Executive IDN Insights are emailed to you bi-weekly to provide executive supply chain leadership insights from two of the most trusted healthcare supply chain leaders. For decades they’ve led large supply chain organizations and now offer you their strategic thoughts on pressing issues you should be considering.
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Getting Educated by a College Student
Mike Langlois

I was asked over the weekend if I would help a Grand Valley State University student with a project for a class in his Supply Chain Management Program.  He needed to interview someone in a managerial role within a supply chain capacity as a requirement of his course curriculum.  As a lifelong want-to-be teacher, I was happy to help him.  We set up a call on Sunday evening for what turned out to be about a 40-minute interview.  As it turns out, I may have gotten a whole lot more out of the interview than the student. The questions he asked made me pause and think about how this millennial (and maybe most millennials), are approaching their careers and career paths much differently than the way I approached mine when I was his age some 40 years ago.

For example, he asked me why I chose a career in healthcare supply chain.  I needed to think for a minute and had to honestly respond that when I was 19 years old, I needed a job and my brother-in-law, who worked for a hospital Human Resources Department, got me an interview for a Medical Records Clerk position.  After a year in “Med Rec,” I was asked to assist the Director of Distribution in cleaning out a warehouse full of Medical Records which he wanted to use as a Supply Warehouse.  At the conclusion of that project, that same director asked me to run the Supply Warehouse, an offer I gladly accepted as it came with a raise in pay.  That is how I chose my 40-year career in healthcare supply chain. 

Although this was a school project, I got the impression that this student came up with the interview questions on his own and his interest in my responses was sincere, as he was evaluating if supply chain was a good fit for his career choice.  He went on to ask what type of education and training were required, what personality traits were important for my job, how technology was affecting the industry, and what type of things were included in my daily routine.  We often hear about today’s students changing their majors 6-7 times throughout their college careers and it dawned on me that today’s students are much more deliberate about their future.    In many ways, I see today’s 20-somethings living for the moment, but in relation to their work life, they are very forward thinking, taking into consideration opportunities for advancement, type of benefits, work schedules, and work/life balance (additional topics we covered in our discussion).

What does this have to do with your current work situation?  Brent wrote “It’s About Talent” several months ago (how to attract talent) and if we are going to build a solid work force within our organization and within the healthcare supply chain industry, it will necessitate understanding the millennials and building work environments that will attract the best of the best coming out of our colleges and universities. Tech Companies have been doing this for years and many of us have been slow to pull the trigger on addressing the desires of our up-and-coming work force.  We can’t do what we did 40 years ago and just hire someone looking for a job or wanting a salary increase from a Medical Records position.  We need to be proactive in working with our universities in promoting Supply Chain in Healthcare, offer internship opportunities for these students and create a different environment within our organizations.  Otherwise, we will continue to lose out on top talent to other companies and industries that understand what millennials value.