Maintaining the current crop supply chain professionals

Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1995, are forecast to make up

Recruitment requires augmenting the perception of logistics, moving away from the ubiquitous “trucks and sheds” approach, towards seeing logistics as a profession of choice. Focusing discussion merely on entry level roles contributes to stakeholders, such as parents, carers and teachers, developing a low understanding of the entire sector. Meanwhile, focus on products and services grows while other exciting trends affecting the profession are largely overlooked. Logistics is a fast-paced, technologically driven and well-paid global sector, yet popular media and logisticians themselves rarely sell a career in logistics as such. How can professionals and stakeholders encourage the next generation to join and stay in the sector?

I hate to query the basis of this article but … by 2025 the oldest millennials by this definition will be 44 and are 39 now. That’s hardly the ‘next generation’. Gen Z is the next one, now joining the workforce as grads and apprentices.

Inspiring the next generation

Organisations like NOVUS and Career Ready work to inspire young people to join the logistics sector. NOVUS works across eight universities, with students studying business, logistics and supply chain degrees to provide applied, industry-relevant education. The opportunities on offer through over 20 sponsoring companies include guest lectures, site visits, mentoring and employment opportunities. The aim is to instil a love of logistics in the students and to provide the sponsors with the very best graduate crop, who are guaranteed as “work ready”.

In order to promote the profession in schools and colleges, NOVUS and Career Ready, collaborating under the Think Logistics banner, have showcased their students and alumni in a series of films, where the students talk about why they chose a career in logistics. The most compelling reasons to join the profession are cited as working with a range of people, the growth prospects on offer, the possibilities for travel, development of transferable skills and overall global opportunities.

It was hoped that the introduction of T Levels, two programmes primarily aimed at 16-18-year olds, would ensure such resources were widely used by teachers. Presently, transport and logistics does not have a T Level, despite the sector currently employing around 2.7 million people. As such, alongside Career Ready’s work with its national network of schools and colleges, NOVUS is encouraging its over 200 current students and alumni, 40 per cent of whom are female, to collaborate with their former schools and colleges to encourage young people to follow in their footsteps.

Once the next generation has been recruited into the profession, what can companies do to make sure their working environment remains challenging and enjoyable to this demographic?

Paying consideration to how the upbringing of a millennial differs from that of previous generations can help. Just as group projects were the norm at school, millennials expect collaborative working environments. Building meaningful relationships regardless of hierarchy, such as in the form of cross-generation project teams, should feature overtly in company culture.

Social media, a mainstay of the generation, has given millennials a platform on which to share views instantaneously. As such, they expect to have their views heard. Social media is also inherently transparent, so millennials desire the same level of transparency in the workplace. With regards to technology, the sheer number of tech-based resources available to a millennial has made them efficient problem-solvers and critical thinkers. Companies should not slow millennials down with outdated technology that is no longer fit for purpose.

New approaches on sector-wide level

Career development for millennials is more than a training programme. A company’s culture must praise continuous learning and provide practical, hands-on projects that allow challenges to be overcome. As a result of this investment, it is imperative that companies do not create intellectual waste by not fully challenging their millennial workforce.  Millennials will more readily disrupt themselves by moving jobs to get the leadership and development that they crave.

Similarly, companies should consider performance in terms of output, not time spent on a project, to maximise millennial satisfaction. Meaningful responsibilities and regular feedback on performance needs to be in place. Additionally, advice on how to add value to the business, alongside advice on achieving career milestones, would also be welcome.

Encouraging recruitment and securing retention calls for new thinking, new approaches and collaboration on a sector-wide scale. Long-term effort from companies, membership bodies and the education sector is required to change perceptions. The profession needs to do more than promote the “coolness” of today’s technologies, although there is no doubt drones and driverless trucks do sell. Communicating the educational requirements for succeeding in supply chain careers and the opportunities thereafter is key to unlocking and sustaining interest, creating the managers of the future.