Nurturing the Future Workforce: UKG Examines Dynamic Between Gen Z and the Manufacturing Sector

Research Released Ahead of MFG Day 2021 Drives at Addressing Critical Talent Gaps, Attracting Next-Gen Workers
September 30, 2021, LOWELL, Mass., and WESTON, Fla.

Gen Z1 doesn’t want just a job, but a workplace where they belong, can develop a career path, and feel valued and trusted — and many claim to have found that working in modern manufacturing. New research2 announced today by UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) and launched in partnership with IndustryWeek finds 92% of Gen Z talent employed within manufacturing are satisfied with their current careers.

“We know that attracting Gen Z talent is a high or very high priority for 88% of manufacturers, many of which are straining to build a talent pipeline while nurturing their current workforce and navigating their recoveries from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important they understand what Gen Z cares most about in order to inform more effective talent strategies moving forward,” said Kylene Zenk, director of the manufacturing practice at UKG.

Attracting Gen Z is More Often a Struggle for HR Leaders than Dealing with COVID-19-Related Issues
Manufacturers are facing intense pressure to attract and retain next-gen workers: Three in four admit finding (75%) and keeping (74%) talent is difficult, and one in three (34%) feel like they lag behind the rest of their peers.

Findings suggest HR’s job is harder than ever, because Gen Z expects a wide range of benefits and opportunities. From good pay (75%), opportunities for advancement (72%), and work-life balance (71%) to having a great boss (71%), schedule flexibility (70%), and competitive benefits (70%) — Gen Z deems these workplace features “extremely” or “very” important to achieving the holistic workplace experience they crave.

Driving Alignment of HR Strategies to the Voice of Gen Z is Essential
Released on the eve of MFG Day 2021 — a yearly celebration organized by The Manufacturing Institute and sponsored annually by UKG — The 2021 Future Manufacturing Workforce Study examines insights from HR leaders and Gen Z employees in manufacturing to create alignment between today’s talent management strategies and what Gen Z wants from the workplace. The research informs five key HR strategies to succeed in recruiting and retaining Gen Z:

  • Create a seamless onboarding experience that rolls into an actionable training and development plan. Clear goals and transparent career pathing drive job satisfaction for two-thirds of Gen Z talent (67%), while three in 10 (28%) say opportunities for advancement are “extremely important” — more so than having time off from work (26%).
  • It’s not all about pay: Prioritize work-life balance by offering competitive time off and flexible work schedules. Work-life balance ranks high on Gen Z talent’s career wish list, while more time off (31%) and flexible scheduling options (22%) are among the top three reasons an otherwise-satisfied Gen Z employee would change jobs.
  • Use HR and workforce data to examine catalysts for Gen Z turnover. The majority of HR leaders (77%) report that 11%-20% of their Gen Z workforce turns over annually, so understanding if turnover is higher in a certain location or under a certain supervisor, for example, enables organizations to effectively reverse unfavorable trends.
  • Engage digital natives with modern, consumer-grade technology. Gen Z has always had access to information when and where they need it in their personal lives, making it imperative for manufacturers to satisfy workplace expectations for technology — yet, only 41% of Gen Z employees in manufacturing today can swap a shift or check their work schedules from a mobile device.
  • Create more opportunities for Gen Z to interact with management, build trust on the job. Seeking advancement, Gen Z employees want recognition and respect (70%) and to receive feedback on their performance (69%) — but only 35% feel they are getting adequate face time with their direct supervisor.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to hiring no longer works,” said Zenk. “It’s imperative that HR is tailoring its messaging and recruitment initiatives depending on who they’re targeting. When recruiting Gen Z, it’s all about meeting this digital generation where they are, whether on social media or in the classroom. Direct engagement with schools and community groups through initiatives like MFG Day creates an incredible opportunity to demonstrate first-hand the appeal of working in modern manufacturing.”

“Educating and engaging the next-generation workforce early and often is one of the most important factors in shifting perceptions of the industry and closing the skills gap,” said Russell Richey, research director at Endeavor Business Media, the parent company of IndustryWeek. “We were very pleased to see from the survey that collaboration with local schools and colleges is the most common strategy employed by HR leaders to attract Gen Z talent: 53% are involved in developing programs and coursework that help teach students real-world technical skills related to manufacturing work. This bodes well for the future of manufacturing.”

Supporting Resources

About UKG

At UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), our purpose is people. Built from a merger that created one of the largest cloud companies in the world, UKG believes organizations succeed when they focus on their people. As a leading global provider of HCM, payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions, UKG delivers award-winning Pro, Dimensions, and Ready solutions to help tens of thousands of organizations across geographies and in every industry drive better business outcomes, improve HR effectiveness, streamline the payroll process, and help make work a better, more connected experience for everyone. UKG has 13,000 employees around the globe and is known for an inclusive workplace culture. The company has earned numerous awards for culture, products, and services, including consecutive years on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. To learn more, visit

Footnote 1: Generation Z — a.k.a. “Gen Z” — is defined as individuals born between 1997 and 2003. See Survey Methodology for more details.

Footnote 2: Survey Methodology: This study is based on research led by Endeavor Business Media, the parent company of IndustryWeek, on behalf of UKG between July 22 and August 17, 2021. Two surveys were commissioned by UKG to examine how manufacturing industry HR professionals are managing recruitment and retention of Gen Z-aged workers, and to explore the attitudes and perceptions of Gen Z-aged consumers currently employed full or part time in the manufacturing sector. Responses were collected from 305 HR professionals with VP (38%) or director titles (62%) representing a diverse mix of manufacturing industries and company sizes, as well as 882 frontline (75%) and salaried (25%) employees currently working in the manufacturing sector and born between 1997 and 2003. Survey questionnaires were designed by Endeavor Business Media in collaboration with UKG and methodology conforms to accepted marketing research methods, practices, and procedures.

Copyright 2021 UKG Inc. All rights reserved. For a full list of UKG trademarks, please visit All other trademarks, if any, are property of their respective owners. All specifications are subject to change.