A great deal can be learned from the results of the “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program” of ThomasNet and the Institute for Supply Management. Perhaps most important are lessons about how to engage the Millennial generation (ages 18-34) so they grow to become supply chain management leaders.


The recognition program puts the “spotlight on individuals whose initiative, collaboration, innovation and/or leadership are already bolstering the profession,” according to ThomasNet. This is important because many of the Baby Boomers who are supply chain management executives are—or soon will be—retiring, which leaves even more jobs open. Millennials can be a good fit for supply chain management because not only are they the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, but their values and expertise match the industry’s needs, says M.L. Peck, senior vice president, Programs & Product Development, Institute for Supply Management.


One example is Katy Conrad, site lead at Shell’s Geismar Chemical Plant and “Megawatt star” of last year’s 30 Under 30. Conrad says she loves everything about her job—working with smart engineering and business professionals, solving tough problems and making a bottom-line impact. At Shell, she has delivered significant savings, built a regional B2B sourcing strategy and held an exciting overseas assignment, ThomasNet reports.


The key as an industry is to identify the means to attract and retain Millennials. Peck and Linda Rigano—executive director, Media Relations at ThomasNet—recently wrote about a panel discussion with several of last year’s 30 Under 30 in an article that ran on SupplyChainBrain. Many of the winners also answered a survey about their work and outside interests.


Roundtable panelist Jami Bliss, director of global procurement program management at Teva Pharmaceuticals, nominated several of the 30 Under 30 winners and sat in on the panel discussion. The number one thing they’re looking for is meaningful work, Bliss says in the article. They want a role where they can contribute and add value to their organization, she continues.


Peck and Rigano explain that, according to the panelists taking part in the discussion, there are several key strategies for attracting Millennials. The first is to promote the supply chain industry to college students. For example, Conrad never thought she’d enter supply management until she was a business major at Ohio State University. There, she heard a presentation by a logistics professional at Limited Brands. That presentation led to a three-month internship in the procurement group at Shell, which changed her plans, Peck and Rigano write.


Another key strategy is to move Millennials around the company. Whether it’s a lateral move into a new department, rotations from the headquarters office to a warehouse or a call center, or a transfer to a different geographic location, Millennials look forward to the opportunity to move around. They say it helps them better understand how their company operates, and where they can make a unique contribution.


Companies should also look for opportunities to mentor new supply chain professionals. Many of the 30 Under 30 say they have at least one mentor who offers advice in a non-judgmental way. These Millennials appreciate the insights of experienced professionals, along with advice on where they need to improve, Peck and Rigano write.


Another key approach is to emphasize supply chain management as a career that eallows Millennials to leverage their interests and strengths. Amy Alpren, another 30 Under 30 winner, says she likes to “apply everything I’ve learned—communications skills, ability to organize and multitask, and my financial and analytics background, all in supply chain management,” Peck and Rigano report.


I’m interested in what you think of both what Millennials have to offer, and how they can be attracted to careers in the supply chain. Do you agree with the observations of the 30 Under 30 discussion group?


By the way, ThomasNet and the Institute for Supply Management have extended the deadline for their second 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program to October 30, 2015. More information can be found at: www.thomasnet.com/30under30