If you’re worried about the age gap forming in manufacturing, you wouldn’t be alone. According to the Manufacturing Institute, 78% of manufacturers are concerned about their ageing workforce. Here at Trivium Packaging, our average colleague is 46 years old. While this means we have a highly skilled workforce, with a large proportion of our colleagues having accumulated many years of expertise, when our long-term colleagues reach retirement age we face a knowledge-retention challenge.
We have to ask, therefore, why the industry isn’t currently attracting the younger generation. Outdated perceptions of the job role play into it. While people imagine manufacturing to be labor-intensive, in reality, it now requires a high technological skill level in some areas of the production process. Our colleagues in the industry use technologies such as IoT, AI and machine learning daily—and have done so for many years.
Equally, manufacturing is still a male-dominated industry. Recent data shows that in the U.S., men make up 71% of the manufacturing workforce and 81% are from a white ethnic background. Diversity and inclusion are primary factors in the younger generations' job decision-making, with a Monster survey finding that 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EDIB) is important when choosing an employer.
Laying the Equity Foundations
To bust long-standing perceptions, at Trivium, we have ramped up our initiatives to connect with the local community. For example, annually on Manufacturing Day in the U.S., we invite the community to tour the factory —showing the next generation the opportunities available in the manufacturing industry and confronting misconceptions that may have kept younger workers from considering manufacturing.
In parallel, we’ve invested in a robust EDIB strategy. We need to show prospective applicants from all generations and backgrounds that we take EDIB seriously and want change as much as they do. It’s on us to not only talk about it, but also prove that we are committed to providing fair treatment and development opportunities for everyone. And, if we want to attract the newer generation, implementing an EDIB strategy is now non-negotiable.
A wide-reaching EDIB strategy doesn’t only help to solve the growing age gap; it’s also a crucial element in tackling other challenges the industry faces, including retention, capability shortage and poor mental health. Notably, when employees feel a sense of inclusion and belonging to their workplaces, research finds that it leads to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk and a 75% decrease in employee sick days.
Setting Out an EDIB Roadmap
So, what does an EDIB roadmap look like? Start with your end goal: a diverse workplace where employees are free to be their authentic selves: employees should be empowered, represented and respected, with fair, equitable and transparent opportunities available to all.
At Trivium, our roadmap to EDIB includes:
● Executive forum: To set the standard and drive forward change, we have created a forum including C-suite executives—CEO, CFO, CPO, and CSO—to sponsor EDIB strategies to act as thought leaders in the business.
● Employee resource groups: To help to create an inclusive culture we have created employee groups, such as Wellbeing@Trivium and Women@Trivium. This has allowed peers to connect, learn from each other and set the foundation for a culture of emotional safety and belonging.
● EDIB metrics: To understand the effectiveness of the strategies we have deployed, we are monitoring data on gender, age and nationality. In the future, we are aiming to expand our data to other under-represented communities such as LGBTQAI+, neurodivergence, ethnic groups and caregiver status, just to name a few. This will allow us to take a more intersectional approach to our EDIB Strategy and help us monitor % for each demographic, as well tracking attendees to EDIB initiatives and their feedback.
● Awareness and education: We want our colleagues to understand why EDIB is so important, so we are raising awareness for EDIB while educating on the “why” too. We’re doing this through regular workshops, events, training and educational programs to contribute to a culture of safety and inclusion, as well as educating employees on why EDIB is important.
● Attraction, Retention and Development - We are now focusing on implementing a competence-based recruitment process—where questions assess a candidate's strengths and weaknesses in line with the key competencies required by the role—to reduce bias. We’re also expanding our recruitment efforts to a variety of job boards, partnerships, and organizations/charities to ensure our job listings land in front of a diverse applicant pool. For example, in the US, we work with Circa, which shares our job postings with a network of local and diverse employment websites, ensuring our jobs land in front of people from a wide range of backgrounds. Example sites we advertise on include African American & Black Jobs, Asian American & Pacific Islanders Jobs, Disability jobs, Indigenous & Native Jobs, Diversityjobs.com, Over Fifty jobs, LGBTQIA+ Jobs and many more. We aim to reduce performance evaluation bias through a transparent process outlining clear objectives, evaluation metrics and collecting feedback from different sources as well as setting up calibration committees to evaluate performance.
If a process is clear and transparent, employees understand how they are evaluated, and how performance is linked to pay and bonuses—empowering them with information, and ensuring all employees are treated fairly. When accompanied by clear evaluation metrics—objectives set, followed by regular reviews, with the final evaluation held by the manager and a calibration committee—it further eliminates instances of personal bias. Our focus for the coming period will be to offer learning solutions that suit a diverse range of needs as well as continue our EDIB mentoring program. Finally, we are actively working towards ensuring equitable pay with a thorough analysis aligned with external benchmarks.
EBID Helps Solve Business Challenges
Change won’t happen overnight, but EDIB strategies can serve as a solution to many of the challenges the manufacturing industry faces. Some will need to broaden their perspectives and question their long-standing beliefs or biases, which can be a tricky process. But it’s one that needs to happen to ensure the workplaces of the future are equitable, diverse and inclusive organisations for all. Those who overlook EDIB’s importance will soon find themselves faced with an ever-mounting list of workplace challenges.