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Talent Talk: We Need to Talk About Generation Z

Article-Talent Talk: We Need to Talk About Generation Z

Image courtesy of Alamy/Hongqi Zhang young factory worker
If you are recruiting employees in the plastics industry, you will be hiring Gen-Zers. We had better learn to understand them.

Dale Carnegie once said, “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn — and most fools do.” This explains why I haven’t written anything about Generation Z, until now. You see, I’m a baby boomer and I confess that at times I’ve been tempted to paint an entire generation with a broad brush, and not in a good way.

For example, I have expressed opinions that a 23-year-old should not include “work-life balance” as a career goal on their resume, say they will only consider fully remote jobs, have a meme for their profile picture, or get their news primarily from social media. And shouldn’t you be going back to school for an MBA instead of playing so many video games? Quick show of hands: Who is with me here?

Gen Z is loosely defined as those born in the late 1990s or later. The Pew Research Center uses 1997 onward, so for those in the professional workforce today that would be people around 20 to 25 years old. This group comprises just a little more than 5% of the total workforce right now, probably fewer for the plastics industry, but it is the fastest growing segment. According to analytics firm Oxford Economics, by 2030 there will be 51 million Gen-Zers in the workforce, and their after-tax income will reach $2 trillion.

I have some of these guys and gals on my team, and they’re probably going to read this, so I have a vested interest in being a “thought leader” here. I only gave you the first part of Carnegie’s quote at the beginning of this column. He continued to say, “But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”

If you are hiring in the plastics industry, you will be hiring Gen-Zers, and so will I. We had better learn to understand them — I invite you to check back with Talent Talk next week, when we will dive deeper into what these newest entries to our offices and factories are looking for, and what they will bring to the table.


About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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