Attracting Gen Z Workers and Future Leaders to Automotive

A recent global study says Gen Z seeks power, achievement, stimulation and hedonism more than other generations.

Nicholas Wyman

September 27, 2023

4 Min Read
Gen Z people with-2017-chevrolet-bolt ev
Employers can tailor job duties, benefits, work-life balance to Gen Z’s needs.General Motors

According to Deloitte, entire industries could rise and fall in the wake of Generation Z-ers, and few sectors are ready for them.

It’s a bold claim. Are you prepared as an employer in the auto industry?

The World Economic Forum says that, globally, the inability to attract talent is the automotive sector’s most significant barrier to transformation and workforce strategies.

Who Are Generation Z?

Those born between 1995 and 2012. They come with a range of labels, including the iGeneration, Post-Millennials, TrueGen and digital natives. By 2025, they’ll comprise 27% of the global workforce. They’re the most diverse generation in U.S. history, says Deloitte.

Most Gen Z-ers are technologically savvy and adapt well to change, even seeking out disruption, says HR platform Employment Hero. Meanwhile, a recent global study, the BCW Age of Values 2023 report, says Gen Z seeks power, achievement, stimulation and hedonism more than other generations.

When it comes to all things auto, Gen Z tends to have a different relationship with cars. They’re changing car culture, with fewer being licensed, owning or having access to personal vehicles. Part of that is the cost, but their values also are involved, drawing on an awareness of cars’ environmental and health impacts.

That’s why working for businesses involved in hybrid or electrified vehicles might resonate with them more than traditional vehicle types. But research shows that for some Gen Z consumers, the novelty and status of owning an EV appeals to them more than being kind to the climate.

How might the yardsticks and needs of Gen Z detailed above translate to what they’re expecting if they work for you?

Meeting Expectations

The Deloitte study says this generation prioritizes financial security over personal fulfillment.

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Many Generation Z-ers have multiple jobs to make ends meet. Growing up during a pandemic may have been a factor, too. Therefore, they may be ready to forge a two-way commitment. Or they may balk at the cost of traditional post-school education and taking on student-loan debt.

Employers need to make sure their expectations match those of Gen Z. Employee well-being and mental health support is key for stable employment.

Young job seekers will research your business to make sure it is compatible with their values. Does your recognition and reward program need revamping? How well do your staff work in teams and across your business? Does your workplace have a strong collaborative and inclusive work culture?

Consider how you can package a role and its benefits to cater to Generation Z’s desire for work-life balance. Investigate options for remote work and flexible scheduling where possible. Check out these other top practices to attract talent and boost retention that automotive businesses use globally:

  • Provide effective reskilling and cross-skilling.

  • Improve metrics and reporting on people and culture.

  • Tap into diverse talent pools.

  • Increase diversity, equity and inclusion policies and programs.

  • Improve internal communications strategies.

Highlighting Purpose and Values

There has been a backlash in our country against positive-discrimination hiring programs that embrace DEI. But such programs make good business sense and can transform businesses, including in the automotive industry.

Here are the DEI workforce strategies most common among automotive organizations globally, says the WEF:

  • Offer comprehensive DEI training for managers as well as staff.

  • Enable inclusion and accessibility across physical and virtual spaces.

  • Establish employee representative groups.

  • Ensure greater flexibility on university degree requirements for roles.

A More Sustainable Approach

The global automotive “ecosystem” is feeling the impact of digital as well as green transformations, according to an OECD report. The sector is transitioning to green hybrids and EVs. The latter will still need collision repairs and additional skills and specialized equipment to repair their higher electronic content. Other green jobs include electric-vehicle engineers and battery engineers as well as sustainable supply chain managers. All are in top demand. Check out these 26 green auto jobs, according to ESH Jobs.

Nicholas Wyman head shot 2022 (002).jpg

Nicholas Wyman head shot 2022 (002)_0

To be part of that transition, your auto business can emphasize to would-be workers your investment in ongoing professional development and learning. Spell out potential career pathways (even segues) in training, mentoring programs and expected timelines. Registered apprenticeship programs can outline these benefits and be tailored to exactly the skills development your business needs.

There is a lot to promoting and packaging a role that appeals to Generation Z. Ensure you highlight sustainability, a green job and one with an enduring future. This might prove a useful lure to appeal to candidates and improve retention.

Nicholas Wyman (pictured, above left) is Executive Director of the Institute for Workplace Skills & Innovation, and writes about a range of topics related to workforce development, apprenticeships and the future of work.


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