This is a part of the 2014 Distribution Trends Report. The annual report was researched and written by MDM editors based on interviews with dozens of wholesaler-distributors, as well as industry experts and manufacturers. MDM also conducted a survey of its readers to uncover the trends outlined in this report.
2014 Distribution Trends Report
This article is a part of MDM’s 2014 Distribution Trends Report. The article reports on the need for employers to shift expectations of millennials to maximize hiring success and the potential for more efficient business practices.
Distribution companies are losing more people than they are adding, according to Prudence Thompson, senior partner at Egret Consulting, Mundelein, IL.
“There is a large influx of companies that are looking across the horizon of their senior leadership team and realizing that collectively they’re maybe five to ten years out from retirement,” Thompson says.
However, the millennial generation poised to fill these position gaps and the companies looking to hire are finding it difficult to partner with each other. As the skills gap continues to grow, attracting young talent remains a challenge for distribution companies.
“We are trying to develop something new, innovative and fun that somebody actually wants to come and work at,” says Heather Riggs, director of supplier development at BlawkHawk Industrial, Broken Arrow, OK.
A good example of that is what Grainger did in Chicago, says Brent Grover of Evergreen Consulting, Cleveland, OH. Although Grainger has a “beautiful suburban headquarters” in Lake Forest, IL, he says, the company created a different workplace in downtown Chicago.
“Why would they do that? Well, young folks probably like to be with other young folks, and they’re congregating in the urban centers of our country now, not so much out in the suburbs,” Grover says.
For wholesale distribution companies to get in step with younger generations, they may need to think differently about how they operate. Most distributors don’t have the resources to open a new office and hire hundreds of employees to work on technology-focused initiatives. But they could launch other initiatives to provide a workplace where millennials would want to work.
The perceived millennial generation attitude toward a career is another hiring obstacle. “The millennials, the resumes I get now, you see four and five jobs, they are bouncing,“ says Jeff Haggard, vice president of sales of Haggard & Stocking, Indianapolis, IN. “When we hire, we want to hire someone for a career, not just for a job.”
Without a shift in expectations, an employer may be hesitant to hire. A work history of short-term stints at different companies is viewed negatively by many employers. An employee who does not see an issue with changing jobs every three years for a better opportunity may find pushback from companies, according to Thompson.
“The employee of today is different than the employee of 35 years ago. Millennials have a different approach to life,” says Paul Mills, CFO of Haggard & Stocking. “…I think it’s just adjusting to those people, the younger people and what their expectations are.”
Phil Derrow, president and CEO, Ohio Transmission Corp., Columbus, OH, says that the millennial work force is different, but they don’t lack the same work ethic as generations before.
“I don’t find young people less willing to work. It’s just different,” Derrow says.
“Contrary to what many people think, it’s not about salary or a title,” says Jim Thompson of consulting firm NewM Group. “Millennials believe they’ve earned a right to sit at the table. They’re looking for their voice to be heard and to be recognized that they have value.”
If management provides that recognition and the opportunity to participate more fully in the process, they might be surprised by the results, Thompson says. They bring new ideas and experiences to the conversation, and that can improve overall productivity. “They do have something to offer,” he says.
Derrow also sees benefits from individuals’ differences in the work place. Being challenged and adapting to differences can help a business become more productive, he says. “Maybe we can learn something from them.”