Planning procurement’s response to the Millennial Generation

Millennial Generation

The Millennial Generation represents one of the greatest potential influences and challenges to managing talent in the next year or two.

Hackett’s 2016 Procurement Key Issues study revealed that talent management remains one of the top-three critical or major areas of focus for virtually all procurement organisations. The two perennial favourites, category management and strategic sourcing, make up the other top focus areas.

Combined with the fact that most procurement organisations (especially those in Europe) continue to experience higher levels of staff churn and difficulty attracting great talent, organisations are targeting three specific areas to transform talent. They are:
1. Improving leadership skills
2. Honing business acumen
3. Building specialist procurement skills

“But can procurement cope with, and ultimately benefit from, the disruption brought into talent management by the Millennial Generation?”, asks Chris Sawchuk, Principal and Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader, The Hackett Group.

What do we mean by Millennials?
When we refer to the ‘Millennial Generation’, we are referring to those born in the 1980s who are now moving into management positions, or those born in the early 1990s who are leaving graduate school to join the workforce. This workforce demographic is characterised by different attitudes, desires and motivations than earlier generations. Generations X and Y came to be known for their independence, interest in work/life balance, technical proficiency, and measuring success in both financial and social terms.

Millennials, on the other hand, are the first generation of digital natives – i.e. they’ve truly grown up with the Internet and social consciousness. They have high career expectations, desiring both immediate and high-impact opportunities, flexibility in terms of schedules, embracing remote working and diversity in assignments (e.g. culture, fun and collaboration).

They plan for rapid advancement as well as frequent job changes. Case in point: 90% of Millennials plan to stay in their job for less than three years. They are high touch and expect frequent feedback. In summary, the Millennial Generation wants more from work than just a career at a good company.

How can procurement address the critical skills gaps?
Research conducted by The Hackett Group in the past on procurement talent management has shown clear gaps in the essential business skills required for most procurement jobs. These include strategic thinking and analysis, group facilitation and relationship management skills.

When considering specialist skills, enhanced supplier relationship management and market intelligence expertise were identified in need of development for most roles, with supply risk, innovation and supply chain management expertise needed for specialist roles.

How do we respond?
This situation poses challenging questions to procurement leaders, such as:
– What procurement value proposition will be the most appealing?
– Will higher attrition become the new normal for procurement?
– Is now the time to invest in knowledge capture and transfer?
– How can we create flexible work schedules and collaborative work environments?
– Do we need to rethink the importance and type of training that we provide?

In all cases, training strategies need to be modernised to reflect this accelerated reality as well as changing learning styles and preferences. Strategies that get people up to speed faster, use more interactive, workshop and team-based formats. The 70-20-10 approach to learning is based around the idea that 70% of learning stems from experience, 20% from social learning with colleagues and just 10% from formal learning involving training or online courses.

This framework will see larger learning elements being on-the-job, collaborative and workshop-based, and action-orientated to better align with leader/manager day jobs and current issues. The aforementioned will be complemented with self-directed learning elements and social learning (e.g. LinkedIn, Yammer, etc.).

Get in touch with Chris at

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