right_division Green SCM Distribution
Bookmark us
SCDigest Logo

About the Author

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

Logistics News

By Cliff Holste

March 26, 2014

The Future Of The Logistics Industry Depends on Attracting & Retaining Young Talent

Understanding Who They Are and What Motivates Them

Holste Says:

The major challenge is to make the industry more attractive to the next generation.
What Do You Say?

Click Here to Send Us Your Comments
Click Here to See Reader Feedback

Previous Columns by Cliff Holste

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking To Increase System Capacity Are Surprised To Find It May Already Exist!

Sorting It Out: For Shippers - Benefits Of Real-Time Control In The DC Are Huge!

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking to Improve Operations Choose Customer Centric Approach

Sorting It Out: Productivity is a Crucial Factor in Measuring Production Performance

Sorting It Out: Packaging Construction Impacts on Logistics Operations


While attending MODEX 2014, I notices that there were very few young people touring the exhibits and attending conferences. I mentioned this to Dan Gilmore and he discussed it with Daniel Stanton, MHI VP of Education who referred to it as a “crisis” situation for the Supply Chain Logistics industry.

The major challenge is to make the industry more attractive to the next generation. This is critical because when you’re working with integrated, process flow-based technologies, and trying to execute quick response, continuous order fulfillment strategies that require some ingenuity, you need a workforce that understands and is comfortable with advanced interactive technology.

Industry leaders, providers and users of automated equipment and systems along with the related trade associations, need to ramp-up their efforts to attract young people while they are still considering their career options. Advertising, specifically focused at this generation could expose advanced logistic technologies in an entertaining and educational manner. For example, UPS, USPS, and Amazon are running TV ads that featured their logistics operations. These ads help to expose what is going on in their highly automated DCs to those who have no idea how items they order move through the complex delivery system.

Who are they?

Today’s young people grow up playing with sophisticated animated interactive games. When they are ready to move into the workforce they are naturally looking for opportunities to work with advanced technologies. Unless your business just happens to be located in Silicon Valley, you need to be aware of a few generational imperatives that young people share. The following are a few clues gathered from various public opinion research sources:

Be smart – you are special. They’ve been catered to since they were tiny; get a trophy for just participating.


Leave no one behind. They were taught to be inclusive and tolerant of other races, religions, and sexual orientation.


Connect 24/7. They learned to be interdependent – on family, friends, and teachers. They say they rather live without TV than their smart phone. Most prefer texting rather than talking.


Achieve now! Many of their parents lined-up the right pre-school while their child was still in the womb.

Serve your community. Many of their high schools require community service credit for graduation. When asked the major cause of social problems in the U.S., they answer selfishness

All of this translates into a generation of employees with a different work ethic than any other. The following are considered to be the main components of their work ethic:

Confident - Raised by parents believing in the importance of self-esteem, they characteristically consider themselves ready to overcome challenges and leap tall buildings. Managers who believe in “paying your dues” and coworkers who don’t think opinions are worth listening to unless they come from someone with a prerequisite number of years on the job find this can-do attitude unsettling.


Hopeful - They’re described as optimistic yet practical. They believe in the future and their role in it. They expect a workplace that is challenging, collaborative, creative, fun, and financially rewarding.


Goal and achievement-oriented - Many arrive at their first day of work with their career objectives clearly in mind.


Civic-minded - They were taught to think in terms of the greater good. They have a high rate of volunteerism. They expect companies to contribute to their communities - and to operate in ways that create a sustainable environment.


Inclusive - They are used to being organized in teams - and to making certain no one is left behind. They expect to earn a living in a workplace that is fair to all, where diversity is the norm - and they’ll use their collective power if they feel someone is treated unfairly.

In our rapidly changing society, each generation works differently, thinks differently and communicates differently. So, how can you connect with the generations you work with? MHI has a program that will help you identify your own "generational personality," and give you techniques for understanding and working with other generations. It’s called MHI Young Professionals Network . Their goal is to increase industry retention, education and networking as well as to offer career support. You do not have to be an MHI member to participate.

Final Thoughts

Over the years I have had several opportunities to work on distribution projects with young people. I found their creative energy, thirst for knowledge, quick retention, adaptability and optimism to be uplifting and energizing. No doubt, the future of the logistics industry depends on attracting and retaining talented young people who never seem to stop asking – why not?

Recent Feedback


No Feedback on this article yet