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Attracting, Training and Retaining the NextGen Workforce

Understanding NextGen’s expectations and what motivates them is helpful when brainstorming on ways to attract, train and retain them, and figuring out where their skills might best be utilized in your company.

* By Mike Ogle *

Next generation workforce. What do those words mean to you? The first thought is usually young people about to graduate from college or technical school and entering the supply chain workforce. It is, but if you are brainstorming on ways to attract, train and retain the next generation workforce, your planning needs to include ideas pertinent to both management jobs as well as front-line needs.

“Many people focus on the next generation of supply chain jobs in the office, while not understanding the huge opportunity for applications like labor management systems to engage the many people working on the front line,” explained Peter Schnorbach, senior director, product management at MHI member Manhattan Associates.

In order to cast a wider net—one that is more inclusive and covers future needs in every department—it helps to first understand the expectations of the next generation (we’ll call them NextGens) before figuring out where their skills might best be utilized in your company.

When looking to get in front of NextGens, online job sites and university career fairs are two top spots. Online is here to stay, but face-to-face has value to both employer and job seeker, too, especially when it comes to first impressions.

Whether online or in person, the first impression needs to sell aspects of technology and company culture. NextGens have grown up with tech in their daily lives, expect it everywhere, at home, where they shop and at work. They are attracted to apps that instantly provide information and feedback, plus interactive options and customization of experiences. They are attracted to high levels of automation in operations.

A booth at a career fair should reflect this with significant amount of graphics and video on mobile devices, messages about a culture of collaboration and flexibility, plus the company’s vision and level of technology implementation. Testimonials from peer or near-peer workers are highly valuable, but don’t forget to include tech savvy, experienced leaders who have shown a genuine passion for bringing in new ideas and younger workers.

A second impression is when students see the offices and operations. Do they look fresh or do they look dated? Is there an atmosphere that appears to be inviting and collaborative? Does the factory or warehouse floor appear clean, modern and higher tech or does it appear stagnant?

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There is no silver bullet to building a workforce that can thrive in this new digital environment. It takes leadership, collaboration, innovative talent sourcing, continuous training and improvement. This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on this important topic from the technologies driving changing skill sets to industry-academia collaboration to how to hire, retain and develop the digital supply chain workforce.

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