Changing Of The Guard In Wholesale Distribution

John McDonnell

It’s no longer up for debate – distributors are facing the challenge of satisfying the increasing demands of their customers. However, leading distributors also see a way to reimagine the role and structure of their workforce.

The wholesale distribution industry can expect a substantial exodus of older workers in the coming years and may face challenges to match workers to jobs. Over 50% of the workforce will be millennial in the near future. The aging of the population has the potential to reshape not only who works, but also how work can be performed. This will require a new workforce strategy to address the new reality.

People continue to be key assets in the wholesale distribution digital economy. But the expectations and roles of the workforce are changing. Rallying the organization to understand future talent needs and developing strategies of accessing that talent may be critical to its survival going forward. Many of today’s organizational practices were designed for yesterday’s workforce.

Globally, 35% percent of the total workforce is considered “non-employee,” and this number is rising. To compete, more and more distributors are looking beyond traditional full-time employees to drive agility. Leveraging contingent labor, contractors, and services providers is on the rise. These dynamics require new strategies and new ways of addressing work. In fact, in a recent survey 83% of executives indicated they’re increasingly using contingent workers.

Distributors who rely on contingent workers to help drive business growth can gain a competitive advantage. A contingent workforce can be used to fill gaps or spikes in business demands. This temporary workforce can be both flexible and cost-effective. A contingent workforce can also be used to provide additional services to customers when you don’t have the skills in-house. For example, a temporary service technician could be hired to install a new piece of equipment for a customer or to teach customers how to maintain new equipment purchased from the distributor.

The most successful companies are finding ways to create a top-notch blend of full-time employees and contingent workers. This holistic approach to workforce management is referred to as total talent management. While many businesses have a solution in place to oversee their permanent workers, they are often challenged to gain this same type of visibility into their flexible workforce.

SAP Fieldglass solutions improve productivity and enable the use of contingent labor where and when needed. The cloud-based solution streamlines highly manual processes and automates the entire cycle of procuring and managing temporary and contract labor. Visit to find out how your organization can gain workforce visibility and enforce compliance with company policies and labor laws, improve quality, optimize performance, cut costs, and maximize savings.

John McDonnell

About John McDonnell

John McDonnell has been with SAP for 10 years and is based in Chicago. He leads industry development activities with our Midwest community of customers and works directly with customers to identify business process optimization and innovation opportunities, as well as develop business cases and solution road maps. Prior to joining SAP, John also worked at Grainger, where he led several initiatives to enable the company's multichannel strategies.