Can AI Tech Attract Gen Z to a Logistics Career?

There is hope to make careers in the warehouse a strong fit for Gen Z, but companies must act soon and embracing better technology for their workers should be their first step.

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The nation is on the verge of one of the biggest waves of retirement in recent memory. The volume of impending retirees is going to hit employers already pinched for labor, and the industrial sector is not immune. When it comes to the warehouse setting, the impact could be even more significant. Currently, 42% of warehouse workers are 40+ years old – many of whom are veterans in the space. The key takeaway? Employers need to act fast to recruit younger workers, or risk disappearing their warehousing workforce altogether. The question is – how do they do it?

Recent data from Soter Analytics shines a light on one major component: Gen Zers want tech in the workplace. In fact, 33% reported they want to work for a company that is actively embracing new technology to help employees do their job. It’s critical to understand not only why this is, but why it matters as the labor market undergoes a shift.

Gen Z is Tech-Native - They Want Their Employers to Be, Too

Most warehouse operators today are thinking about technology more from a lens of productivity and automation in operations, rather than a recruitment tool. But our survey found that 27% of Gen Zers are voicing interest to work for a company at the forefront of new technologies such as drones, connected devices, AI and VR. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Gen Z are one of the first generations who have been immersed in technology nearly since birth. Working with digital tools is a place of comfort for most 20-something’s today, and they’re looking for it to assist them in the workplace, too.

While some of the big guys like Amazon and BMW are making massive strides in large scale tech implementation in the warehouse, for the wider swath of operators, it’s about smaller steps into the right technologies that can solve their most immediate problems. AI-powered wearables can reduce injuries and improve productivity, AI-vision tools are helping to design safer lifting movements and job functions, and algorithms are prioritizing inventory and informing its location in the warehouse to streamline operations.

Is Tech Enough?

It might seem a stretch to consider that technology alone could attract Gen Z into warehousing jobs, but in fact, there are several other factors working in recruiters’ favor.

Along with the disenchantment of the college degree for newer generations (thanks to eye-popping university prices and questions around the true impact of a degree today), many Gen Zers are also reconsidering whether a traditional, white-collar desk job is for them.

They prioritize their health, are questioning the value of a stagnant, perhaps overly digital role staring at a computer screen day in and day out and are seeking more flexible scheduling.

All of these factors can play in favor of active industrial roles, should hiring managers play their cards right. If it’s clear your operations do prioritize the health and wellbeing of workers, if you do offer flexible scheduling options for shifts and if you incorporate technology to assist workers meaningfully in their roles, then there’s a lot to love for Generation Z.

So, why are they still nowhere to be found on the warehouse floor?

The problem is, according to Soter’s data, that 45% of Gen Zers don’t understand what industrial workers do, so it’s far less likely they’re even considering the benefits of these roles.

Leaving Behind Outdated Stigmas

This same Gen Z workforce that doesn’t understand what a job in a warehouse looks like, unfortunately does still carry the same stigmas about these roles that have been long held.

Data shows that relating to industrial, transport and logistics jobs, Gen Zers worry about their safety, they worry about making enough money to support their lifestyle and they worry about having enough growth opportunities to have a career, rather than just a job in this field.

These are valid concerns, and the industry holds a responsibility to ensuring that these critical roles that keep our economies functioning can also sustain the livelihoods of those who work within them.

So many companies in the space today are fostering strong and supportive internal cultures, care deeply for their employees and have designed jobs with employee’s priorities in mind – from using safety technology to offering flexible shift scheduling and better pay. But it will take the entire industry’s commitment to this culture shift to really change these external perceptions, and the clock is ticking.

The projections surrounding how many older workers are getting ready to leave these jobs will soon change from figures on a page to real people clocking out for the last time and emptier warehouses needing to keep up with demand. There is hope to make careers in the warehouse a strong fit for Gen Z, but companies must act soon and embracing better technology for their workers should be their first step.