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Millennials and GenZ: The Key to Future-Proofing Your Supply Chain Workforce

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that it’s critical to shift your focus to Millennials and Generation Z (GenZ) now in order to future-proof your supply chain workforce. But how?

By Brian Reaves

When the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics: Version 2.0 was published at this time last year, it included an entire chapter of revelations about the evolution of the supply chain workforce through the year 2030.

Among the topics covered was an exploration of changing U.S. demographics. By 2030, Baby Boomers—who are currently retiring at a pace of every nine seconds—will be scarce in the workforce. There simply aren’t enough members of Generation X to replace them.

As of 2015, Millennials surpassed the number of Generation Xers in the workforce. Today, many of them are ascending into managerial roles. By 2030, Millennials will be middle-aged, and the majority of Generation Z (born between 2000 and the present) will be in the early phases of their careers.

Despite the millions of entrants to the workforce by 2030, the continuous supply of new workers won’t be enough to replace those retiring, notes Roadmap 2.0 co-author Steve Hopper, founder and principal of Inviscid Consulting.

“There’s been a decline in U.S. labor force participation, which has recently been hovering near its lowest levels since the 1970s—around 63 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—and strong job growth in all supply chain related professions, even as overall U.S. job growth has slowed,” he says. “That means there’s a growing vacuum of qualified workers in all functional material handling, logistics and supply chain roles.”

What can companies within our industry do to ensure a steady supply of skilled workers and ensure future operational stability and success over the next dozen years and beyond? It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that it’s critical to shift your focus to Millennials and Generation Z (GenZ) now in order to future-proof your supply chain workforce. But how?

First, notes Hopper, companies have to understand these two generations’ similarities and differences, rather than lumping them together as “that younger generation.”

“There’s been a lot of focus in the media in recent years specifically on Millennials, but if businesses want to attract future employees, they can’t miss the boat on GenZ,” he cautions.

As the chief human resources officer at C.H. Robinson, Angie Freeman’s company-wide workforce is already comprised of 65 percent Millennials. Although she hesitates to generalize, in her experience, “Millennials are looking for career paths and professional development. Further, they want to work for companies that are good corporate citizens and are making an impact,” she notes.

“They’re also looking for frequent feedback and coaching from leaders who really know them as people, and are willing to help them develop and grow,” she continues. “They’re very collaborative, care a lot about technology and are highly innovative.”

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According to the recently released 2018 MHI Annual Industry Report, “Overcoming Barriers to NextGen Supply Chain Adoption,” eight out of ten survey respondents believe these supply chains will be the predominant model within just five years. However, the report found that the adoption of some of these technologies was slower than originally reported when MHI started the annual report in 2014. The report cites three top barriers to adoption of these technologies: 1. Making the business case for NextGen supply chain investments. 2. Tackling the supply chain skills gap and workforce shortage. 3. Building trust and security in digital, always-on supply chains. This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on the adoption of these digital solutions, from best practices in robotics and artificial intelligence to blockchain and innovations in last mile delivery.

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