Snapshot: What Gen Z Really Wants in the Manufacturing Workplace

Gen Z Woman Manufacturer

The manufacturing industry is facing a talent crisis with the impending “silver tsunami” of baby-boomer retirements. This is compounded by the harsh reality that younger generations aren’t exactly lining up to take their place.

To remain competitive in the war for talent, manufacturers must create a work environment that attracts, engages, and retains the future workforce — Gen Z.

While it’s typically the responsibility of HR to develop strategies for recruitment and retention as well as initiatives focused on company culture, the impact that the workforce has on driving value within the organization should be enough to get HR, operations, finance, and the C-suite at the same table to tackle the manufacturing talent crisis, starting with how to capture even a small percentage of the 61 million Gen Zers geared to enter the workforce.

To understand which talent management strategies HR executives are using today and uncover what Gen Z wants in a workplace UKG partnered with IndustryWeek on the study, The Future Manufacturing Workforce: Creating Talent Strategies Guided by Insights. This study surveyed HR executives across the industry as well as Gen Z employees currently working in manufacturing.

Why survey both HR executives and Gen Z? The most value to be gained is not only what HR executives are doing today – nearly two years into the pandemic – to attract and retain the youngest members of the workforce, but also to gather feedback from Gen Z themselves on what it is getting them through the door in today’s environment. 

Here’s what we learned:

HR executive insights

A large amount of participation in the study came from those that specialize in recruiting, comp and benefits, and diversity and inclusion. Talent is top of mind for this group and given the organization-wide lens on worker shortages in the last year, there’s no doubt they are facing more pressure than ever to build a talent pipeline while nurturing their current workforce. In fact, two of the top three challenges reported were both attracting and retaining Gen Z. Here’s what HR leaders are doing to move the needle:

Top 5 HR strategies: attracting Gen Z

1. Collaborating with local schools and colleges to develop programs and/or coursework focused on teaching technical skills related to manufacturing work

2. Offering flexible job schedules (i.e. alternative shift schedules, flexibility to swap shifts when needed)

3. Supporting apprenticeship programs that offer job experience and professional development

4. Recruiting Gen Z individuals with nontraditional experience and providing the necessary education or technical training

5. Providing competitive wages for your local market

Top 5 HR strategies: retaining Gen Z

1. Actively building employee development programs for current employees 

2. Offering flexible job schedules 

3. Offering mentorship programs to allow younger employees to expand their knowledge

4. Providing competitive wages for your local marketing

5. Cross-training current employees so they learn multiple skills/perform a broader set of skills  

Top 3 Gen Z insights

The biggest takeaway from the study showed that Gen Z is looking not just for a job, but a place where they belong, can develop a career path, and feel valued and trusted on the job. And that journey starts before they even begin work. 

Flexible schedule options, employee reviews on Glassdoor, and pay rate may get them through the door, but continuing to build out a modern, technology focused experience to streamline onboarding, employee development programs, manage performance reviews, and offer employees access to real time information to make decisions that impact their work is just as important. 

What else stood out?

1. Less than half had mobile access to onboarding forms and/or HR documents when hired

2. Schedule flexibility Is a top priority

3. The majority prefer mobile communication options but value in person managerial feedback

What does this tell us? Manufacturers have the opportunity to create a workplace that offers more of what the incoming workforce is looking for. In fact, organizations across all industries are having to adjust to accomplishing more with less (people), and manufacturing is no different. Driving the alignment of HR strategies to the voice of Gen Z can help identify where we can stand out to do so.



For more key learnings, read the 2021 Future Manufacturing Workforce Study and watch the webinar replay “What Gen Z REALLY Wants in a Manufacturing Workplace.”