Ask a child or teenager what they’d like to do when they “grow up,” and working in supply chain is unlikely to feature in their top choices. It’s hardly surprising then to learn that millennials (roughly defined as those born between 1982 and 2000) aren’t exactly lining up for supply chain positions.
For a generation that has grown up around “cool” brands like Apple, Facebook and Google, careers in supply chain can have limited appeal, especially when it comes to recruiting for positions like data scientists and analytics talent. Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) predict that failure to attract millennials will be a huge barrier to innovation, especially given the considerable gap between today's skill sets and those that are likely to be required in three to five years’ time.
“ Emphasizing the role that your supply chain plays with the sort of sustainability and social issues that millennials relate to is important, but don’t be afraid to appeal to their bank balances as well.”
“Today's generation of students represents a real opportunity for a labor-strapped profession such as supply chain, but they know relatively little about the opportunities within it,” explained Dana Stiffler, research vice president at Gartner. “To attract new and younger talent, CSCOs must up their game and ensure that careers in supply chain really appeal to young people, so they know that supply chain is much more than transactional procurement or logistics.”
Ms. Stiffler said that CSCOs need to highlight the innovative and technology-driven projects that supply chain is involved with — such as autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, robotics and crowdsourcing — as well as underline the supply chain's involvement with online retailing and the overall digital business movement. Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are also key drivers in compelling undeclared students to choose supply chain.
“Emphasizing the role that your supply chain plays with the sort of sustainability and social issues that millennials relate to is important, but don’t be afraid to appeal to their bank balances as well,” said Ms. Stiffler. “While they may still be a little young to be worrying about retirement plans, think about the specific benefits that will attract millennials, such as financial incentives that can help reduce college debt.”
Gartner has identified four key strategies CSCOs can employ to attract and retain the best young talent:
- Use great internship experiences to attract millennial talent The earlier your millennial pipeline starts, the more fruitful recruitment will be. Establish a supply chain internship program in partnership with key universities, ensuring that this includes meaningful work experience and senior executive exposure so that interns accept your job offer before they graduate. With virtually 100 percent placement of supply chain undergraduates in North American programs, engaging early is crucial.
- Create a culture that mentors millennials Creating a collaborative work environment where people are motivated to work and feel supported in what they do is crucial. New employees may need soft-skill coaching, including how to collaborate, resolve conflict and interact socially in the workplace. Initiating mentoring programs and informal settings like “lunch and learns” will help millennials adapt to desired values and behaviors.
- Develop career development plans from the start Companies that highlight career paths and development opportunities from day one retain better over time, showing employees they are serious about growth and opportunity for all, regardless of level or “high-potential” label. Focus on accentuating strengths, setting goals and providing frequent feedback. Millennials need to see short-term success to ensure engagement, so expose them to employees who demonstrate this.
- Give millennial talent access to cross-functional programs Millennials enjoy the opportunity to learn from different areas of the business, and this will help to retain them. Top grads are more likely to accept offers from companies that have formal supply chain rotational programs. Typically, these programs set aside one to three years to broaden participants' perspectives to truly understand the business, and to provide broader functional understanding and multicultural experiences.