In a mere four year’s time, 50% of the entire world’s workforce will be members of Generation Y, the millennial generation. By 2025, they will comprise 75% of the workforce. When it comes to training and education for your supply chain workforce therefore, it makes sense that programs and plans should be developed with this distinctly different generation in mind.

If you’re a millennial reading this post, I don’t intend to speak as if you are not here. I am very aware of your presence, as are those Gen X and baby boomer professionals who will, for the next few years at least, play a large part in designing and developing your supply chain training and education. In this post I am speaking primarily to those individuals, because as a millennial, you already know how we may best provide your education.

So from this point on, I will assume that you are a boomer or Gen X supply chain leader who has an interest in meeting the challenges of supply chain training for millennials. If you are a millennial, please also feel free to read on and chip in with your comments at the end of this post.


Why is the Millenial Generation Different?

An entire 3,000 word article could easily be devoted to the differences between millennials and say, members of Gen X, and indeed, many such pieces have been written. So for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to discussing how some of the learning preferences of millennials differ from those of preceding generations.

Fast Learners: Millennials typically love to learn, they are good at learning, and they learn fast. The pace at which they learn is facilitated by their connection to technology, which enables them to engage in their favoured subjects wherever and whenever they want to.

Active Learners: Millennials love to direct their own education. They have grown up with interactive media, so oftentimes; passive intake of information is a big turn-off for them. Holding a millennial’s attention is not always easy, so supply chain training and education programs must be designed to engage them in hands-on, active learning.

Technologically Attuned: No generation has been as naturally tuned-in to technology as Gen Y. Future supply chain training and education programs must be designed in a way that allows millennials to access learning via computers, tablets and smart phones. Millennials also expect to be able to use these devices even when engaged in face-to-face classroom training

Need for Involvement: Millennial employees in the supply chain don’t just want to be involved in learning. They want to be involved in how supply chain education activity is structured. Hence you will achieve greater engagement when you solicit their contributions toward your training and development initiatives.


Supply Chain Training Design for Millennials

So millennials are different, but why is supply chain training and education for Generation Y such a big deal? Because it’s a big deal to millennials, that’s why.

As already mentioned, millennials love to learn and typically have an insatiable appetite for personal growth and development, especially when it comes to careers. At a time when it appears there’s not enough supply chain talent to go around, engaging employees is paramount for retention. If you want to engage the millennials in your organization, you better make sure that development opportunities are abundant and accessible—from the point of induction onward.


Induction Training Matters

When millennials start a new job, they want to get inside your organization from the outset. They don’t want to pick through their shiny new company handbooks to find out what they need to know. A structured program will be much more to their liking; one that leads them ever deeper into the nuts and bolts of your company, in easy to swallow bites.

Induction training for supply chain millennials might comprise face-to-face, interactive workshops. However, modular online courses can also work well, especially if optimised for mobile devices and based on a self-service module. Adding an element of gamification is also a great way to engage millennials during their on-boarding, as many vocational education providers will tell you.

While some types of supply chain training and education can be most effective when delivered external specialists, induction training is best executed in-house.

However, there’s nothing stopping you from approaching education providers to seek ideas for millennial-optimised induction training. Some providers will happily discuss induction training in an advisory capacity, since they also recognise the importance of using internal resources during on-boarding.

If you want to be sure of getting some tips without being sold to, our upcoming Supply Chain Leaders Insights event will be well worth a visit. We expect to have some education providers attending and they’ll be there purely to share their knowledge.


Some Golden Rules for Training Millennials

From general induction training to role-specific career development, there are a few key principles to be followed if you want to fully engage millennial employees in supply chain education:

Technology Does Not Mean Technical: Although millennials are supremely comfortable with technology, especially the digital kind, it doesn’t mean training should be designed to meet purely technical objectives. Leadership, self-management, and productivity skills are important learning objectives for many millennial professionals.

Explain the Hows and Whys of Training: Millennials don’t like to be in the dark about what they do and how it aligns with corporate objectives. This is an important positive attribute which should be encouraged and indulged. Make sure that all training activities include clear explanations as to how it will aid employees in their contributions and support their career development.

Don’t Neglect Mentorship and Coaching: Millennials can be impatient for success and expectant of early promotions. They can also be very hard on themselves if they fail to meet their expectations. A good coaching/mentoring relationship with a senior peer can help a millennial to come to terms with the fact that overnight success is seldom a realistic expectation. At the same time, coaching and mentoring can help employees to evaluate their failures—and of course, their successes too.

If you struggle to find senior staff members comfortable with mentoring and coaching, you might wish to turn to an education provider to train some of your longer-serving staff (especially supervisors and managers) in the necessary skills.

Provide Feedback: Research has shown that millennials have a greater desire to receive performance feedback than any previous generation. It’s important therefore, to incorporate feedback opportunities into all your training programs and sessions.

Provide regular feedback during the normal course of employees’ work too—and don’t be afraid to focus on the need for improvement as well as recognising jobs well-done. The most important thing when providing feedback to millennials is to be very specific and use examples to illustrate the points you make.


How Education Providers Can Help

Developing supply chain training and education programs is never an easy task, especially for smaller companies without sizeable teams of HR and training specialists. At the same time, there is a lot to be said for in-house training, both in terms of economy and development of corporate culture.

The growing population of millennial employees adds a new challenge to in-house educational design. If you’re able to get some guidance from trainers/educators who make their living from designing and delivering supply chain education, there’s little doubt you’ll be better placed to design your own internal programs.


Supply Chain Education Experts at Supply Chain Leaders Insights

If you’re going to be in Australia towards the end of October, the Supply Chain Leaders Insights event will give you the chance to discuss supply chain training for millennials with representatives from professional training organisations. They won’t try to sell you on their services, although you’re welcome to make sales enquiries in-between speaking sessions.

Supply Chain Leaders Insights takes place on October 26th, 2016. For more information or to book your place at this unique and modestly priced event, send us your contact details using our simple online form. We look forward to seeing you on the day.