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Bridging the (Generational) Talent Gap

The key to ingratiating the current generation is being forthcoming about the current state of your supply chain and helping them understand the role they can play in it.

* By Randy V. Bradley, Ph.D *

Much has been made about the younger generation not being interested in the supply chain profession, but I can’t fully agree with that sentiment. One reason for my disagreement is that the data doesn’t support such conclusions. For instance, take a look at the top supply chain programs in the United States and you will quickly notice a steady increase in enrollments and graduates in supply chain management.

For some time, we’ve accepted the notion that the supply chain profession has either an image or marketing problem. I submit that the answer is not “or” but rather “and.” Both are major concerns for our profession. Yes, we can attempt to paint supply chains as “high tech1” (and I’m a firm believer that is the case for some companies), but the reality is that it is not true for the vast majority of companies seeking to recruit and hire new or recent graduates.

One of the more saddening stories I hear from employers is that they hire new talent but can’t retain that talent. Part of the reason for not being able to retain the talent is that it doesn’t take the talent long to realize they were sold a “bill of goods” (i.e. a falsehood, a sham, made promises that knowingly can’t or won’t be kept) during the recruitment process. In fact, what they inherited (i.e., the actual supply chain operations) did not resemble what was described to them during in the “wooing” phase.

If companies want to retain the supply chain talent they attract, specifically the newly minted supply chain talent, they must be “real” with them. It’s OK that you don’t have the latest and greatest gadgets in your supply chain organization. It’s OK that “AI” in your organization refers to “archaic infrastructure.” It’s OK that the only wearables in use in your warehouse are goggles, ear plugs, and steel-toe boots. The current generation is more turned off by the “smoke and mirrors” than they are by your company’s lag on the “cool tech” maturity scale. As I have said at previous MODEX and ProMat conferences, the current generation wants the opportunity to be creative and solve challenging problems. They are not infatuated with the mundane. They want the flexibility to leverage their unique understanding of NextGen supply chains.

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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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