Understanding the Tides: How Plastics Industry Trends Affect Talent Management

In the world of business, staying ahead means keeping a watchful eye on industry trends and being agile in your responses. The plastics industry is no exception.

This industry isn’t static. It nods, winks, and sometimes roars at the pace of innovation, technology, and market demands. Just when you think you have the best crew on board, the industry’s currents change direction, demanding new skills and expertise.

For example, today’s perfect hire might be a specialist in a specific type of plastic manufacturing. But a sudden twist in sustainability trends or tech advancements might make a different expertise the new hot commodity tomorrow. Therefore, aligning the hiring strategy with the industry’s shifting tide becomes a necessity for companies.

This blog focuses on the main trends in the plastics industry and how they affect talent management. We’ll explore how these movements are recalibrating the desired skills, affecting candidate expectations, and shaping the future of talent in the plastics industry.


The Need of Monitoring Trends in the Plastics Industry

Within the plastics industry, trends refer to the patterns and movements that shape its evolution. These may include industrial advancements, modified regulations, or a push towards sustainability. A variety of factors such as innovation, consumer habits, economic conditions, influence where the industry is headed.

And in the exciting world of plastics, keeping your finger on the pulse of industry trends isn’t just ‘nice-to-have’, it’s a ‘need-to-have’. Companies must stay alert to industry movements for a host of reasons, and talent management strategy sits high on that list. Here’s why:

Informed Decision-Making: Keeping tabs on industry trends can be vital for making sound business decisions. It provides insight into upcoming opportunities and potential problems, as well as the skills needed to make the most of them. 

Attracting the Right Talent: Knowledge of where the industry is heading allows companies to sharpen up their talent acquisition policies. Whether it’s hiring experts in sustainable plastics or seeking professionals proficient in digital solutions, understanding these trends can help attract talent that aligns with future industry needs.

Retaining Top Performers: It’s easier to retain top performers when a company keeps up with industry trends. Employees want to work for companies at the forefront of industry advancements, demonstrating innovation and offering opportunities for growth.

Development and Training: Recognizing industry trends helps businesses plan suitable training programs. Companies can invest in upskilling their workforce in trending areas, nurturing a pool of future-ready talent.

Monitoring industry trends and their influence on talent management isn’t a mere hit-or-miss adventure. It’s similar to preparing for a marathon, ensuring you’re well-equipped for the long haul.


4 Key Trends Shaping the Plastics Industry

As we progress through the plastic realm, several key trends stand out for their significant impact on the industry and the talent within it. Here’s a brief introduction to the 4 trends:

  • Sustainability and Circular Economy

With environmental responsibility taking center stage worldwide, the plastics industry is receiving a clear message: the time for sustainable solutions is now. This trend focuses on creating systems that reduce waste, increase recycling and reuse, and move toward a more circular economy.

  • Reshoring

The reshoring trend refers to businesses moving their operations back to their home countries from overseas. As the economic setting changes, more plastics companies are reconsidering the cost-benefit balance and opting for domestic production.

  • Industry 4.0 and Digitization

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is here, bringing with it important advancements in data exchange, automation, and manufacturing technologies. This trend is transforming the plastics industry from production to talent management.

  • Advanced Material Innovations

With the continuous progression of technology, the trend of advanced material innovations is reshaping the plastics industry. Improvements in polymer science and engineering are resulting in smart plastics with properties like self-healing, high-temperature resistance. These advancements hold promising potential for future applications and profitability.

Let’s go further into each of these trends, discussing their impact on the plastics industry and how talent management strategies can make use of these changes.


Trend 1: Sustainability and Circular Economy

In recent years, the world has witnessed a crucial shift towards sustainability. Industries across the board are under growing pressure to adopt eco-friendly practices, and the plastics industry is no exception. As per McKinsey & Company, by 2030, reusable and recyclable plastics could represent up to a quarter of total global plastic packaging volumes, compared to just 2% in 2023. This move towards sustainability isn’t a simple bandwagon trend; it’s a decisive answer to global environmental concerns and changing consumer expectations.

The growing demand for sustainable solutions in the plastics industry is driving the push towards a circular economy; a model that focuses on designing out waste, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. This represents an example shift from the old ‘take-make-waste’ industrial model to a future where waste becomes a thing of the past.

The trend to sustainability and a circular economy in the plastics industry has multiple effects for talent management. Firstly, there’s an increasing demand for professionals skilled in these areas as companies aim to minimize their environmental footprint. Furthermore, sustainability is a significant consideration for jobseekers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, boosting its importance in attracting and retaining talent. Lastly, sustainability efforts often require teamwork and innovation, so companies need to nurture these qualities in their current staff and seek them in new candidates.


Trend 2: Reshoring

Over the past decade, reshoring – the practice of transferring a business operation from overseas back to the home country – has become a significant trend in various industries, including plastics. Driven by factors like increasing costs of labor in traditional offshoring countries, quality control issues, and the desire to simplify supply chains, many businesses are now ‘coming home’.

The Reshoring Initiative predicts that reshoring and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will bring about one million jobs back to the U.S. in 2023. This holds large effects for the domestic job market in the plastics industry. As Eric Lofquist, Co-founder, President, and CEO of Magna-Power Electronics, briefly puts it, “The tide has turned. Companies are realizing… that with its higher productivity and rapidly rising wages, it doesn’t pay too offshore to China.” This outlook reflects a larger realization among industries that domestic production can offer superior quality control, quicker delivery times, and stronger inventory management.

The reshoring trend in the plastics industry needs an adjustment in talent management strategies. With operations returning domestically, there’s rising demand for a broad spectrum of roles. Businesses must adapt their talent acquisition strategies to effectively attract, source, and retain the necessary domestic talent. It also emphasizes the need for technical and vocational skills, stressing partnership with educational institutions and the promotion of plastics manufacturing as a rewarding career path. Furthermore, companies must ensure attractive compensation packages and showcase a commitment to employee development to compete effectively in talent acquisition.


Trend 3: Industry 4.0 and Digitization

The influence of Industry 4.0 is increasingly obvious in the plastics industry. This revolution is characterized by the integration of digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) into the world of manufacturing. According to a report by Deloitte, in 2023 over 70% of companies are to start their journey of digital transformation. This is set to bring extensive changes to the plastics industry, driving efficiency, improving quality control, and enabling more adaptive manufacturing processes.

The rise of Industry 4.0 and digitization brings fresh talent management opportunities and challenges for the plastics industry. As confidence in digital technology grows, so does the demand for professionals skilled in areas like data analysis, machine learning, and robotics programming. At the same time, digitization is reshaping work arrangements, enabling productivity-enhancing flexible work schedules and expanding the talent pool via remote work capabilities. Plus, companies are utilizing AI and machine learning to automate recruitment tasks and deliver personalized training, enhancing talent acquisition and management processes. Digitization is not only transforming the plastics industry’s operations but also its approach to managing its vital asset – its people, favoring companies that adapt their talent strategies effectively. 


Trend 4: Advanced Material Innovations

The rise of advanced material innovations in the plastics industry presents a bundle of opportunities. With the global advanced materials market projected to shoot to $3.5 trillion by 2028 according to Allied Market Research, the demand for expertise in the field has never been higher. On the other hand, a study by McKinsey & Company reveals an increasing skills gap within the advanced materials and composites sector. This scenario emphasizes the importance of effective talent management within the industry to bridge the gap and leverage the promising opportunities in the market. 

By prioritizing talent management, companies in the advanced materials and composites industry can not only bridge the growing skills gap but also position themselves for continued growth and success. As they navigate the unfamiliar domain of advanced material innovations, well-directed talent management strategies will be instrumental in harnessing the full potential of these materials while also contributing to the overall growth of the plastics industry. 

Challenges in Adapting to Industry Trends

While the importance of keeping pace with industry trends is clear, it’s equally clear that adapting to these trends can be challenging for many businesses. Here are some common difficulties faced by companies in the plastics industry:

Resistance to Change: People are often resistant to change, and unstable organizational practices to align with industry trends can be met with resistance from employees at all levels. Overcoming this challenge requires strong leadership, effective communication, and a clear vision for the future.

Skills Gap: Industry trends often demand new skills and expertise. However, finding candidates with these skills can be difficult, especially in a competitive job market. Developing strong relationships with educational institutions, investing in employee training programs, and promoting the plastics industry as a desirable career path can help.

Cost Implications: To stay on top of the latest industry trends, businesses need to be willing to invest. This includes costs for new technologies, employee training, and changes in production processes. It’s important to carefully consider the cost versus the benefit when deciding where to allocate resources for the greatest return.

Regulatory Compliance: Industry trends like sustainability and the move towards a circular economy often come with new regulations. These regulations and ensuring compliance can be complex. Partnership with legal experts, industry bodies, and regulators is a big help.

Data Security: Trends like Industry 4.0 and digitization bring the challenge of data security. Protecting sensitive company and employee data is crucial and requires strong cybersecurity measures.

In essence, while adapting to industry trends is crucial for future success, it’s not without its challenges. However, with proactive planning, effective change management, and a commitment to continuous learning, these hurdles can be overcome. 


10 Talent Management Tactics for Industry Trends

The ability to adapt talent management strategies to industry trends is a crucial asset for any business in the plastics industry. Here are 10 strategies that can help achieve this:

  1. Continual Learning and Development

Upskilling and reskilling initiatives should be integral parts of any talent management strategy. This ensures the workforce keeps speed with developing skill demands. 

  1. Embrace Technology

Applying technology can enhance various aspects of talent management, from recruitment and onboarding to performance management and learning.

  1. Strong Employer Branding

Showcasing commitment to industry trends, such as sustainability and digitization, can enhance an employer’s brand. This helps in attracting and retaining talent.

  1. Collaboration with Educational Institutions

Partnerships with educational institutions can help bridge the skills gap, providing a pipeline of skilled graduates ready to meet the demands of the plastics industry.

  1. Diversity and Inclusion

Building diverse and inclusive teams can drive innovation, improve decision-making, and enhance company reputation.

  1. Competitive Compensation and Benefits

Aligning compensation and benefits with the market standards for specific roles and skills can aid in attracting and retaining top talents.

  1. Workforce Planning

Regularly reviewing workforce plans and adjusting them based on industry trends is important for guaranteeing the business has the right talent, now and in the future.

  1. Utilize Data

Collect and analyze data to make informed decisions about hiring, development, succession planning, and retention.

  1. Flexible Work Models

Adopting flexible work models can help attract a wider pool of candidates, improve employee engagement, and adapt to trends like digitization.

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Change

Encourage a culture that embraces rather than resists change. This can make it easier to adapt to new trends and ensure employees are prepared for the future of work.

Incorporating these strategies into talent management allows businesses to remain competitive in the changing plastics industry. It’s about preparing for the future while maximizing the present potential. Each company’s journey will be different, based on their specific circumstances, resources, and goals. However, the common denominator should always be a proactive and strategic approach to managing talent.


The plastic empire isn’t stagnant and keeping pace with trends like sustainability, reshoring, digitization, and advanced material innovations can feel like a thrilling ship voyage. Similarly, understanding and responding to these trends can transform challenges into opportunities, empowering your company and its people to shine in the advanced plastics industry. Adapting your talent management strategy to these changes doesn’t just prepare your company for the journey ahead; it helps shape the future of the industry.

Interested in discovering these trends and their impact on your talent management strategy? Our team at Plastic Executive Recruiters is here to help. We specialize in connecting exceptional talent with innovative companies in the plastics industry. Let’s partner to guarantee your talent strategy is in sync with the industry trends. Contact us today to set you up for triumph!

Ed Keil

Got QUEstions?

Ed Keil, "The Plastics Recruiter"

No problem! Click on the button to the right to schedule
your call with Ed Keil, "The Plastics Recruiter" 

Presets Color