How Lazy, Entitled, Coddled Millennials Strengthen Supply Chains

Well I hate to admit it, but I am *technically* a millennial. (I like to think since I’m on the older side of the generation I’m just a bit wiser.) I worked with millennials when I managed interns in the central planning group at my last company. I have also recruited, interviewed, and trained many younger employees. I don’t like to admit I’m a millennial because they have quite a few negative connotations associated with them. In my experience, however, these negative qualities are superficial. I have taken a few common negative descriptors – lazy, entitled, and coddled – and reframed them in a way that makes them assets in supply chain.

Lazy = Technologically Efficient & Focused on Adding Value
I understand why baby boomers perceive millennials as lazy. Baby boomers are used to long work days, tedious tasks, and inefficient processes. Millennials, on the other hand, grew up with technology making things fast and efficient. In the recent Talent Survey given by Supply Chain Insights, the work hours each generation works (or expects to work) decrease as the generation gets younger (see Figure 1). Are they actually getting less work done? No! In fact they’re probably getting more done, but they are doing the work more efficiently.

Figure 1. Younger Generations Work/Expect to Work Fewer Hours

Millennials don’t see the value in the tedious tasks. To baby boomers, this might appear like they are being lazy, when they are simply being efficient. They would rather spend their time doing something more important. When I worked in a quality group, there was one particular task that required I take information from one system and copy it over into a complaint management system. Easy, right? Guess what, it didn’t get done. The millennial before me didn’t do it and the millennial in the role after me didn’t do it either. Don’t give millennials tedious tasks or tasks without visibility or a real purpose and expect them to get done.

We need this in supply chain. We love being efficient and we need to be more open to new technologies and changes in processes because they make us better!

Instead of lazy, let’s think of millennials as technologically efficient and focused on adding value.

Entitled = Confident and Eager to Take on Important Challenges
I hated it when millennials would answer an interview question about their career aspirations with a job title. They want to be a manager or director or CEO within the next 5 years! To me, this comes off as less of a career aspiration and more of a narcissistic power goal. Do you care what group you’re managing? No? Just want to be a manager? WHY?!

I’m clearly getting worked up just thinking about it. So to calm myself down I think about what millennials were taught… told they could do anything, rewarded even when they didn’t win or try very hard. We had these academic award ceremonies in middle school; each subject had an award associated with it. I remember being embarrassed that I got so many awards! Of course it was great for my ego, but even then I would think to myself, “I didn’t even have to work for this!”

Is it the worst thing in the world to want to be able to advance in your career? If you were told growing up that you are the greatest, you are a leader, and you will be successful, I think it only makes sense that you would want to advance your career as fast as possible, and feel like you deserve it.

We can use this to our advantage in supply chain especially because the baby boomer generation is retiring and we need people to step up into those roles. Luckily, millennials are anxious to do so, and believe that they are capable! This is where training and mentoring become even more important, but guess what else is important to millennials? See Figure 2 below regarding the importance by generation of support elements in careers.

Figure 2. Millennials Care More About Advancing in Their Careers

Instead of entitled, let’s think of millennials as confident and eager to take on important challenges.

Coddled = Efficient Achievers Requiring Clear Direction and Feedback
Not only do millennials want to advance quickly, they want to know the exact career path they will need to take to advance (see Figure 3). They are known for needing more guidance than seems necessary, or than is needed by older generations. The reason seems to be, again, the great care and attention they were given growing up.

Figure 3. Millennials Care More About Career Path

Now, this trait is a bit harder to spin than the others. As supply chain leaders and coworkers, knowing that a millennial employee might need more specific direction and feedback than older generations is important. This sounds like something you might not have time for, I get it. The positive spin? If you do give them the extra level of guidance, they will achieve at high levels.

When I was managing interns, outlining their projects with great detail was incredibly important to their success. I would set very specific criteria for what would earn them ratings of meets, exceeds, or excels. I would meet with them weekly to review their project outlines, give feedback (weighted on the positive side with areas for improvement sandwiched in), and again describe the criteria for their final rating. With this level of guidance, they want to work hard and they will achieve the highest ratings. If you don’t make time to provide this level of management, then do not expect high achieving employees. Believe me when I say, it’s worth your time.

Try to think of this as increasing efficiency as well. Millennials don’t want to waste their time working on things that won’t get them to the end goal. If you still can’t bring yourself to be so prescriptive, work together with the millennial on outlining their requirements or have them propose the project outline for you to add input. Again, we value efficiency in supply chain, so this is a way to get to the end result sooner.

Instead of coddled, let’s think of millennials as efficient achievers requiring clear direction and feedback.

When you start to understand how these traits can be used as assets, the millennial generation looks a little different. They are not entitled and needy, they are bold and efficient. If they are given clear direction, important and challenging projects and roles, and positive feedback, they will use technology to excel at their roles in a very efficient way. What an asset to your supply chain!

Let me know your thoughts and watch the The Millennial Voice in Supply Chain webinar for more discussion!

Anne Kalinowski

Author Anne Kalinowski

Anne Kalinowski is a Research Analyst at Supply Chain Insights LLC. She worked in the Supply Chain industry for nine years in various supply chain roles for GE and Ecolab, including manufacturing, procurement, fulfillment, quality, and planning. In 2016 she managed the implementation of Demand Sensing software for Ecolab’s U.S. network. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering and an MBA focusing in Supply Chain Operations and Finance from the University of Minnesota.

More posts by Anne Kalinowski

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Kevin says:

    Question: in what way have the results considered the stage in life and career position the participants were in during the questionnaire? As life goes on one would certainly expect that baby boomers (retirement age, or near retirement age) have much less interest in the career path, mentoring, opportunity to raise a young family vs. work demands, etc. than people starting out their careers. I’m a GenX and can say that my life aspirations are more different at this stage in life than I did 20 years ago, and I anticipate that will change further going forward for as many years as the good Lord gives me.

  • This is a great read — good for anyone looking to manage the younger in the long run. I find in my part of the country that it’s easy for most people to talk down about millennials, but I have noticed that everyone is using the same vocabulary, as if they’re passing poor gossip around but not necessarily coming into contact with any themselves. As an “on the line” millennial and hard-working employee, I agree… It can be a challenge but not always a bad thing. I look at my “millennial-ness” as a good thing, and I think there’s plenty of good to go around to make this next generation of workers very worthwhile.

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