Generational stereotypes are frequently unfair and unkind. From traditionalists to young professionals, there is much to learn from each other.
With people living and working longer, the days of two to three generations making up a workforce will soon be a thing of the past. For the first time, we will start seeing workplaces with around five generations working side-by-side.
Loosely, Forbes Magazine defines the five generations that will soon be working together as:
- The Traditionalists (born prior to 1946);
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964);
- Gen X (1965-1980);
- Gen Y (now referred to as Millennials); and
- The iGeneration (born after 1997).
Interestingly, Millennials, Gen. Y, Digital Natives (whatever you want to call the generation born between 1980 and 2004), represent almost a third of the global population today. They will comprise 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025.
There are plenty of stereotypes about each group. The Baby Boomers who scorn social media, the Gen. X who don’t like authority, the Millennials who are impatient about promotions and getting ahead, and the iGeneration who are attached to their smartphones.
While there are some consistency in these traits, Jeanne Meister, co-author of ‘The 2020 workplace’ says that it is important as managers to move beyond the stereotypes, and get to know each person as an individual.
Mindful of Millennials
This could not be truer than within the procurement sector. As someone who specialises in sourcing talent in this sector, I have lost count of how many conversations I have had of late with clients and candidates regarding the hot topic of age.
And millennials are the hot topic of the moment.
There seems to be a general consensus in the media and public that Millennials are lazy, entitled, self-absorbed and will unlikely stay in any job for long. Personally, I believe there are many great exceptions to this mass generalisation, and hiring managers within procurement need to be mindful of this.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting two young professionals who were exceptions to the rule. I met Sandra Silva at a CIPS networking event. As I’m sure you would know, these events are normally attended by procurement professionals, currently working in the industry, to network and discuss market challenges, and perhaps learn something from a key presenter.
A young Sandra was studying her Masters in Supply Chain Management at Queensland’s Griffith University. She had relocated here from Colombia after completing her engineering degree.
What caught my attention was how committed Sandra was to start her career in procurement, and most importantly how determined she was to take the reins when it came to her career planning and progression. She was leaving nothing to chance.
Sandra attends regular industry networking events. She had sought out an industry mentor and was applying for internships, while continuing her studies. A few months later when I met her, she showed her determination and dedication to her career when she told me she had taken on an internship and a part-time entry level procurement position.
The next example was when a colleague asked me to meet with a young man, James Young, who was seeking career advice in my area.
James simply defied every stereotype millennials face. James came to meet me on his lunch break. He presented well and, although he had already secured a contract position with another firm, he was looking at his long term career and direction.
Before finishing high school, James had completed a couple of short internships. While attending university, he attended networking events and connected with people within many different industries to identify the right one for him. On completion of his degree he applied for graduate programs with the big four consultancies.
Through our meeting he listed his plans, and how he was going to diversify himself so he was a valuable asset to any future employers. Most of all he talked about what he planned to do to consistently upskill and further develop his knowledge.
Learning from Young Professionals
Both Sandra and James showed determination, drive and willingness to go above and beyond the normal approach to secure the right career for them.
I believe this determination will not just stop there but will lead their careers to the top, these were not the actions of ‘lazy’ millennials, but two future CEOs.
So what can we all learn from these two young professionals?
Generally speaking, in the past most people ‘fell’ into procurement, starting with backgrounds in engineering, law or accounting to name a few. They then somehow became involved in projects, or saw the opportunity to add value with cost savings in better buying strategies.
While the industry has become more professional, and there are now specific qualifications and university courses, many have just moved from one role to another, letting opportunities dictate their next career move.
Bringing New Ideas
Just like these two young Millennials, we need, as an industry, to take charge of our career, and continue to develop our skills. We need to expand our networks, and not be afraid to take on an ‘internship’ or mentor, to ensure we not only survive, but thrive the future world of work.
Furthermore, we have to stop letting age stereotypes dictate how we approach work, or manage the growing number of generations we will work with.
FCIPS accredited Alan Robertson, who has more than 20 years procurement experience across private and public sectors, said Millennials will bring new ideas to organisations. And we need to listen.
“Otherwise we won’t take advantage of their skills such as online networking/blogging and asking plenty of questions,” Mr Robertson said.
He also added that “a ‘general’ trait of Millennials is that they like to try new ways of working and improvements, so don’t leave them to get bored. Companies will lose them if they don’t let them be free to use their adventurous spirit.”
Dee Clarke has more than 10 years’ experience in recruitment across the Australian and Irish markets. During this time, Dee has forged a strong expertise in Procurement and Contracts and is an Affiliate Member of CIPSA.
Dee is a Senior Consultant within the Projects & Operations team, which delivers the right technical and project expertise for any stage of a project or asset’s life cycle.