Supply Networks

Leveraging the Changing Workforce

changing workforce

This is the sixth blog in a series of blogs revolving around Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption, published by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) — the only major research study analyzing the future of wholesale distribution within multiple lines of trade. Find a shortlist of the other blogs in the series at the bottom of this post.

Many business leaders assume that the difference between the Millennial and Baby Boomer generations is an unbridgeable chasm thanks to differences in technology acceptance, personal values, workplace expectations, and work-life experience. In between these generations sit the Gen Xers, who represent the upcoming leadership generation. These three forces are converging to create one of the most varied and complex workplaces most industries have ever seen.

Millennials in the spotlight

Millennials get the most attention in this new scenario, characterized as the group that represents the greatest change to traditional ways of working. This generation of entitled, social media-focused individuals (so it is thought) is at odds with the staunch work ethic that characterizes the Baby Boomers and the achievement-oriented Gen Xers. What is thought to be common knowledge about the effect of Millennials in the workforce is explored, and in many cases refuted.

The research shows that the gap isn’t between Millennials and Boomers, but between leadership and all generations in the workforce. Rather than being an anchor that drags a company down in the seas of disruption, Millennials offer new opportunities for businesses to revitalize themselves through their energy, drive, and digital savviness. Forward-thinking wholesaler-distributors will embrace this knowledge and develop strategies to capitalize on the changing workforce.

Rethinking workplace recruiting

As a business-to-business industry that is less obvious to potential entrants to the distribution workforce than other industries, wholesaler-distributors are employing innovative techniques to recruit candidates to their companies by publicizing appealing characteristics of careers, such as flat management structures that provide the opportunity to have an impact more quickly in a company, or having the ability to have fun while experiencing a compelling and rewarding career.

Leading distributors have successfully implemented new human resources (HR) strategies involving all generations in the workplace to develop future leaders and plan for succession, retain and progress associates by enriching skills and implementing employee-engagement programs.

Realizing that all generations have more in common than not when it comes to career and workplace goals is the first step toward discovering how to best integrate Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers. Capitalizing on those commonalities while embracing the unique qualities and capabilities each generation brings to the workplace provides opportunities that can help distributors minimize the effect and embrace the possibilities of workforce disruption.

In the upcoming edition of Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption, published by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), you will find much more detail on all of these topics, including strategies and examples from leading distributors, along with suggested actions to understand and minimize the effect of disruption on a business, or present the opportunity to become a disrupter.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on other topics examined and discussed in the book.

Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption is available for purchase from NAW at:, and will be available in November, 2016.

Previous blogs in the series:
Wholesale Distribution at a Watershed Moment
Unpacking the 6 Disruptive Forces in Wholesale Distribution
Branding and image: Distributors as service providers
Leveraging Relationships in a Customer-Centric World
Using Mergers and Acquisitions as a Disruptive Force

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