There is a severe labor shortage in many essential roles in the sourcing, manufacturing, shipping and logistics sectors. Baby boomers are leaving in droves as they reach retirement age and the younger generations of workers have no desire to work in the supply chain.
Why aren’t Millennials and Gen Z interested in the numerous job openings? What can business leaders do to improve their hiring success among these demographic groups?
Here are some effective strategies for attracting and retaining young workers in supply-chain occupations.
The 5 Factors Driving Young Workers Away
Everyone has a personal reason for avoiding a career path, but these five overarching themes have clearly impacted young people’s career decisions.
The biggest reason for the supply chain’s talent shortage is a general lack of awareness among Millennials and Gen Z. Many people don’t know about the numerous job positions available in this industry and only consider the entry-level roles, such as warehouse workers and truck drivers. They don’t see the advancement opportunities hiding behind the scenes.
Moreover, many people don’t know what a supply-chain job entails or the industry’s challenges. A 2022 survey of economic literacy found 40 percent of Americans can’t give a concrete definition of “supply chain” or explain its current state. Employers must do their part to raise awareness for the industry, for the sake of the company and for the country.
A strong company culture is one of the main things young workers look for when browsing for new jobs. They want to work with friends, not with acquaintances.
They want the company to make the work environment fun and supportive, not bland and disconnected. Creating this environment can be challenging in the fast-paced world of supply chain management.
Young workers might also have values that differ from supply chain companies. Sustainability and work/life balance are the top two priorities for Millennials and Gen Z.
While there are many initiatives to make supply chains more eco-friendly, it’s impossible to guarantee a balanced work schedule for entry-level positions in this industry.
Limited Hybrid Opportunities
Almost half of all work-eligible people in the 18-29 age range say they prefer the hybrid work model over a 100 percent in-person position. Most supply-chain jobs have to be in person all the time, which presents a major conflict of interest. This problem has become much more prevalent in the last few years, thanks to COVID-19.
The final major factor driving younger workers away from the supply chain is obsolete technology. Millennials and Gen Z grew up in the age of the internet, and are more tech-savvy than baby boomers.
They don’t want to work in an environment with outdated and dysfunctional devices. They want to use state-of-the-art tools to make their jobs easier and accelerate their career advancement.
How Businesses Can Make Amends
Supply chain companies can’t force young people to change their attitudes about the industry, but they can provide new information to sway their opinions. Here’s how businesses can amend their relationships with the next generation of employees and rebuild their workforces for the foreseeable future.
Increase Brand Visibility
The most important thing businesses can do to attract young workers is increase brand visibility. That means getting active on social media and drumming up interest in supply-chain issues.
It’s not an easy subject to discuss with college-aged people, but company representatives can make it more interesting by highlighting the career benefits and unique success stories.
For example, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals conducts a biannual survey of young workers in the industry. The latest poll from 2021 found 99 percent of young professionals believed they made a quality career choice, while 95 percent were excited about training and advancement opportunities.
Interacting with underrepresented groups — namely young women — is especially important for raising awareness and increasing the talent pool. The average driver age in the for-hire over-the-road truckload industry is 46, and although women make up almost half of the entire U.S. labor pool, only 6.6 percent are currently working in this specific sector.
Show Off the Culture
Along with staying active on social media, showing off your culture is the next essential step to attracting young workers. The Forbes Business Council outlines five key steps to developing culture in the workplace:
- Accept that culture matters: A strong culture can attract and retain talent, and is even more important than salary for most people.
- Define and share the company’s mission, values, and goals: Every company should be able to explain its mission statement, value system and long-term goals to prospective employees.
- Encourage healthy communication: A strong culture allows employees to share their ideas, questions and concerns freely. Consider setting communication guidelines to establish a firm hierarchy and avoid confusion.
- Prioritize employee well-being: Companies must treat their workforce respectfully and compassionately. Mentorship programs, leadership development, learning opportunities and support groups are foundational pieces of an empathetic culture.
- Monitor and nurture the culture: Those pieces are also crucial for monitoring and nurturing the culture in the long run. Establish connections between old and young employees through company traditions and activities.
Building a strong culture also addresses any conflicting values the company might have with young workers. Hiring teams can demonstrate their commitment to work/life balance during the interview process. Talk about the company’s work schedules, PTO policies, sick days, mental health resources and any other factors that might sway a young interviewee’s decision.
Offer Flexible Work Options
Supply chain companies should offer more than one scheduling option for each opening. Providing hybrid or remote opportunities for positions that do most of their work online is a good starting point. The idea is to provide a schedule so employees can complete tasks when they’re most productive rather than fitting everyone into the same box.
For positions that have to work on-site, companies should offer a reasonable break policy to avoid overwhelming employees and maintain their quality of work. HR departments must emphasize these policies during onboarding and encourage employees to take full advantage of them.
Invest in New Technologies
Lastly, investing in new technologies demonstrates a full commitment to the next generation. Artificial intelligence software, project management tools, automated mobile robots, autonomous guided vehicles and wearable devices are just some of the latest technologies making waves in the supply chain.
Millennials and Gen Z have been surrounded by technology for their whole lives. They expect their employers to be up to date on recent developments. If companies want to attract talent from these generations, they must show off their tech resources every chance they get.
Appeal to the Next Generation
Most young workers might not see supply chain operations as a desirable career path, but business leaders can do several things to change that attitude. It starts with increasing brand visibility on social media, showing off the workplace culture, providing flexible work schedules and investing in new technologies.
These four pillars will appeal directly to the next generation and set the company up for future success.
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