Global Logistics Planning Guide: EMBRACE MILLENNIALS | Global Trade Magazine
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  December 4th, 2017 | Written by

Global Logistics Planning Guide: EMBRACE MILLENNIALS

OFTEN DISMISSED, THE YOUNGER GENERATION HAS THE TOOLS TO HANDLE THE EVER-CHANGING SUPPLY CHAIN

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  • Millennials’ entire lives revolve around smart phones, wearables and cutting-edge technology.
  • Millennials expect to receive the best available tech when it comes to their tools for work.

Supply chain management is a lot like life in that the only thing constant in the industry is change. New technology that is so new it crows about being disruptive, globalization, emerging markets, rising client and consumer expectations that demand the near-impossible sometimes and the near-immediate delivery of product whenever and wherever they are ordered always.

Managing, maintaining and growing all of that is the responsibility of supply chain. Celeste Catano has been in the logistics business for 40 years. The BluJay Solutions executive says the changes in the industry are like night and day or, more accurately, like paper and semi-conductor.

You did paperwork and you helped your customers do paperwork,” she said. “When I see where the [logistics] industry is today, the big change is in automation.”

To handle the new and growing list of responsibilities and tasks associated with today’s complex supply chains, industry professionals need to have much more than a good work ethic and a sharp pencil. Nowadays they must have exceptional communication skills, be adept at not only making connections vertically within organizations but horizontally with supply-chain partners. They must be able to keep up with new, constant and, yes, disruptive technological advances while, in a globalized economy, be able to navigate myriad social, cultural and geographic differences with ease, knowledge and sensitivity.

And in that world of rapid change and innovation there is yet another bit of change that could be potentially devastating to the industry: Currently anywhere from 25 to 33 percent of supply chain professionals are at or quickly approaching retirement age. That means about a quarter of available jobs in the supply chain industry will become available between now and 2020. But as the demands of the profession have never been greater, 3PLs are wary of a coming talent shortage. Consider that the demand-to-supply ratio of jobs to qualified individuals in the industry is a disturbing six to one.

Supply chain managers are retiring faster than they can be replaced,” says Christiane Beimel, vice president of Value Added Service for DHL-Germany. “There simply aren’t enough young people to backfill the pipeline.”

You’ll notice Beimel said “young people” and did not invoke the “M-word,” i.e. millennials. Folks get a little flinty when they hear that word and are pretty quick to complain millennials are always on their phones, always connected to social media and have grown up getting a trophy for everything … Oh, and GET OFF MY LAWN!

Which is a shame because, like it or not, it will be the people from that generation who will have to pick up the logistics torch and carry it forward. What’s more, the very things that people look down on millennials for are actually the qualities that could make them terrific supply chain managers of the future. Consider …

THEY’RE ALWAYS ON THEIR PHONES!”

Yes. Yes, they are. And that’s a good thing.

Millennials lives revolve around their phones, laptops, notebooks … and in an industry that is increasingly dependent on the newest technology, having someone who is not only adept at using that technology but not intimidated about whatever new is coming down the pike is valuable.

The fact is millennials don’t really view technology as technology, no more than those of us born after the introduction of indoor plumbing view that as something that is cutting edge. To millennials, technology is not intimidating. It is something that they simply accept as constant in their lives, even as it constantly changes.

They are exactly the kind of people you want around as technology seemingly re-invents each month/week/day. Of course, this does require some commitment from employers.

Millennials’ entire lives revolve around smart phones, wearables and cutting-edge technology, so they expect to receive the best available tech when it comes to their tools for work,” wrote John Boucher, president and CEO of Moduslink Global Solutions. “As an added benefit, these employees are always connected and always on, therefore the tech solutions they desire need to have that same emphasis on connectivity and accessibility. Making sure the chief information officer (CIO) and information technology (IT) teams recognize these needs and wishes, and respond with either bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies or provide up-to-date computers and phones, can directly impact employee happiness and, in turn, help foster a workforce that is more satisfied with their jobs, thus remaining with the company longer, and more apt to refer potential new hires.”

THEY’RE ALWAYS ON SOCIAL MEDIA”

Yeah, maybe you’ve had it with the shared cat videos and selfies, but the fact is that millennials have grown up in a collaborative culture. In fact, when surveyed, the overwhelming majority of them say they would prefer to work in a collaborative work culture rather than one based on competition with colleagues.

The kind of community they find on Facebook and the like is what they are prone to look for in their work lives. That type of attitude allows them to function well in a group and will ultimately give them access to a larger body of knowledge quicker, something that can be critical in a fast-moving, fast-changing supply chain industry where transparency and the latest intel are critical.

Millennials are uniquely positioned for a role in the global supply chain, as their strengths lie in creating and maintaining partnerships that could be crucial for their organization’s success. Remember, this is the first generation to which social communication skills have been so important.

In fact, companies that are looking to attract this kind of talent should consider using non-traditional channels to promote job openings. Social media can be used to attract young talent. What’s more, using social media for the promotion of job announcements establishes brand awareness and allows for more informal candidate engagement, something millennials find particularly attractive. Similarly, creating visually appealing job descriptions will help to get more out of job postings.

THEY WANT A TROPHY FOR EVERYTHING THEY DO”

It’s true that this generation grew up getting lots of positive reinforcement and that has led them to expect a lot out of life. That includes where they work, where millennials not only expect to have a job that engages them but that they can be proud of. They want a job that is both rewarding and mission-driven that, simply, seeks to make the world a better place.

Studies have shown that because of how they were raised, many millennials have higher than average self-esteem and are therefore more emboldened to improve their skills and challenge the status quo. Put simply, they’re willing to take risks, adopt new ideas and are more apt to implement technology to get their desired result.

This is a generation which expects to find answers with just a few clicks on a smartphone, etc., making them more likely to make decisions quickly and well-informed. All those participation trophies just may have given them the kind of confidence in their ability to analyze and act on data, which supply chain organizations should take advantage of to increase operational effectiveness.

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