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Conexiom, a platform that leverages proprietary Touchless Automation technology, announced the results of its 2022 State of Hiring and the (Future) State of Manufacturing and Distribution survey. The report assesses the manufacturing and distribution industries with particular attention to Generation Z's opinions about opportunities and the future of the sectors. The survey focuses on the topics of the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing Great Resignation and retirement, and recession as well as the potential impact of these events on manufacturing and distribution companies.

Inspiration for this survey, conducted on behalf of Conexiom, is due to the fact that the manufacturing and distribution industries are feeling a hit with the labor shortage as 2.6 million Baby Boomers working in those industries will retire in the next decade. That means 2.4 million jobs may remain unfilled in 2028.

To survive, these businesses need to understand what rising generations like Gen Z expect from their careers and what they need to do and evolve to attract and retain this generation of workers.

Among the key findings, 0 percent — none — of the manufacturers who reported they automate document processing is worried about losing market share to more agile competitors in the next five years.

Other findings, as stated by the respondents include:

• Digital transformation: 47 percent of manufacturing and distribution decision maker respondents with current hiring and retention challenges believe their companies will invest in technology to make themselves more attractive to job seekers. Those without hiring challenges, 18 percent of these respondents plan to cut back to streamline operations, while 15 percent plan to invest in technology that allows them to reduce headcount.

• Technology plays a big role with Gen Z: When asked whether the type of technology used by an industry influences Gen Z's desire to pursue a career in it, 70 percent said it had a strong influence, and 25 percent said it had a moderate influence. Only 5 percent said it had no influence. This suggests that companies investing in technology to attract future job seekers are on the right track.

• Hiring challenges: When looking forward five years, 80 percent of manufacturing and distribution decision maker respondents said they're worried about hiring, while 20 percent said they weren't. Of those concerned they won't be able to fill open positions, 49 percent say it's because they're finding it increasingly hard to hire in the manufacturing and distribution industry, and 32 percent say it's because of how many people they've seen retire or voluntarily leave the workforce.

• Manufacturing and distribution decision makers thoughts on Gen Z: 93 percent of business leaders in manufacturing feel positive about Gen Z entering the workforce, compared with 62 percent of business leaders in distribution feeling similarly.

"Our survey's results are shining a light on what the manufacturing and distribution sectors need to do to attract Gen Z talent to fill in the predicted upcoming hiring gap. Our findings show Gen Z is afraid of the looming recession, yet the numbers also show they are ready to look for work, and even take on a level of risk in order to be fulfilled," says Ray Grady, CEO of Conexiom. "Gen Z is the future of the sector, and the manufacturing and distribution industries are essentially the lifeline for a functioning America. Our survey provides some interesting insight into priorities and non-negotiables for this demographic. We've learned a lot in executing this research and will continue to release critical findings from it throughout the year."

The survey results suggest that technological innovation in the workplace is key in attracting a Gen Z workforce. A detailed summary of the results of the survey can be found here.