Benefits, rewards, impact—they're just some of the reasons a career in supply chain is attracting top talent, a survey of young supply chain professionals under 30 shows. But while recruiting is important, reducing turnover is equally critical, as competition for high performing candidates intensifies. Mentorship, training, and career development will play a big role in employee retention in the future. 

As supply chain continues to transform—driven by innovations in AI technology and sustainability—CHROs, CSOs, and ESG officers will work more closely together to build a strong pipeline of new talent. 

But what strategies can organizations use to attract and retain young supply chain professionals? We explore some in more detail below.  

Partner with Technical Institutions 

The number of students achieving a technical or two-year degree in supply chain has more than doubled in the last seven years, a survey of young supply professionals reveals. There’s been a notable shift away from extended certifications, the report highlights. Entry-level candidates see better career advancement opportunities from shorter, more specialized courses in areas such as procurement, strategic sourcing, and inventory management. 

Savvy employers looking to grow their candidate pipeline are responding by forming new partnerships with technical and non-traditional higher education institutions. For example, US logistics firm Penske has built college and university partnerships in locations near its larger facilities.  

Meanwhile, retailer Macy’s has rolled out a pilot program to recruit high school graduates for supply chain roles, offering tuition, books, and fees for a range of training including college accreditations. 

Some organizations have eliminated college education requirements altogether from entry-level roles, as they look to increase diversity and focus on candidates’ skills and capabilities instead. Skills-based hiring is a top trend for 2024, cited in a Korn Ferry report on talent acquisition strategies.

Communicate ESG Values 

ESG is a major focus for Gen Z. As a result, it is little wonder that young professionals looking to make an impact are pursuing careers in supply chain, assisting with renewable energy options, more diversified suppliers, and other ESG issues. Gen Z workers also weigh social issues and wellbeing heavily in their decision-making processes and seek companies that align with their own personal values.  

“Young professionals want a role that gives them a mission and a purpose,” says Cam Fulton, a Principal in Korn Ferry’s North American Industrial Practice. “Supply chain careers have so much meaning. Even individual contributors can have impact because these roles are where you create productivity and efficiency.” 

Supply chain presents an opportunity to make a difference. Our experts say that organizations should be enthusiastically communicating this to entry-level candidates so they can consider a career in supply chain or supply chain management (SCM).

“Young professionals want a role that gives them a mission and a purpose.”
~ Cam Fulton, a Principal in Korn Ferry's North American Industrial Practice

Communicating ESG credentials is also crucial to attracting future candidates, says Angie Freeman, Chief Human Resources & ESG Officer at third-party logistics (3PL) company, CH Robinson.  

“It’s important for people to feel like they're doing work that matters for a company that is being a good corporate citizen itself. If we, as an employer, can bring these things to the table clearly and meaningfully, this tends to be a very powerful way to bring people in,” she says. 

Employers need to be direct with prospective employees that working in supply chain is a big deal, adds Meredith Moot, Senior Client Partner in Korn Ferry’s supply chain, logistics and industrial services sectors. “You are making an impact on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis. It’s incredibly challenging, but with challenge comes reward.” 

And as organizations continue to build a compelling narrative around supply chain to attract and retain young professionals, Freeman expects to see CHROs, CSOs, and ESG executives collaborate more closely together. “We have common goals, and mutually reinforcing each other’s work supports and furthers our shared objectives,” she says.   

Focus on Pay, Rewards, and Benefits 

Top talent comes at a cost. And while communicating the values of ESG is a crucial part of the role for recruiters, young supply chain professionals say that compensation is one of the top reasons—alongside career development—that they look for a new job.  

Pay and benefits, advancement opportunities, and level of flexibility (say, remote or hybrid work models) all can influence employees to look elsewhere.  

To reduce turnover, employers must ensure that their total rewards packages are competitive. As part of this, Freeman says they will be rolling out pay transparency for US and Canadian employees in 2024. 

It's important for people to have knowledge about different possible career paths, and what sort of rewards are tied to them, says Freeman. “I'm excited about being able to tout this transparency to potential hires. It says: we have a competitive pay package and we're going to share that information with you.”

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Spotlight Career Development  

Young professionals want to be continuously heard, supported, and given opportunities for growth. Nurturing this pipeline with better benefits and development opportunities is crucial to retaining high performers. 

“These development opportunities can include best-in-class training programs that offer young professionals experience in all areas of the job, from procurement to logistics,” says Fulton. “They can progress through the levels, charting their own course to the C-suite.”  

But mentorship and guidance from senior leaders is just as important. “Young professionals have very specific goals regarding their career, development, and compensation,” says Moot. “Employers should talk to candidates about their long-term goals—including career and financial goals—and help them understand the opportunities that exist in supply chain,” she advises. 

To keep Gen Z meaningfully engaged, our experts suggest that organizations provide a clear path for working in different areas of the business. Skill variety creates a meaningful work experience for Gen Z, which is critical for retention.  

Companies are seeing a growing number of employees looking for broad exposure, with the ability to move into other areas in the future. “New hires want to know: ‘If I go into warehousing, do I always have to be in warehousing?’” says Karyn Troxell, Vice President of Human Resources for Penske Logistics.  

On-the-job cross functional projects can expose employees to different parts of the supply chain, giving young professionals the opportunity to interact with other product lines, expand skill sets, and be exposed to future opportunities.

“Our competitive advantage and ability to win in the future will be largely dependent on having access to the best talent.”
~ Angie Freeman, Chief Human Resources & ESG Officer, CH Robinson

As Freeman points out, the longer you can keep people, the more valuable they become. Having a heavy investment in development and a focus on promoting from within is a smart business strategy.  

“Our customers tell us our people are the main reason they choose to work with us,” she says. “Our competitive advantage and ability to win in the future will be largely dependent on having access to the best talent.” 

The supply chain sector will continue to evolve, demanding innovation, connectivity, technology, and solutions—all of which rely on a strong pipeline of highly skilled talent. Companies that recognize the need for this talent and invest in the growth of their employees will position themselves for success as global supply chains become more complex. 

Looking to Grow Your Talent Pipeline? 

As the competition for top talent intensifies, employers need to demonstrate a commitment to investing in employee benefits, rewards, and career development if they are to stay ahead.  

Get in touch with Korn Ferry’s supply chain experts to discuss how they can help you attract and develop high performing talent across a range of roles including lean manufacturing, plant management, quality assurance, distribution, logistics, procurement purchasing—and much more.

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