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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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Emerging technologies such as IIoT, robotics and artificial intelligence provide exciting opportunities for supply chains. They also mean an exponential growth in the amount of data these supply chains generate. When properly utilized, this data can provide crucial information to improve efficiency, reduce costs, enhance transparency and customer service. But it comes with risk. The more digitized a supply chain becomes, the more it is at risk of cyberattack. Hackers are constantly finding new ways create data breaches they can exploit. The reality that most supply chains require third-party suppliers down the chain only heightens this threat. No matter the scale of your supply chain, it is essential to have solid cybersecurity processes in place to manage and mitigate the growing risk of cyberattack. That’s what this issue of MHI Solutions is all about, from cybersecurity threats in an IIoT world to dark data to the human factor in cybersecurity to blockchain as a potential solution.
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