Digital predator or digital prey, disrupt or be disrupted, adapt or die …
We’ve all heard these terms as it relates to the wholesale distribution industry, and they should be cause for every one of us to stand up and take notice. You’ve seen and heard about a variety of methods to digitize your organization in order to better compete in today’s changing world. However, what we don’t hear much about is what’s at the heart of all these initiatives. The heart (and soul, if you will) of every organization is the people who work for it.
Yes, folks, it’s our people who will help us achieve a Gold Medal in all aspects of wholesale distribution, whether it’s customer service, procurement, finance, supply chain, or warehouse management. And, our industry is currently in the midst of a people crisis. The vast majority of employees are of the baby boomer generation, and studies show that 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 each and every day. Think about it: the number is absolutely mind-boggling. What does that mean for most distributors? Your tribal knowledge, your most loyal employees, those who have deep knowledge and expertise of what you do and how you do it are (or soon will be) walking out the door and turning off their cellphones – not for an extended vacation, but forever.
Does this sound like a dire warning? Good, it’s meant to. The time to act is now, as there is hope on the horizon for a bright future. That hope lies in the multitudes of young talent eager to work for companies where they can contribute to making the world a better place. And, what an opportunity wholesale distributors can provide! The industry is the central nervous system of our economy – the majority of products that end up in a consumer’s home, office, or automobile can only arrive there by the services a distributor provides. The services provided by a wholesale distributor are, quite frankly, the lynchpin of our economy. The sad fact is that most recent, or soon to be, college graduates are oblivious to this fact.
How do we help the next generation of our workforce understand just how key distributors are to our economic survival, particularly since most graduates have never heard of your company, much less understand the services you perform day in and day out? It won’t be easy, and it will take a mind shift in most organizations, but here’s some food for thought: Begin to fully utilize social media to incite interest and excitement. Build brand awareness by “advertising” on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Tie that in to your internal HR tools so you can capture and captivate the individuals who are showing interest. Start face-to-face recruiting/education efforts at universities and think about local radio advertising. The goal is to help future employees understand that wholesale distribution is an exciting and hot industry.
Once you’ve captured their attention and brought them onboard, make sure you have the right solutions in place to help this fresh, young talent stay engaged through a seamless onboarding process followed by easy to access and interesting training so they can be successful in their initial roles. Then, follow it up with continuous feedback and development opportunities. Ideally, these development opportunities and feedback will be architected by those in your organization with deep knowledge and expertise.
By taking action now can you ensure that you have an educated, engaged, and vibrant workforce that will help you grow and thrive for decades to come, and win the Gold Medal!