It’s hard to imagine avocado toast loving, Tiktok-obsessed zoomers or millennials working on legacy logistics or supply chain team. Aren’t those warehouse jobs for old men with gruff demeanors and a closet full of flannel? Unfortunately, stereotypes are a thing.
We know that most millennials are not lazy phone addicts, and many logistics employees aren’t even men! When it comes to millennials and now Gen Z entering the supply chain workforce, there seems to be a disconnect.
Ask a millennial (the generation born between 1981-1997) or Gen Z (born between 1998-2015) to name his or her top five exciting, rewarding careers, and there is a strong chance that a supply chain professional isn’t going to be on that list. Instead, the response will read something along the lines of: Tech startup founder, urban farmer, non-profit professional, coder or even financial advisor.
This is bad news for the logistics industry, as supply chains necessitate employees and leaders that are adaptive, flexible and innovative—the very traits that are often attributed to millennials and Gen Z. They wouldn’t just benefit from their work ethic; the industry literally needs them.
The current supply chain workforce is predominantly made up of boomers, who hold the majority of management positions and are near retirement. Yet more than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are Millennials, making them the largest generation of workers, according to Pew Research Center analysis. Further, it is expected that Gen Z will account for 25% of the workforce by 2025. And then of course you have the Great Resignation, causing further workforce attrition.
So, how can managers overcome this recruitment roadblock and attract the next generation of talent?
Revamp Your Sales Pitch
It’s critical to sell them on the challenges and advantages of the job, rather than the stability of a long-term career. After all, these generations graduated college with record amounts of student debt in the face of a recession surrounded by stories of their peers who seemingly struck it rich working for the Instagrams, Ubers and Googles of the world. Their job-seeking focus likely is not centered on a long, steady and predictable career with a consistent paycheck and a comfortable retirement. Beyond big money, millennials and zoomers are looking for a job that is rewarding and flexible.
Break Stereotypes Through Education
Companies need to educate young people about what logistics really is. It is integral to highlight the expansive nature of the field, with its eclectic mix of career paths on offer, ranging from supply chain management to warehouse design, from sales to sailings.
As younger generations begin to define themselves as citizens of the world, it is important to highlight the importance of logistics in helping develop a cosmopolitan society. Logistics is one of the key enablers of globalization, internationally linking the supplies and demands of the entire world.
Logistics facilitates the fusion of cultures through the movement of different products from different nations. Younger talent will be drawn into the industry, wanting to become enablers of multiculturalism. They also want to feel that their work is making a difference in the world. With the transport sector accounting for 28% of the total energy consumption in the U.S., and from 20%-25% worldwide, supply chain managers are integral for instigating fuel-efficient shipping.
Show Opportunities for Growth
Not only are there plenty of opportunities to find stable work in logistics, but there’s room for growth and leadership – which is not true of every industry. 25% to 33% of supply chain professionals are nearing retirement age. So it’s crucial to entice the younger generations into the industry.
When describing logistics positions, focus on the opportunities for candidates to think for themselves, and actively solve an array of problems that continuously emerge, change and grow. These generations were raised on PlayStation, YouTube and the internet. They will not be content to do the same tasks day in and day out, and will find the process of problem-solving and finding new ways to make systems more efficient and eco-friendly both intriguing and rewarding. Taking the time to explain how their role fits into a company’s operations as a whole, and the difference they can make day to day, can go a long way in terms of employee retention.
Millennials and zoomers are hungry to develop their careers in as short of a time period as possible. In response to this, mentorship programs that spell out the steps needed, as well as the path to career growth, can go a long way in terms of employee retention. Showing them the potential for internal growth can help stave off an attractive offer from a recruiter or competitor.
Millennials’ and Gen Z’s entire lives revolve around smartphones, wearables and cutting-edge technology, so they expect to receive the best available tech when it comes to their tools for work. Make 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 or wearable tech that make their jobs easier and more intuitive. Upgrading your tech 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.
Today, the supply chain profession focuses on finding ways to incorporate new technologies into systems to make each stage more efficient, eco-friendly and cost effective. This offers younger generations the opportunity to come into our established field and think creatively to make major changes that can result in game-changing breakthroughs. We all need to remember to convey this excitement during the recruiting process.
Gone are the days when logistics was simply about shipping and basic handling. Like it or not, this is no longer your grandparents’ supply chain industry. The world’s economy shifted and the world got flat. For millennials and zoomers starting out in the workforce, the supply chain is a great place to get a strong understanding of the world economy, globalization, international cultural differences and many other important areas that will benefit their careers.[Editor’s note: this article was originally published in 2021 and has been updated].
Gabe Grifoni is CEO and Founder of Rufus Labs