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Tackling the Challenge of Attracting Gen-Z to the Manufacturing Sector

We sat down with Manufacturing recruiting and TA professionals to get an understanding of their experience with the latest generation to enter the workforce, Generation-Z. They highlighted some of the challenges they've faced and gave some helpful advice on effectively recruiting and retaining this elusive demographic.

As the workforce evolves, manufacturers are facing a considerable challenge - recruiting and retaining Generation Z (Gen-Z) employees. This demographic cohort, born between 1997 and 2012, brings a unique set of values, expectations, and experiences that can seem at odds with traditional manufacturing environments. However, by diving deeper into understanding Gen-Z's mindset and proactively adapting recruitment strategies, manufacturing companies can position themselves as desirable employers for this talent pool. This blog explores insights from conversations we had with several recruiting and talent acquisition professionals on effectively attracting the Gen-Z workforce to the manufacturing sector.

What do you think of Gen-Z?

When asked about their initial impressions of Gen-Z candidates, the respondents highlighted several distinct traits that set this generation apart:

Transparency is Paramount:

"One thing that I have there's a real desire to have transparency. What's the company like, what's the culture like? Laying out clear expectations. And I think that's a very fair ask," noted Grete Gillern, Manager of Talent Acquisition at Ambient Enterprises.

Gen-Zers seek upfront clarity about organizational culture, values, and job roles.

Prioritizing Impact:

According to Marcia Torres, Director of Talent Acquisition at Farmer Brothers, "They're not driven to necessarily do a job and be excited about a job. They're more driven by what is the impact that my job has on everyone else or just in general, what is my impact on the world?"

Unlike previous generations, Gen-Z is seen to be much more motivated by contributing to a larger purpose.

Demand for Instant Feedback:

Matt Doyle, Training and Development Specialist at CanPack observed, "They are used to getting feedback very quickly...That would've been unrealistic before, but now it's actually pretty realistic."

Shaped by technology, Gen-Z craves immediate responses and rapid career progression.

Job-Hopping Tendencies:

Theresa Rickette, Senior Talent Acquisition Business Partner at MSC Industrial Direct cautioned, "They seem to chase the money...when you do an interview or phone screen and look at their experience, they worked here for four months and then they went here for two."

Many view Gen-Z as more inclined toward frequent job changes, potentially driven by financial motivations.

The Manufacturing Sector's Unique Challenges

While every industry must adapt to Gen-Z's unique needs, manufacturing faces specific hurdles. Marcia Torres explained,

"Gen-Z is focused on social influencing and remote work, having experienced schooling and their parents working from home during the pandemic. This has led to a diminished interest in hands-on, blue-collar jobs in manufacturing."

Moreover, Matt Doyle acknowledged Gen-Z's high expectations:

"They're hard to impress. Again, back to that idea that they're used to getting quick results. You can't just throw a ten-year training plan in front of them to excel because they're going to look at that and say, well, in ten years I'm going to work somewhere else. Instead, I think you can and should have a ten year training plan in place but you need to have it broken down into breadcrumbs that follow a path and come with advancement along the way"

Grete Gillern also highlighted the industry's image problem:

"There was previously a trend of people pursuing tech and computer science degrees over trades like manufacturing and engineering. This led to a shortage of skilled workers entering manufacturing, creating a gap as experienced workers near retirement age."

Outdated perceptions of manufacturing as a less desirable career path have contributed to a skills shortage, especially among younger generations. We see Marcia and Grete hit on this important trend and the consequences it's having on the current landscape.

We’re curious to hear your thoughts about Gen-Z and what you’re encountering. Tell us what challenges you’ve faced in the recruitment and retention process - Vote in our poll on Linkedin and leave a comment!

Strategies for Attracting Gen-Z Talent

To overcome these multifaceted challenges, manufacturing companies must embrace innovation and creativity to rethink their recruitment approaches. Through our conversations it seemed that the professionals were honing in on several different areas for tackling these challenges.

Reframe Messaging and Dispel Outdated Perceptions

"Through school programs, we've promoted manufacturing careers as viable paths for success, countering the departure from trades over the past 20 years," said Matt Doyle. "We highlight that modern factory work is safe, engaging, and provides opportunities for learning and growth - dispelling outdated notions of dangerous, dirty, repetitive labor."

Engaging with educational institutions and proactively reframing the narrative around manufacturing careers is crucial. By showcasing the realities of 21st-century manufacturing – safe, technologically advanced, and intellectually stimulating – companies can attract Gen-Z talent by addressing deeply ingrained stereotypes and misconceptions.

Emphasize Career Growth, Skill Development, and Continuous Learning

Grete Gillern advised, "While remote work may not be feasible in manufacturing technician roles, the biggest benefit is the learning experience. Employees get hands-on training from industry experts, attend manufacturer training and trade shows, and work directly with products - opportunities unavailable in a remote setting."

To appeal to Gen-Z's desire for a clear path for growth, manufacturers should highlight the wealth of opportunities for continuous skill development, mentorship from seasoned professionals, and exposure to cutting-edge technologies and best practices.

Offer Competitive, Tailored Benefits Packages

"Benefits and total rewards packages offered by companies should be diverse enough to support generational differences - from unlimited PTO, 401(k) plans, tuition reimbursement, to non-traditional perks like pet insurance, flexible work schedules, community hours that may resonate with younger generations," suggested Marcia Torres.

As Gen-Z prioritizes work-life balance and personal growth, companies must get creative with their benefits offerings. Flexible schedules, tuition assistance, and even pet insurance 🐶 can demonstrate an understanding of this generation's priorities and lifestyle needs.

As Gen-Z has entered the workforce, the option of remote or hybrid work has come to be expected. Since manufacturing work can't offer that benefit, it becomes even more important to make up for that shortcoming through alternative benefits and compensation offerings.

Prioritize Transparency and Authenticity

As Grete Gillern noted, Gen-Z has "a real desire to have transparency" about "what's the company like, what's the culture like?" Providing candid insights into organizational culture, values, and expectations from the outset is paramount for building trust and credibility with candidates.

Highlight Opportunities for Meaningful Impact

To align with Gen-Z's desire for purpose-driven work, manufacturers should emphasize how roles contribute to the company's mission, broader societal impact, and sustainability goals. This generation is driven by the prospect of making a tangible difference. Having said that, keeping these ideals consistent across different generations is important. Just because one candidate asks about it, doesn’t mean the mission or values of the company change. It’s a good reminder that recruiters should be prepared to answer these questions in full.

Leverage Digital Platforms and Social Media

As the first true digital natives, Gen-Z is inseparable from technology and online platforms. To effectively connect with and recruit this demographic, manufacturing companies must fully embrace digital recruitment strategies. Leveraging social media, online job boards, and the digital spaces where Gen-Zers congregate is paramount. Traditional non-digital advertising methods like flyers are unlikely to resonate or reach this generation successfully.

Within the recruiting process itself, integrating digital communication channels is also key. Text messaging, for example, has proven an effective way to engage Gen-Z candidates, aligning with their preference for instant feedback and communication through their phones.


While attracting Gen-Z to the manufacturing sector poses unique challenges, companies can overcome them through strategic adaptations. If they're willing to put the effort in, manufacturers can position themselves as desirable employers. Leaning on the experiences of seasoned recruiters and understanding Gen-Z's mindset will be key to building a future-ready workforce.