Recommended Reading: 4 Tips for Rethinking Talent Management

Be intentional and continually invest as generation gap grows.

Talent remains one of the biggest concerns for distributors, many of whom are struggling to find – and then keep – qualified candidates. MDM shares tips from distributors and consultants alike on how to approach recruiting and retaining talent for your companies.

1. Create a training culture: Recruiting the right people is critical to long-term success, says Rebecca Ray, human capital practice lead for The Conference Board, in Deepen Talent Development.

Once the right players are cast, "one of the most important levers that a company has to retain talent is to continually offer opportunities to grow and learn," she says. "If organizations fail to do that, people are going to go elsewhere."

2. Continually invest: Committing resources to the best talent and technology is not "a one-time project," says Michael Sprague of Thomas Enterprise Solutions in 'Invest or Die'. It should be a recurring investment of time and money to ensure you remain competitive.

"This is a journey that you're going to go on," Sprague says. "And it's going to make you viable not only this year but into the future and will protect your business from B2C players like Amazon as well as the nipping at your heels from small, startup companies."

3.Make your company attractive to women: Encourage women to grow within your organization by creating a career path for them or risk losing them to greater opportunities outside this industry, according to ‘Time to Act’ on Distribution Diversity.

“For men, they can start out in the warehouse, move to a counter position, then to inside sales, outside sales and so on. There’s a path for them to advance,” says Alicia Copeland, vice president of operations for Standard Supply and Distributing Company Inc., Dallas, TX, and co-author of a Texas A&M study on distribution's gender gap. “For women who start in accounting, that’s just not a skill set that is valued in distribution. They’re not likely to become CEO. There’s no path for them to follow.”

4. Tap associations for assistance: At this year's National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Executive Summit, Ben Casnocha, author of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, "presented some very valuable new ideas on unique ways to structure work 'tours' and make our jobs more exciting and challenging to the younger generation," says NAW Chair Rick Schwartz says in MDM Interview: NAW's Plans to Improve Business Climate.

"The need to manage more technical team members effectively is challenging," Schwartz says. NAW provides support through "publications as well as new programs like the leadership training for aspiring distribution personnel provided in alliance with the Apollo Education Group and Western International University."

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