3 Supply Chain Career Requirements for Millennials

October 14, 2015

Written by Kirsten Watson. This post originally appeared on the Kinaxis industry blog, The 21st-Century Supply Chain

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These days it seems you can’t spend ten minutes surfing the internet without seeing an article about millennials. Heck, we’ve even written about the generation of people spanning those born in the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. At the same time, in supply chain forums, media, and blogs, talk of the talent shortage in the industry is inescapable. So, how do these two topics converge? In many ways, as quickly becomes apparent.

The supply chain management workforce is comprised mostly of Baby Boomers at the moment—but they’re starting to retire. And, the numbers of professionals transitioning out of supply chain careers will rise significantly over the coming years. Compounding the looming departure of thousands of professionals from the industry is the fact that a shortage of supply chain talent already exists. A studyconducted by Supply Chain Insights found that demand for supply chain talent outpaces supply—despite the rise of supply chain-focused university programs over the last two decades. That study noted 46% of respondents stated “Talent: knowledge and availability” was their most significant business pain.

Given these dynamics, it’s obvious attracting and retaining supply chain talent is critical. Many articles have explored how to entice young people to study supply chain management at the university level. But here, I want to focus on how companies can attract millennials currently working in supply chain management—and keep them happy and productive on the job. As you read on, you’ll see a common theme emerge.

Millennials Want Technology-Empowered Processes

The digital revolution was the hand that rocked the millennial cradle. For this generation, life and technology are inseparable. Computers entered the picture for them by elementary school. They’ve interacted with cloud technology since their high school years. They are the generation behind the wheel of the consumerization of IT—the expectation that the technology we use in our work life should be just as powerful and usable as what we use in our personal lives.

As a result, millennials’ tolerance for inadequate workplace technology is low—very low. Excel spreadsheets, both beloved and bemoaned by innumerable supply chain practitioners, may never completely disappear from our daily work lives. But they’re woefully insufficient when it comes to meeting the technology expectations of today’s young professionals. Technology represents a vital tool to enable workplace achievement for millennials. If a supply chain organization doesn’t have the right level of technology to support its daily work, they’re unlikely to attract and keep top millennial talent.

Millennials Expect Collaborative Work Environments

Technology has also served to make millennials the most “connected” generation. While the internet has given us all virtually unlimited access to information, networks and—ultimately—other people, millennials have lived in that environment for more than half of their lives. They also came of age in a time where collaboration was, arguably, favored over independent work. Sports teams and group school projects instilled a sense of cooperation in this generation like none that preceded it. They’ve not only come to expect collaborative environments, they rely on the power of group dynamics to make the most informed decisions. An Intelligence Group survey of millennials found that 88% prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one

When you combine these two realities—ubiquitous virtual connections and pervasive teamwork—it becomes clear millennials are particularly geared toward the global work and intricate partnerships required for success in supply chain management. But if your supply chain organization doesn’t support a highly cooperative environment (supported by collaborative technologies), you’re liable to lose millennial workers to one that does.

Millennials Need Data-Driven Decision-Making

Collaboration isn’t the only factor driving workplace decision-making for millennials. Data—big data—looms large for today’s younger professionals. Millennials have been swimming in a sea of electronic information for most of their lives. They’ve come to expect that the answer to any question is just a few clicks away. There is no delayed gratification here—“real time” is all the time.

How does this translate to working in supply chain management? Best guesses, ad hoc decision-making, and antiquated forecasting and planning methodologies represent a minefield of frustration for the millennial worker. They want access to data and analytics that provide actionable insights—quickly. If you can provide them with that, their confidence in analyzing and acting on data will translate into significant operational effectiveness for your supply chain.

Obviously, the common theme amongst all of these career requirements for millennials is technology. Do you think most supply chain positions today meet these criteria? Will the talent shortage in supply chain ultimately be solved by technology improvements? Share your opinions in the comments! 

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