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How Are Millennials Transforming Supply Chain Management?

Group of multicultural friends using smartphone outdoors - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected men and women - Shallow depth of field on vintage filter tone There are lots of myths about the millennials in the workplace. Some think they have less loyalty; others believe they care more about “purpose” than they do making a living. Here’s the truth: Millennials are just as driven to succeed as any other generation of workers. Most organizations should be happy to have them (and many don’t have a choice, since millennials are quickly becoming the dominant force in workplaces around the world). And supply chain management firms in particular should embrace what millennials bring to the table. What skills do millennials have that suit the world of logistics? They’re tech savvy, data driven, socially conscious, committed to growth, diverse, and always connected. [su_divider top="no" size="2"]

Related Article: How Blockchain Will Reshape Supply Chain Management

[su_divider top="no" size="2"] Here’s a rundown of why organizations of all sizes should be pursuing millennials to help manage their supply chains:

Hard to Recruit, Easier To Retain

The need for jobs related to the supply chain is going to explode in the coming years. According to one estimate, as many as 3.5 million jobs related to supply chain logistics could be available by 2020, due to older workers retiring and an inability to find suitable replacements. [Tweet "As many as 3.5 million jobs related to supply chain logistics could be available by 2020."] A recent report from Deloitte says that “recruitment is a greater challenge than retention” in this field, and that “Roughly three-quarters of executives said it is difficult for their company’s supply chain to recruit senior leadership.” Perhaps that’s because those organizations are “seeking different types of talent than those who ‘grew up in the supply chain.’” Millennials certainly fit the bill as a generation that grew up with technology—technology that has only recently begun to transform supply chain and inventory management. But are millennials aware of and excited for a career in this field? The answer is yes. According to Supply Chain Dive, “More millennials are beginning their career in the supply chain, change jobs less frequently and are highly satisfied with opportunities for advancement in the field.” Now that we know that there is a major need for supply chain roles to be filled, and an enormous and often willing generation ready to fill those roles, let’s examine what the new generation of logistics workers will bring to the field.

Knowledge and comfort With Technology

Millennials are “digital natives.” As a result, they are extremely comfortable with many of the tools, apps, and platforms that are slowly beginning to transform supply chain management, such as smartphones, cloud computing, IoT, automation, and augmented/virtual reality. sid-free-consultation-0516 The difference between millennials and generations past is that the new generation is more motivated to use these tools in new and interesting ways, wringing more efficiency and satisfaction out of them than ever before. Organizations will need to invest in the latest devices and software in order to promote and engender this innovation.

Increased Diversity

Diversity is part of what millennials like about the field of logistics: According to an APICS survey, 85 percent noted that “supply chain involves a diverse workforce and encompasses people of all types.” Millennials will do their part to increase that diversity, especially in regards to gender. Respondents to the APICS were 39 percent female, up from 24 percent the year prior.

Social and Environmental Consciousness

It’s becoming increasingly important that companies can easily and transparently trace their materials back to ethical sources. Brands that don’t do their part to combat climate change and to end unfair work practices will see a backlash from consumers. That coincides perfectly with the rise of millennials, who want to make a positive contribution to society via their professional lives. Expect to see millennials emphasize the clean, transparent, and socially and environmentally friendly way their supply chain powers their businesses, taking pride in using new technologies to do so.

The Use Of Data In Decision-Making

You can see a reticence on the part of older generations when it comes to using data to make decisions. There’s more of an emphasis on “going with your gut” or having faith in a photographic memory or other bygone methods that resulted in unbalanced inventory ratios and points of friction along the supply chain. Millennials are much more interested in using data to drive their decisions, growing up in the advent of data use and often utilizing data in their own lives, understanding the best times to post photos to social media to gain maximum views, attention, and likes. Cropped shot of a group of friends using their phones together outdoors

On-the-Job Learning

Millennials are already entering the workforce as the best educated generation in history. But the need and desire for continued learning will help them grow with the needs of the company. Companies that invest in and provide on-the-job training, continued education, and space and time for employees to learn new skills and about emerging technologies, will see increased retention, loyalty, and productivity from workers eager to expand their skill set and take on new roles and responsibilities.

Always Connected, Anytime and Anywhere

Supply chains are global entities now, and that requires working connections across time zones, countries, and even cultures. Millennials are uniquely positioned to make these connections, thanks to their global connectivity via smartphones, apps, and networks that make it easy to make new friends, colleagues, peers, and relationships. Additionally, supply chains may require increased connectivity on traditionally off-hours, such as nights and weekends. But millennials with smartphones can tackle these issues with relatively little problem, thanks to access to secure apps that give them instant updates and feedback.

Increased Use of Android

For a long time, Windows was the operating system of choice for warehouses and those in logistics. But the once-king of warehouse operating systems is sunsetting their support for such devices, which means a new OS must take its place. Luckily, tons of millennials already use the OS on the rise in this space: Android. That works fine for them, since they grew up getting accustomed to the intuitive, tap-and-swipe interface that Droids have now perfected, as opposed to older blue screen terminals. Overall, it’s clear that some of the changes that are happening to the supply chain would likely occur with or without this “changing of the guard.” But it’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg situation: Who can say whether millennials or the need to be socially conscious came first? Millennials are becoming both the consumer and the logistician, which means they understand each other better than the older generations ever could. Businesses that expect to improve their operations moving forward need to do their best to attract new, young talent in the form of millennials. Their organizations will change as a result—but that’s a good thing. The future is now.