How Can the Manufacturing Industry Attract and Retain Gen Z?



Gen ZThe labor shortage is not unique to the manufacturing industry – it extends to almost every field, as multiple employers struggle to pull talent, and retain talent, from the same pool. This story isn’t new, but employers are struggling to create new tactics that will help them jump this hurdle.  

Many companies look to Gen Z to fill this labor gap, while not fully understanding the reasons that Gen Z choose certain careers and employers over others. Gen Z will make up a quarter of employees in 2025, and in order to build a stable and steady pipeline of talent, employers will need to make a concerted effort to attract this younger workforce. While money and salary do matter to Gen Z employees, understanding their core motivators is essential for companies who are looking to attract them.  

“Companies must change their strategy to attract and retain the best employees going forward,” said Dave Bolderoff, customer experience manager with Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, who shared his insights on how to attract and retain the Gen Z workforce during an education session at CONEXPO/CON-AGG 2023. “Gen Z prioritizes social activism more than previous generations, reflected in the importance they place on working at organizations whose values align with their own. This generation’s commitment to sustainability extends to their jobs and career choices. They want to work for companies that align with their values and have a positive impact on the environment.” 

In order to make the manufacturing industry appealing to potential employees, companies must highlight their efforts to be a good corporate citizen and consider how potential employees will perceive their statement of values. Including sustainability prominently in that statement, and in other promotional materials, is a great starting point. Most companies think of sustainability as another word for environmentalism, however there are several other factors that contribute to the topic’s holistic definition. Sustainability can be defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It encompasses minimizing waste, providing a safe work environment, and supporting the communities an organization works in. 

There are several steps that companies take, and questions they may ask themselves, to enhance their sustainable image: 

  • Start off by reevaluating your mission and vision statements, and core values. Consider – are those statements inclusive of all stakeholders? Do they restrict the hiring process? 
  • Consider what is being done today to promote sustainability. Is technology being leveraged to improve operational efficiency? Have employees volunteered in the communities surrounding the company? Is a great benefits package being offered, and is safety prioritized in the workplace? 
  • Capture the good that is being done within the organization. Is social media being leveraged to tell the story of sustainability? Does your webpage include a statement of values that highlights sustainability? 

Going forward, if companies do not have a clear statement of values, or a clear sustainability strategy, talent will be increasingly hard to find. And, as 10,000 Boomers reach retirement age each day it is essential that companies target Gen Z to fill the gap they will leave 

“Don’t expect instant results. These things take time, and you have to put the work in up-front, but you’ll definitely see the payback later on. It's time well spent,” said Bolderoff. 

While it is clear that the labor shortage will not come to an end any time soon, companies can create a path forward by asking the aforementioned questions of themselves and answering them in earnest. From inclusion of all stakeholders to spreading the good word about their initiatives, companies must take action now to attract and retain Gen Z.   

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