Confessions of a Gen Z technoholic: Navigating the multi-generational maintenance workforce
The eager, tech-savvy 20-year-olds of Generation (Gen) Z like myself are entering the workforce and quickly influencing the landscape of business. A recent study from ManpowerGroup reported that Gen Z will make up approximately 24% of the global workforce this year. But where are they headed and what impact will this have on the maintenance industry?
What I am slowly learning is that being part of Gen Z has shaped the approach I take to problem solving and relationship-building with colleagues. Gen Z is the first generation born in a digital world. We have trouble understanding that while other generations may not be digital natives, they do have years of knowledge and relationships that are necessary for progressing the maintenance industry forward. Recognizing that we both bring different ideas and skill to the industry will be beneficial in establishing a successful future for Maximo and its users.
Millennials in a Baby Boomer workforce
Something that resonated with me at the International Maintenance Conference this past December was a RAP talk presented by Laura Lamb of Leprino Foods, an Aquitas customer and seasoned professional in the reliability space. She spoke about the digital journey of her company’s maintenance program and the challenges that they faced in introducing IoT into their existing maintenance infrastructure of Maximo.
One of the main hiccups in their implementation project was one that actually surprised her: adapting to new technology. Given that some of Leprino’s maintenance teams still use flip phones, Laura quickly realized that she had to modify her teaching strategies to bring everyone on board. This is something I’ve seen myself on a site visit touring a facility with a technician that was clearly skeptical about the dependability of these new processes. He showed me newly installed touchscreen panels that operate their chillers and the solar-powered sensor equipment tracking their temperature. This technician and many more like him would much rather just continue using the analog system, while Gen Z would probably be relieved at the sight of a touchscreen.
Based on the chart above – as well as my experience – my generation is extremely different from our managers. We identify as “technoholics,” which undoubtedly makes us biased when it comes to digitization. “New is always better” might as well be our motto.
So what happens when the smartphone-dependent Gen Z enters the maintenance community and interacts with Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y (more commonly known as Millennials)? Gen Z learns best with technology, and they are going to want and need it if they decide to enter the maintenance space.Technology has the ability to improve maintenance operations by delivering better data and establishing efficient processes. However, technicians from previous generations also rely on on-the-job knowledge and instincts honed from years of experience.
How can we best use technology and harness the knowledge of earlier generations to accommodate the learning style and experience of multiple generations?
Creating a different type of maintenance worker
As we expand the capabilities of our maintenance equipment, we can also expand on the skillsets of our users. One way to do this is to attract Gen Z to the skilled trades by highlighting the role technology plays. It may be that we can also use technology to shape a different breed of maintenance technicians. However, Gen Z needs to consider our co-dependency with technology. We don’t want to take the time to learn how to operate the old, manual equipment when management has plans to replace it with flashy touchscreens – even though the reality is that the flashy touchscreens probably aren’t coming any time soon.
Better together: the power of collaboration
The Maximo community is a melting pot of generations. There are thousands of people using and refining Maximo–from Boomers to Gen X, and now Gen Y and Gen Z. The community knowledge is a tremendous resource that Gen Z can’t garner from technology alone. The close-knit community that Maximo users have built around their experiences, frustrations and achievements, will help all generations grow and improve. Gen Z needs access to the resources that Baby Boomers have created; Baby Boomers need the technological instincts and confidence in digitalization that Gen Z inherently possesses. For best maintenance outcomes, it makes sense that we leverage each other’s skills and collaborate together. For example, retiring workers can engage remotely with new technicians using digital tools. They can help them solve complex repairs, as well as routine challenges around structuring their day; all the way down to having the right tools on the truck to perform preventive maintenance and inspections.
Gen Z is the future of the workforce and therefore the future of maintenance, going forward. This is a good time to consider what your organization can do better to make sure that all generations are represented and everyone is working together to bring positive change.
About Aquitas Solutions
Aquitas Solutions is a leading provider of Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and IoT solutions that optimize asset-intensive industries. The company works strategically with IBM to heighten business value and bring bottom-line benefits to clients as a reseller and system integrator of IBM Maximo.