Employees who care about a customer? Valuable. Employees who take ownership of making customers happy and initiative in making your company more profitable? Priceless and perhaps increasingly extinct.
Distributors aren't ignoring the issue of human resource development. In fact, the University of Industrial Distribution, an annual program that a few years ago went begging for students at its annual one-week session, has been quickly selling out about 500 seats the past two years. But it will take a lot more than annual off-site training to keep your company competitive and growing in turbulent economies. A team of motivated, resourceful and creative problem solvers can make the difference in a company's performance.
People with great skills are in short supply; they become even more valuable when the economy tightens. Companies naturally tend to reduce service levels to control cost. That's when your best people tend to find opportunities others can't see. They make and save you money when conditions are tough.
If you have not put human resource development at the top of your planning list, consider elevating it today. The lead article in this issue illustrates one way distribution companies can invest in their employees to gain significant competitive advantage. Look closely at what you budget for training today. Beyond budget, do your employees have a clear idea about career paths and growth opportunities within your company? Are there clear management paths for those who take the initiative to pursue them?
If you can communicate a clear picture on how your best people can impact success in the future and be rewarded for it, you will have less worry about competitors picking off your top talent.