New Study Takes Closer Look at Gen Z in Manufacturing

Today’s post comes to us from the Executive Director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Did you celebrate Manufacturing Day 2021 last week? I did — by reading up on new research out from UKG and IndustryWeek examining Gen Z and the manufacturing sector.

According to “The 2021 Future Manufacturing Workforce Study,” 92% of Gen Z talent employed within manufacturing are satisfied with their current careers, despite three in four manufacturers reporting difficulties in attracting and retaining Gen Z workers, especially in the era of COVID-19.

The study also found that attracting Gen Z talent is either a high or very high priority for 88% of manufacturers surveyed. So, the natural question becomes what can manufacturers do to recruit — and, more importantly, keep — Gen Z employees happy, cared for, and productive in the workplace?

Based on what this research tells us, here are five key HR strategies manufacturers can leverage to succeed in recruiting and retaining Gen Z:

  1. Create a seamless onboarding experience that rolls into an actionable training and development plan. Clear goals and transparent career pathing drive job satisfaction for 67% of Gen Z talent, while 28% say opportunities for advancement are “extremely important” — more so than having time off from work (26%).
  2. 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. More time off (31%) and flexible scheduling options (22%) are among the top three reasons an otherwise-satisfied Gen Z employee would change jobs.
  3. 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. Understanding if turnover is higher in a certain location or under a certain supervisor, for example, enables organizations to effectively reverse unfavorable trends.
  4. 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.
  5. Create more opportunities for Gen Z to interact with management and build trust on the job. Seeking advancement, 70% of Gen Z employees want recognition and respect, and 69% want to receive feedback on their performance, though only 35% feel they’re getting adequate face time with their direct supervisor.

Although the study focused on Gen Z employees in manufacturing careers, this is great advice for employers across industries, especially right now. “The Great Resignation” is real, and it’s leaving lasting impacts on organizations everywhere. But we don’t have to be resigned to it.

By focusing on our people, providing them with the resources and support they’re looking for, and equipping them with workplace technology that makes life easier instead of creating a stressful experience, we can help ensure our most talented individuals continue to grow their careers with us — not somewhere else.


Speaking of The Great Resignation, I’m pleased to join Sarah Morgan and John Frehse from the Workforce Institute on October 20 for a Human Resource Executive webinar: “Beyond the Great Resignation: An Action Plan for Hiring and Retention.” Register today to join us!