathered by his firm, Generational Insights.

Because millennials have been raised in affluence and shielded from diversity, says Marston, they expect to start their careers near the top of the job responsibility, and their primary goal is self-fulfillment. The challenge for woodworking company owners and managers is integrate these new workers into their operations without losing their interest in the job.

Welcoming night banquet at Executive Briefing Conference 2014. This is especially difficult for transmitting skills from older workers to younger, since the two generations relate and communicate quite differently. But it necessary to transmit company values and build the next generation team through inter-generational mentoring.  "Going through the process is how culture is shared," says Marston, who spoke last night and is also presenting this morning."

Marston offered a few clues on how to go about working with the incoming generation of woodworkers. For example, millennials tend to communicate electronically, through Facebook, texting, e-mail and the like. But managers should bypass these tools and communicate directly, especially around conflict. 

"Deal with conflict with them inter-personally," says Marston. "Young people will run from conflict and deal with it electronically later."

Marston also said that young people will flee from the formal idea of a mentor or master-apprentice, so implement it less formally. Some suggestions for "winning via mentoring":

  • Target training of a discrete, specific area of information or skill
  • Present it as a limited time line: six months or less
  • Informal is the best approach
  • To start, ask: "I think I can teach you some helpful things; are you interested?"

Millennials will also expect to come to work, efficiently do their job, and leave at closing time for other pursuits.

Boomers will tend to work longer hours and find reasons to stay. These differing approaches to the job can create intergenerational conflict and ill will among workers.

The Executive Briefing Conference runs through April 8 in Englewood, CO.


About the Author

Bill Esler, Woodworking Network, WMS

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at WoodworkingNetwork.com Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at besler@woodworkingnetwork.com or follow him on Google+.

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