By Robbie West | Published May 5, 2020
Generation Z (1997-2015) has the potential to change the outlook on manufacturing in the foreseeable future. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) make up 22%-27% of the current manufacturing workforce. Nearly 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring each day, leaving a void to fill in the workforce for the next decade. What does this mean for the future of traditional industries such as manufacturing?
Currently, Millennials make up the majority of the workforce. This generation is drawn toward industries such as tech, healthcare, and finance. These fields offer optimal job security for Millennials since there will always be a need for these industries regardless of potential recessions. Job security is a major driving factor for Millennials. Conversely, there is a huge lack of interest in the manufacturing industry from Millennials. Millennials have been deterred from manufacturing by Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers encourage their children to get a desk job and avoid manual labor. High school guidance counselors are another reason Millennials do not have an interest in manufacturing. According to the 2019 L2L Manufacturing Index, 75% of Americans have never had a counselor, teacher, or mentor suggest attending trade or vocational schools as a means to a viable career.
People still think that manufacturing is standing in a hot factory doing monotonous tasks all day, this is not the case. Advancements in technology have shone a new light on the manufacturing industry. Automation has improved efficiency so companies can produce their products at a rapid pace. Automation has also reduced the workforce and developed those remaining. What once took 10 employees, can now be done by one person sitting behind a computer. 3D printing, automated packaging, and vision inspection are all inventions that have improved manufacturing. What do the three of these have in common? They are all technology-driven.
Generation Z is known for growing up right after technology started stepping towards where it is today; they have never known life without a smartphone or Wi-Fi. Gen Z is accustomed to having the answer to anything at their fingertips. Any foreign concepts can be googled and explained in a short YouTube video. Being able to master technology is second nature for this generation. Manufacturing can incorporate the strengths of this generation into modern practices. Generation Z will be able to thrive in automated manufacturing since they embrace innovation and the use of technology. They will be able to operate, create, and improve the manufacturing process.
How to Manage Generation Z
Generation Z can be tricky to manage. With no generation being quite like the one before, management needs to be ahead of the curve on how this new generation will react to management techniques. Generation Z loves communication and having access to information. This is ideal for companies with a lot of moving parts. Transparency within an organization through collaboration apps and project management software keeps everyone involved. The traditional way of employees being on a need-to-know basis will not suffice for Gen Z. Having access to databases makes Gen Z feel valued in a company. Gen Z is much more accepting of new projects when visual representation is available. A fast-paced work environment is something that Gen Z expects. According to VisionCritical, the attention span of a Gen Z is 8 seconds. Quickly drawing in Gen Z employees is imperative for productivity. Bouncing around their responsibilities just might be the best way to get the most out of them. Variation of products and problem-solving tasks will keep Gen Z engaged in manufacturing.
Manufacturing may look a lot different than it did 40 years ago, but not many people would say it is for the worse. Effectiveness and efficiency have both increased exponentially through the implementation of new technology. Generation Z can be the guide to the manufacturing industry and may become a popular career choice.