How do you attract Gen Y workers? By 2025, it is said that Gen Y (also known as "Millenials") will make up 75% of the workforce. Born between 1980 and 2000, Gen Ys are now of the age to be joining the workforce, post college, and as the baby boomers continue to exit the system, the Gen Ys will soon become the majority of the workforce. With that in mind, while the way you attract talent has worked well in the past, it needs to change since Gen Yers think differently, act differently and perform differently. To attract the best Millennials you need to appeal their uniqueness.
I just had the distinct pleasure of spending a couple days in Guadalajara experiencing first hand the talent, passion and capabilities of the region. Nearshore Executive Alliance held the Immercio conference there for about 80 people with a mix of buy-side, sell-side, regional experts and advisors in attendance. The sessions I attended and stories I heard convinced me that if I had any doubts about outsourcing to Mexico, it was time to see the light. I was able to hear first hand from companies like HP and United Healthcare who have opened captives with amazing success and while it is more expensive than their Indian locations, they would never consider moving out due to the unique talent, as well as time zone and cultural affinity. I met people representing companies like Softtek with 10,000 employees as well as companies like Unosquare who have 102 and growing rapidly. I met a company called Vesta that outsources all of their high-end work to Unosquare with incredible results. I toured the Institute of Technology of Jalisco and saw hundreds of "20-somethings" doing work for a dozen or so outsourcing companies located there. I met with iTexico, a start up that had eight people working for them two years ago and have 80 now, with plans for 150 by next year. I found that these companies are taking on higher end-work, not commodity type coding. They are creating apps, websites, software and interfaces for companies in North America. They are working for Open Table, Uber, and similar companies. In addition they are serving Fortune 500 companies with their corporate identities and marketing platforms and social media. Why? Well, for one, they will soon be graduating more engineers than the United States on an annual basis. Their English skills are amazing and they are recruiting from all over the world. One center I visited was like the United Nations. I met people who came from India, the UK, Australia and Michigan.
I recently heard someone say that sourcing was boring. "Really?" I said with a hint of incredulity in my voice. In response the person said, "all you do is deal with incumbents and execute contracts." Well, that my friend is a person who doesn't really understand sourcing. Sourcing can be one of the most interesting jobs around. You must find a creative outlet for the category you are sourcing and discover new sources of supply as well as uncover new sources of information that will make your sourcing execution successful. When someone says sourcing is boring I often think that they are very simple-minded. Every single morning when I read the paper or watch the news, I think about the opportunities/issues facing companies when they have a supplier at the precipice of a disaster. Think about the last time we had a hurricane, a tsunami, a terrorist event or something of that magnitude. Those natural disasters have far-reaching impact, including call centers that were shut down, data centers that were closed, and goods and services that were trapped at our borders unable to enter a country due to issues happening around the world. Every time we have the political unrest, we face the reality that sourcing may change our near-term future. What I think is the most exciting news about our industry is the fact that everything that happens in the news every single day, can affect sourcing decisions. Global news impacts our everyday work lives. The other exciting aspect of sourcing to me, is the fact that we are the only function that looks across the company and sees stupidity, redundancy, duplicity, and multiple contracts, for the company that employs us. One might say that Finance has a better vision of what happens every day in our company. But, coming from a CPA background, I would beg to differ with you. When I report financial earnings profit or loss, I am reporting what has happened in the past.
Picture this in a high-pitched, Valley Girl voice..."Really??" I was both entertained and amused when Michael Shaw invited me to join his board for the "American Council of Sourcing and Procurement Executives (ACSPE)." Do we really need another association in the sourcing space? Although it is tempting to sit on a board with a potential "competitor," I'm not sure I agree with the methodology behind this organization. Why would I join the board of an organization that appears to include more sell-side members than buy-side? In fact, why would buy-side practitioners be interested in this group? The organization quotes that "our intention is to make this group a valuable resource differentiating it from generalized procurement groups." How? Seriously. How? I received a form letter telling me that our organization was nominated as a potential partner...I know it was a form letter because I saw one written to another company with the same language, including the: "indicate yes/no" response. It reminded me of a country song about a boy liking a girl and asking her to check "yes" or "no" if she does/does not like him back. So SIG was nominated by the Board to be included in the Board, but they haven't had their first Board meeting? Hmmmm. How can you call a Board a Board if their first Board meeting isn't taking place until June? For what it's worth, at SIG, we bring buy-side and sell-side together in a safe and collegial environment to eliminate the commercial side of Sourcing. With a ratio of 70:30 buy-side to sell-side and no booths or selling allowed, practitioners can focus on what really matters--sharing, learning and networking. Okay, my rant is done (borrowing a Jason Busch term) and I am back to work on helping SIG meet the objectives of our amazing members in a non-commercial manner!
Are you having trouble attracting and retaining talent? If so, have you considered your social media presence as part of the issue? People post about your company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Glass Door and all over the world of social media. Do you Google/Bing/Yahoo your own company and see what people are saying? Do you search your own name to see what people are saying about you as an employer? Have you searched for pictures of your work and worksite that show your company in a bad light? Within the SIG membership, we have many of "the best places to work" in the USA, so we know good employer brands well. Can you imagine if you work in sourcing for Dish Network and the top searches about your company are about how you are the meanest employer in the United States? How about if you work for Radio Shack and the complaints are mostly about middle and upper-level management and the lack of a consistent turnaround plan? While these reviews may not be focused on sourcing management, a potential employee might make an incorrect inference based on what they see on social media. I have a few suggestions you might consider:
Don't let anyone tell you differently. To be great in a sourcing role, you need a special combination of skills. Good sourcing professionals have the unique ability to execute flawlessly, and the personality to sell their ideas internally. Back "in the day" people thought of procurement/sourcing professionals as order takers. Never mind the fact that that description was never accurate...but it is most certainly not true now. Today's sourcing person must be passionately interested in learning. They must be full of curiosity and very observant about the world around them. Current events are filled with things that impact the supply chain—crowd sourcing, the cloud, conflict minerals, sustainability in Asia...every one of these things can have an effect on a sourcing person's role. At SIG we see hundreds of sourcing professionals every year in person. It is very obvious why some of them are successful and why some of them are not. If I were writing a job description for a new sourcing person, I would look for someone who is flexible, passionate about learning, interested in mentoring and very intelligent. In the past, people "fell into" sourcing careers. Today, they are highly-sought after and people often enter them from the most unlikely of paths. We have lawyers, accountants, engineers, and many other hard science professionals that have moved into sourcing by choice. This unique hard science background combined with the other talents seems to be the most successful combination for sourcing leaders. While an engineering or law degree is something that anyone who successfully pursues one can get, coupling that degree with interpersonal skills produces a special breed of person that is not that common. You can't underestimate the importance of being "a people person." Although it seems counterintuitive, this is one area that I feel can actually be taught. When I went into sourcing I was a CPA with a Masters in taxation.
Crowdsourcing is something that people fundamentally understand when it comes to things like getting something designed...but few people really get how procurement organizations can use it with some of their business processes. I decided I needed a little more firsthand knowledge, so I "applied for a job" as a "crowdsourcer." And wouldn't you know, as soon as my application for the job was accepted, I was almost immediately laid off. They had filled the position before I could even start the work! Imagine my surprise a week later when I got an email that the position had opened up again. I quickly accepted and then received some very very lengthy emails, essentially requiring me to sign my life away in order to register as an official "crowdsourcer." I was very impressed to be sent a video that walked me through all the documents I would have to complete for the registration process. I also received a short FAQ sheet, which I was told I had to review before sending any questions to the support desk. What with a few college degrees behind me I figured it was a straightforward process and I would complete it and get on to the testing quickly. Little did I know that the actual registration process was dramatically different than what the video explained. So after three hours on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and referencing the FAQ many times, I finally broke down and emailed the support team. They made it very clear that any question submitted had to be concise and with screenshots. I carefully constructed my request asking where to find information so I could complete the registration process and begin my testing. My husband was surprised when he returned home from some Saturday afternoon fun, to find that I was still sitting at my computer some two hours later, still trying to simply register.
Conflict minerals...is this just the beginning of a long line of areas that supply chains are now being held responsible to settle unrest and injustice in the world? I am personally torn by the rules - I agree we all need to recognize where our supply chain needs can cause harm to others, from child labor to carbon footprint to funding an underground militia – but why is this not played out through public scrutiny versus corporate rulings? Without financial penalties, it is public disclosure, public pressure and a board backing the decision to make changes that will sway a company’s practices…so why enact such an ambiguous act subject to dramatic swings in interpretation? Coming out of a recession and adding this layer of governance to an already risk filled supply chain is a cost and a burden at a time when we need to be rebuilding shareholder value, creating jobs and putting more money in the economy. Until the entire world recognizes the need to support the conflict minerals provisions, are we not unjustly “taxing” American businesses? Has anyone actually studied the cost of implementing a program to fulfill the requirements? Why is it okay if we put our label on a generic item using conflict minerals, but we can’t manufacture with it? How does that make sense? How come it is okay to use a button containing tin as an ornamental part of a garment, but if it acts to close a shirt or zip a pair of pants, it is now a functional part of a garment and must be disclosed? Really? Am I the only one confused here?
Crowdsourcing is a disruptive force that may affect some traditional outsourced relationships over time. If a company can have quality work performed by crowdsourcing, we have eliminated the overheads attached to a typical outsourced provider and potentially increased the expertise by a large percentage over what a single provider might provide. While I don’t think crowdsourcing will ever fully replace outsourcing, we still need to understand and figure out how it fits in our normal sourcing activity. The advantage of crowdsourcing is the ability to move massive amounts of work without the handcuff of working hours with traditional employees. Per a recent webinar featuring Lionbridge and massolution, we shared the dramatic impact that crowdsourcing will have to supplement our workforce as baby boomers leave the system. With 6.29 million crowdsourcing workers as of 2011 (according to massolutions) and over a 100% growth year over year since 2009, we can tap into some incredible talent through crowdsourcing. To quote Jeff Howe, “It’s also a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of the work is all that counts.” As companies begin to experiment with crowdsourcing, whether in a public or private crowd, it will be interesting to watch as it evolves. Have you tried crowdsourcing? If so, in what capacity? How do YOU see crowdsourcing as it relates to outsourcing? Is it something companies should start paying more attention to? Please share your thoughts and ideas!
Remember the movie Back to the Future? In it, Doc Brown sent Marty McFly into the future (after going 30 years back in time to help his parents first). Thirty years was a lot to imagine back then and watching it recently, the movie didn’t get it right. We don’t have hover cars fueled by nuclear fusion and the world doesn’t look a lot like the movie set. But seriously, how could they ever imagine iPads in the hands of infants, free world wide calling on Skype, talking GPS on mobile phones, yet alone even the Internet. We need to practice some of the things these movie writers did and quit talking about Talent Retention--that’s the past, not the promise of the future--10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day between now and 2030 according to an Oracle contingent workforce study published in 2010. Therefore, we can only “retain” so many people in our organization—and some we will be glad to see go. So we shouldn’t only be thinking about managing retention right now but also about the organization of the future. What will it look like? We only have to look 5 to 10 years out to know that our workforce is going to look and behave very differently than it does today. To think that people that work in sourcing in the future have the same values as your (or my) generation is crazy. From recent studies on how to retain talent, we know that each generation has different values and is motivated by different things. So rather then focusing conversations solely on "retention," our discussions should also include what skill sets our companies will need for the future…and where they will come from. We should be asking questions like: