How will “Millennials” fare in the face of the future of Supply Chain Jobs?

December 2, 2013

Macleans recently came out with an article The Young and the Restless. What we found intriguing was that it covered how Generation Y, or so-called “Millennials,” are adapting to the workforce—and how the workforce is adapting to them. We wanted to address this particular phenomenon since as employers or related to those who employ, this subject really affects us all as the Baby Boomers age and “Millennials” start to move into the driver’s seat of employment. We hope to ignite conversation and opinions from our network about what they think of Gen Y’s evolving place in the workforce, and whether they might or might not be well-suited to take over Supply Chain and Procurement positions especially and if not, what they need to do to get themselves ready.

We’ve blogged and written a lot about the “Supply Chain Talent Gap,” which is a two-pronged phenomenon in the Supply Chain field. On the one hand, massive numbers of Baby Boomers who will retire in the next 7 to 13 years will leave a big space to fill. On the other, Universities and Secondary Schools (especially High Schools) certainly don’t do a good enough job of informing and educating the next generation about the great possibilities Supply Chain (including Procurement & Strategic Sourcing) offers as a booming career. It’s been reported in various Supply Chain publications across the web that many young people just don’t know what Supply Chain is and what it has to offer in terms of wealth of opportunities. And if they do, they still only associate it with an antiquated image of a transactional, unexciting somewhat blue collar – in the warehouse – business area, instead of the vital strategic function with global competitive scope it has. They don’t seem to understand that Supply Chain has an important seat in the C-Suite and that huge careers are made here and that Supply Chain is driven by technological progress today and into the future.

Some online have argued that the Supply Chain Talent gap is really a problem at the mid-senior level, and that the number of entry-level Supply Chain graduates greatly outnumbers the available entry-level positions. Still, it’s a demographic inevitability that Generation Y will have to eventually replace the Baby Boomers even in more senior Supply Chain Jobs.

Which makes it worth asking, (especially for recruiters like Argentus who exclusively focus in the Supply Chain vertical and who are always on the lookout for up and comers in this field): what makes the Millennial Generation a unique addition to the workforce? And in Supply Chain especially?

It’s been interesting to notice the evolution in how Generation Y (thought to be anyone who came of age in and around the year 2000 and since) has been perceived in the media and in the workforce. For the past few years, dozens of media “trends” pieces have tried to grapple with the latest generation to join the work force. Many of these pieces were very harsh, such as the New York Times op-ed linked in the Macleans article that describes “Millennials” as “generation why bother” and extrapolated Millennials’ tendency to not get drivers licenses as evidence of a lack of overall ambition. But lately, articles about “Millennials” in the workforce have started to accept both Millennials’ demographic inevitability, and the fact that they actually have assets to bring to the workplace.

Here are some pretty common perceptions of Millennial workers, both positive and negative. They range from accurate to incorrect to downright offensive:

  • Millennials” insist on job flexibility. They don’t like having their “work time” and “play time” segmented into rigid schedules, preferring to make their own hours.
  • “Millennials” are usually smart and very tech savvy. This has particular implication for the Supply Chain. As some have noted around the internet, “Millennials” will be well-suited to using Supply Chain cloud computing technology since they’re very used to social networking and being constantly connected. Beyond that, they are the first digital natives, and are probably better suited to picking up new applications.
  • “Millennials” are jumpy candidates and switch jobs readily.
  • “Millennials” are highly innovative.
  • Millennials are lazy and demand to be constantly praised for their efforts.
  • “Millennials” are overly attached to their parents. They don’t want to move out of their parents’ houses, either because they’re financially dependent or because they’re “lifestyle” dependent. This Huffington Post article even alleges that “Millennials” have a tendency to bring their parents along to job interviews (not our job interviews thank goodness)

It’s clear that opinions vary.

Anyway, keeping all this in mind, here are the general questions we had for our readers in the Supply Chain space and beyond:

  1. In your experience, are these perceptions true or not?
  2. How are “Millennials” uniquely suited (or not) for positions in Supply Chain, Planning, Procurement, Logistics, Distribution, Operations, etc.? And, given they are here to stay how can they be blended in best into this talent gap?
  3. How are “Millennials” faring in your organizations? Have you found them easy or difficult to work with?
  4. Are Millennials even different from other previous generations of young workers?

How can Supply Chain as a group better understand and  embrace this new generation? We’d love to hear your take on this issue.

Over and Out for now




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