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How Well Do You Manage Change?

There’s a lot of millennial bashing that takes place among “more seasoned” managers that recycles memes around entitlement and unrealistic expectations. It’s time to trash that broken record (millennials, look that term up on Google) because that is exactly the type of inflexibility that is allowing disruptors to displace and replace traditional supply relationships.

If you ask most distributors to identify their core competencies, they will name some combination of customer service, product selection/expertise, logistics strength or problem solving. Most will not rate change management as a key strength.

That’s a problem. And the solution is increasingly in front of your nose – your emerging managers and promising candidates who are coming into new positions in your company, or backfilling people in every type of role across the company. And for the most part, these individuals are part of the millennial generation.

Millennials in your company have grown up with disruption – politically, economically, socially. It is the norm, and they have an ability to make your company more adaptive and resilient to any type of disruptive change – internal or external.

We’ve written much over the past few years on the talent issue distributors face in specific job roles, but a very small number of distribution companies I’m familiar with have created specific change management roles. Typically IT will assume the lead role in any type of technology change initiative, but regardless of the positions you are hiring for today, the ability of your team members to manage change and adapt should be on every list of required skills.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a seminar on change management for the emerging leaders of the European Power Transmission Distributors Association at a meeting in Tenerife (I know, tough duty). It is an engaged group of young distribution and manufacturing executives I have worked with over the past few years. We ran through a case study of a distributor undergoing technology transformation in ERP, CRM and e-commerce systems.

Three teams came up with plans to ensure a successful transformation and manage the disruptive change that comes with any type of large-scale project in a company with multiple locations and even cultures. As each team presented their ideas, it became clear to me that this next generation of leaders has a gift to offer each of their employers. And companies don’t really have a choice on whether they are good at change management if they want to stay competitive and viable.

Some companies are leveraging this skillset, others are putting a damper on it. It will get clearer who the most successful and adaptive companies are in the way you see how management nurtures its change managers – no matter what age. But whining about the deficiencies of the latest generation in the workforce has been going on for centuries. It’s time to appreciate the way millennials are comfortable with change instead of continuing to play that broken record.



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