The shifting employment landscape and retirement of millions of workers have prompted companies across various industries to reassess their workforce needs. In particular, the manufacturing and distribution sectors have projected a shortage of 2.4 million open jobs in the next five years; an effect that could cause the U.S. economy to lose up to $1 trillion.
This shocking realization is a wake-up call for the industry that produces aircrafts and automobiles, chemicals and clothing, and electronics and steel, and raises the important question of how we can proactively address this looming shortage. Globally, manufacturing organizations and facilities are confronted with the challenge of retiring workers and the desperate need to attract new talent.
The state of early-career talent in the manufacturing industry
A recent Parsable survey indicates that Gen Z’s perception of the manufacturing industry has undergone a positive shift in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 77% of Gen Z indicating they now view the industry as more important. We’ve known the pandemic has played a crucial role in shaping Gen Z’s perception of school, work, and life but these findings suggest the pandemic has also impacted their understanding of the manufacturing and distribution sectors and their critical role in the global supply chain and economy.
However, as the manufacturing industry looks to evolve, it’s crucial to consider the upcoming generation poised to fill the positions left by retiring boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials. Gen Z places a high value on career fulfillment (among other things) and the manufacturing and distribution sectors must adapt to attract and retain this new talent. It’s essential for the industry to evolve and embrace the needs and expectations of this new generation. Here’s how you can start.
Make sustainability a priority
Gen Z has been labeled the “Sustainability Generation,” with high expectations and levels of engagement with environmental, social, and corporate governance initiatives. Today, Gen Z is willing to spend up to 10% more on sustainable products and prefers to purchase sustainable brands (or buy second-hand!) than brand-new, brand-name products. This mindset trickles into work, as well.
Despite a growing number of Gen Zers viewing the manufacturing industry as an important career path, a recent survey finds that this generation prioritizes working for companies that prioritize environmental and sustainability goals over cutting-edge technology or competitive salaries. Over half of the survey respondents (56%) would be willing to accept lower pay or benefits to work for a more environmentally responsible company. Additionally, 84% considered a company’s environmental and sustainability goals to be very or somewhat important when selecting a job.
Among those who expressed hesitations about pursuing a career in manufacturing, many believe that the industry does not offer enough opportunities to make an environmentally and socially responsible impact. For manufacturing companies, keeping sustainability at the forefront doesn’t just help from a regulatory perspective, but can be the difference in both attracting and retaining top Gen Z talent.
To get started, consider the following:
- Consider your waste sources. Are there ways you can “go green” (i.e. shifting to online efforts or offering recycling or composting services)?
- Who is your organization made up of? Consider the diversity of your board members, employee groups, political contributions, and more.
- Update your systems. Go paperless, automate, ensure data integrity, and streamline inefficient workflows.
- Ensure high governance standards. Using accurate and transparent financial methods, avoid conflict of interest hires, select diverse leadership, and remain accountable.
- Leverage your greatest strength. Forming a committee or ERG around sustainability gives power back to your employees to drive consistent change.
- Brag about it! Being public in your sustainability efforts can be a great PR and recruitment tool.
Educate Gen Z about the industry…and its benefits
Manufacturing facilities have undergone significant changes in the past decades, and it’s crucial for the industry to demonstrate to younger workers that the sector is highly sophisticated, cutting-edge, and offers a rewarding career path.
According to a 2022 survey, the manufacturing industry is becoming an increasingly attractive and future-focused profession - yet, exposing Gen Z to the industry has proved challenging. Nearly three-quarters of Gen Z view a career in frontline manufacturing as a dynamic and promising career path, however, more than half of the respondents (53%) indicated that manufacturing-focused programs or curricula were not available at their school.
Furthermore, the survey found that although family members are the primary source of inspiration for Gen Z career paths, over half of the respondents do not personally know someone working in the manufacturing industry. This suggests that more efforts are needed to increase awareness and provide resources for manufacturing-related education and job opportunities. To make manufacturing careers more attractive and accessible to Gen Z, organizations can consider two critical steps.
First, consider collaborating and building strong relationships with universities and/or vocational colleges, to facilitate field trips or education around the manufacturing industry. This can help address the gap of Gen Z’s “blind spots” when it comes to their perception of the industry, help organizations gain more exposure with Gen Z, and more tangibly demonstrate the value of working toward a career in manufacturing or trade. The second step is to equip hiring managers to effectively communicate the multitude of benefits that a career in manufacturing can offer, such as competitive salaries and benefits, job security, growth opportunities, and diversity. Emphasizing these advantages can help appeal to Gen Z while promoting the industry as a dynamic, cutting-edge, and rewarding career path.
Ensure your technology is up to par
The manufacturing industry has traditionally drawn workers who value manual labor and came of age before the internet era. However, with Boomers retiring in droves, companies must adapt to the needs and preferences of the next generation. This requires a shift towards innovative, technology-driven solutions that appeal to a plugged-in workforce.
The inclusion of modern tech in manufacturing has led Gen Z to perceive it as a chance to work with innovative and transformative technologies and to bring about positive change in society. Cutting-edge tech matters to Gen Z: according to Dell research, 91% of Gen Z candidates opt for companies with better technology packages when given a choice of job offers. Rather than fearing robots could replace their jobs, Gen Z embraces them as a tool to enhance their work. As digital natives, Gen Z possesses the adaptability, agility, and fluency to revitalize this particular aspect of manufacturing.
As manufacturing facilities shift toward using solutions such as Big Data, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, virtual reality and more, they can confidently lean on Gen Z to quickly and efficiently master these new, interconnected technologies. In short, the manufacturing industry must evolve to meet the changing needs of the workforce and leverage technology to remain competitive in the modern era.
As we’ve seen across a myriad of industries, early-career talent is crucial to the success and continuous growth of the manufacturing industry. As the sector continues evolving and adopting new technologies and practices, it’s imperative that companies invest in attracting, recruiting, and retaining young talent to ensure they remain competitive. By creating opportunities for exposure, making sustainability a priority, and ensuring an up-to-date tech environment, manufacturing companies can not only improve the bottom line, but also contribute to the long-term health and vibrancy of the industry as a whole.
For more insights like these, learn more about Abode. Abode’s all-in-one platform can help companies (and candidates!) foster better communication, collaboration, and community to help address turnover and retention – across all industries. Get in touch with our team today.