Scouting and Retaining Young Supply Chain Talent: A (Millennial) Recruiter’s Experience

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Editor’s note: This is part of a new Spend Matters series of personal tales from the procurement trenches. Know someone with a great procurement story? Tell us in the comments below.

Did you know that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials will comprise nearly 75% of the U.S. workforce by the year 2030? Yes, I’m talking about those tech-savvy, feedback-craving 20-somethings that have recently entered the workforce — myself being one of them!

Even if the demographic shift hasn’t yet affected your company, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise, considering how infatuated the media has been since the turn of the decade with millennials. The million-dollar question, however, is this: What are corporations doing to adapt to this change in workforce?

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This topic has been on my mind since I joined the workforce in 2011 as a contracting and procurement graduate at a Fortune 500 energy company. With a passion for talent identification and people development, I started my career with two goals in mind: learn as much about the business as fast as possible and get into a position of influence in recruitment. Within six months of employment, I was asked to lead and revamp the supply chain recruiting efforts at a targeted university, a volunteer-based opportunity I was excited to take on.

Since then, I’ve actively engaged with CPOs, professors and candidates on this very topic and have received the following sentiment, to varying degrees: a company’s ability to adapt to the changing workforce will become its competitive advantage in the coming decades. Upon further discussion on this call for change, two distinct themes emerged. One is early identification (to attract the best candidates), and the other is active management (to retain them).

Beyond the Annual Career Fair

Much like the NFL scouting process, early identification is pivotal to securing the best people for any role. Countless CPOs have echoed that people are the most important asset within their organization, so it’s time that the recruitment process mirrored that. The fact is showing up to the annual career fair just won’t cut it anymore.

Nayeli Saucedo, training and development manager for FMC Technologies’ supply chain rotational program, said it best: “We need to start the recruitment process early enough so that we can promote supply chain [and our companies] as an attractive option. If not, we run the risk of losing the best candidates to other departments — or worse yet — to our competitors!”

After soaking up these reflections, I altered my recruitment strategy to focus more on earlier-year activities at the university. Through this avenue, my team engages with freshman and sophomore students to share what a supply chain career would be like at our company. We also partnered with the supply chain student organization by hosting development workshops, allowing us to invest in students while getting access to up-and-coming talent early in the program. Our presence, energy and commitment to their development quickly captured the attention of many students, and we saw an exponential increase in supply chain applicants and successful hires from the program.

Unfortunately, that’s where my immediate influence stalled. As I alluded to earlier, recruiting the right millennials is only half the battle. Getting them to stay is another feat altogether. With six out of 10 millennials open to new opportunities, it’s no wonder the average tenure for these individuals is two years! With that statistic in mind, I interviewed dozens of candidates and cross-referenced several studies to find three main reasons they leave for other opportunities (aside from remuneration):

  1. Lack of growth opportunities within organization
  2. Insufficient feedback and coaching
  3. Lack of meaningful or challenging work

In other words, millennials want to be managed proactively and effectively, and they may find employment elsewhere if their companies fail to provide this. Companies with the right management, infrastructure and culture to meet these expectations will have a better chance at attracting and retaining workforce in the future.

Contrary to popular belief, there are other benefits to investing in this generation aside from securing a stable workforce. A study conducted by Ernst & Young shows that that their savviness and adaptability with technology far exceeds other generations, and have proven extremely valuable in the data analytics space. As more and more software packages are created to meet the need for spend transparency, millennials are generally more suited to flourish in this space over their Generation X counterparts. Similarly, their comfort with the virtual has proven quite valuable as companies continue to expand their global presence.

Why I’ve Chosen to Stay

Having been with the same company for almost six years now, I realize that I’ve surpassed the average tenure for a millennial. Several supply chain leaders with talent retention problems have asked me why I’ve opted to stay, and I’ve responded with the following explanation.

In six years, I’ve had the privilege of taking on four roles, informal and formal management experience, as well as challenging work that is deeply connected to the bottom line. My managers have been supportive, challenging and forthcoming with my career progression plans, and I’ve been given the space to pursue extra initiatives. All of these factors have led me to stay with my current employer, not because there was a lack of external opportunities, but because my company and I continue to grow and benefit each other.

So let’s go back to that million-dollar question. What are corporations doing to adapt to this change in workforce? If the answer is nothing — can you afford not to?

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