Is Your Distribution Center an Inviting Place for Millennials?

Is Your Distribution Center an Inviting Place for Millennials?

I was talking to a distribution center manager recently and he shared a recent story of a strange and unique event in his 25-year career. He got a call from the mother of one of his temp hires questioning why the temp hire’s performance feedback was “not outstanding, instead it was just very good.”

He had hired this kid recently for a team lead position As a worker, he was good, picked up the systems pretty quickly, followed instructions, completed his tasks within the given time, etc., but still he was just a temporary hire. In fact, the company has a policy of hiring temps and testing them for three months before converting them to permanent employees. At the end of one month, the warehouse manager gave feedback to the kid and the overall feedback was positive. Although the kid performed great, the manager wanted to be a little cautious as he wanted to see the performance over a longer term and the kid was still a temp anyway. The manager’s conversation with the young person went well and he thought everything was good. However, the next day he got a call from the kid’s mother, who demanded an explanation as to why her son had gotten a “Very Good” rating and not an “Outstanding” rating. Not only that, she also added, why hasn’t the company upgraded its technology, which is slowing down her son big time?

Who are millennial’s? Millennial’s are individuals born between 1984 and 2004. It is important to pay attention to millennial’s because they are entering the workforce in big numbers, creating paradigm shifts in the work place and behaving almost like a different species. They are technology savvy, technology dependent, and very creative. They are not ready to blindly pay their dues on the career front like the Baby Boomers did. They also have hovering helicopter parents within reach through their mobile devices, parents who are involved in every aspect of their lives. So, don’t be surprised if your next twenty something new hire brings his mom or dad along with him so the parent can understand the nature of the work the new hire is going to be doing.

Here are some key characteristics of millennial’s:

  1. Millennial’s are technology savvy and according to a recent CFO survey done by Duke University, “More than 70% of CFOs say an advantage of hiring millennial’s is the technology savvy they bring to the job. Twenty-one percent of CFOs say millennial’s are more creative and innovative than other workers. Nearly half of surveyed CFOs acknowledge that millennial’s are less expensive to employ.”
  2. Millennial’s communicate most frequently via text (more than 86%) with social networks ranking second (with more than 75%). This is from a survey done by a Millennial expert Lauren Stiller Rikleenthe president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and Executive-in-Residence at the Boston College Center for Work & Family in the Carroll School of Management.
  3. 89% of millennial’s would prefer to choose when and where they work rather than being placed in a 9-to-5 position. And 45% of Millennial’s will choose workplace flexibility over pay while also seeking a sense of purpose and a personal fulfillment in their job and this is according to the Millennial Branding Report.

Clearly, it’s important to understand what might make your distribution center attractive to millennial’s. However, we also need to go the extra mile and see how those skill sets can be leveraged to improve the organization’s bottom line.

Don’t just embrace innovation & creativity, but incentivize based on cost benefits

Embracing innovation and creativity in a democratic manner gets millennial’s excited. Organizations can go a step further and reward innovation that solves problems in ways that results in better ways of doing work, in cost savings or in improving the workplace generally, making the work place better in general.

Let me offer one example that I experienced during a product introduction we did. A millennial supervisor on the evening shift of the warehouse made a slight change to standard procedure. Instead of walking next to his employees, who were pulling cases from reserve locations in their trucks, he instructed the operators to record themselves using our devices and app for 30 minutes. Later, he observed those videos and critiqued constructively to help operator employees do their job better. The operator employees were filmed performing in reality, without a supervisor breathing down their neck, and the supervisor was freed up to focus on other tasks. Identify such opportunities and reward creative use of technology to set an example that the rest of the organization can follow.

Establish reverse-mentoring programs leveraging millennial technology skills

Forward thinking leaders have already started doing this, especially in large organizations. CIO’s are buddying up with freshly minted college graduates so that they can help each other. While the experienced senior manager provides career guidance to the fresher, the fresher shows the senior manager the trend among the younger crowd. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, and Donald Graham, CEO of the Washington Post, are a great example of a power mentoring relationship as they both gain a great deal from their relationship with one another. Early on in his tenure at Facebook, Zuckerberg turned to Graham for advice on being a CEO and Graham received the benefit of Zuckerberg’s expertise on social media.

Involve millennials in technology selection, especially when they are the key users

Companies have already started doing this, by letting employees choose the laptop they would like to use, as one example. The phenomenon is upending the corporate market, which has traditionally hinged on electronics makers cultivating tight relationships with IT departments. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Research in Motion (maker of the BlackBerry) have long dominated the workplace, but Apple and its consumer-friendly blockbusters, the iPhoneiPad, and MacBook have made major inroads as popular choices with the newest generation.

Also a variety of online services that were originally aimed at consumers are crossing over. Google is hoping that people using its Gmail and Google Docs products will produce a guerrilla movement inside corporations strong enough to displace Microsoft and its Office suite of software. Skype, the Internet calling service that started as a way to call friends at no charge, is pushing into the workplace. Dropbox, originally pitched as a way for people to store and share personal documents online, has also gained a foothold in businesses.

In Command Wearable is one another technology that is millennial friendly. It is a ruggedized consumer electronic device for use in enterprise environments as an alternative to the rugged wearable computers like Motorola WT4000 and Honeywell LXE HX2. In Command Wearable has a consumer electronic device, a proprietary ergonomic rugged enclosure, and intuitive set of apps to enable the consumer device to be used in warehouse and distribution environments. The first generation of In Command Wearable uses Apple iPod Touch generation 5 as the core computing device paired with a Bluetooth ring scanner for data capture. By getting younger workers involved in technology selection, organizations can settle on devices that these workers like and use intuitively.

Let us know in the comments section below how millennial’s are benefiting your organization.

Originally published at on Feb 28, 2018.

Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. SG LoadProof is a patent pending Centralized Enterprise Photo/Video Document System on Cloud for Supply Chain. SG LP is built on the fact that photos & videos are vital docs as important as POs/SOs/Legal Contracts/Fulfillment Orders that reside in ERP/WMS/TMS systems, that serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal proof of crucial, critical, vital operations executed in Supply Chain within/across orgs when fulfilling customer orders as well as meeting contractual obligations between orgs as merchandise is transferred between different parties that partake in Supply Chain functions & operations. And these photos/videos data should not be stored in someone’s Smartphone or Email Inbox or in their personal/work Computer, but should be stored in a Centralized Enterprise system, where such data can be pushed into super-fast, stored securely, accessible to all stake holders (CFO/Sales Reps/Customer Support/AR/AP) in an org, as well as facilitates super-fast retrieval/sharing. LP is an Enterprise System of record for Photo/Video docs & is as important as an ERP which is an enterprise system of record for POs, SOs, Legal Contracts between parties etc. that have huge legal ramifications, also as important as a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that hold indispensable shipment & fulfillment data on orders. Like how Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc. have evolved into social media platforms/systems that enable individuals to showcase their beauty/pretty clothes/lovely cosmetics/hep coolness etc., LoadProof is an Enterprise system that holds similar photos/videos, but for a different reason, not for show off, but to serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal & indisputable system of record and proof that can be presented even in the court of law, when there is a dispute between parties while they execute many facets of the Supply Chain functions & operations. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 25 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at Also follow him at