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For years, this industry has seen a widening skills gap. There is a lack of talent in the pipeline. That's not to say the schools aren't producing good candidates, but rather that as we start up the curve on this economic cycle, fingers crossed, there is a lack of experienced managers who can step in and take over a branch operation, or the skills to integrate an acquisition.
At the same time, productivity is soaring through leveraged technology tools that weren't out there five years ago. That might be OK for some specific and necessary job functions. But there's no substitute for bringing bright and motivated employees up and giving them a pathway to be successful, no matter what part of the business they work in. Unfortunately that road the past three years has been filled with potholes the size of a HumVee.
It's been tough to keep employees motivated and productive the past few years. This year holds some hope of offering more incentives, more opportunities to stretch skills and move ahead on the career path. As the industry continues to go through waves of consolidation, the real differentiators will be the high-performing employees who know what profitability means, what makes your company's offering special and valuable to customers, as well as the basic blocking and tackling knowledge about how distribution works. They won't get there unless you give them the keys and a roadmap.