How Distributors Can Retain Top Talent for the Long Haul - Modern Distribution Management

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How Distributors Can Retain Top Talent for the Long Haul

Four strategies to prioritize employee happiness (and retention).

Many of our industrial distributor members indicated in a recent NetPlus Alliance Industry Outlook report that employee recruitment and retention are major concerns for them. It’s no secret that industrial supply businesses have felt the pinch over the past several years. 

Because of this, many companies find it hard to bump up salaries without first cutting expenses and making some difficult changes. The cost of recruiting, hiring and training workers is expensive, but turnover can be even more costly. Failure to adjust compensation packages can lead to your top performers’ seeking employment elsewhere because they find your salary and benefits to be too low. 

Aside from compensation, it’s also important to pay attention to your employees’ other wants and needs. Flexibility remains very important to job seekers and work-life balance can matter more than their standard salary. The fast-paced working world often leads to employee burnout, creating conflict within families and resulting in increased workplace dissatisfaction. Millennial employees have witnessed their parents make big sacrifices for their companies and saw the hardships that went along with that devotion. More than eight in 10 millennial employees (81%) want more work-life balance, according to a FlexJobs survey, with the majority stating family being the main factor. 

Of course, the hope is that if you hire the right person and treat them the right way, they will work out. The question is: How do you treat them so they want to stay? 

Stickiness Factors

When you find the ideal employee, follow these four strategies to ensure they stay for the long haul:

1. Offer fair market-based salary and compensation.
In a competitive labor market, it’s critical that you offer attractive compensation packages. This should include fair market-based salaries, bonuses, vacations, sick leave, health benefits, maternity/paternity leave and retirement packages. Rather than try to outbid other companies vying for your candidate, consider bonus or commission opportunities when employees meet certain hurdles such as accuracy, inventory turns or sales goals. 

2. Offer flexible work environments.
Employees tend to remain working for companies longer when they are happy and satisfied with their positions. Sounds simple enough, but the rate of burnout is a major factor in employee retention. A healthy work-life balance may consist of adequate vacation time, set working hours, flex time or telecommuting options. 

3. Have a recognition and rewards system.
Your company culture should be one that is celebrated regularly and the best way to do that is to acknowledge the good work done by your team. Celebrate small wins and major victories, as well as contributions made by your employees. You can do this with Employee Appreciation Days, Years of Service Awards, annual bonuses or even just verbal praise. Best-selling author and employee recognition expert Bob Nelson once said, “You get what you reward.” 

4. Invest in training and development.
Your best and brightest want to continuously improve. During regular reviews, ask your employees what their future goals include, and work to facilitate training, conferences or workshops that can help them accomplish those goals. Investing in your employees’ professional development is a great business opportunity for you, as well. It’s a strategic investment in your company’s future when you train and develop the best talent in the industry. 

If you can incorporate these strategies into your company’s employee retention plans, you’re likely to attract the right talent and fit for your culture. You’re also more likely to retain those employees you worked so hard to find.  

Paul Byrnes has been in the industrial distribution industry for more than 20 years. He is the vice president of distributor development for NetPlus Alliance, a buying group for industrial and contractor supplies distributors. Contact Paul at or visit




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