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Optimizing Your Distributorship’s Human Capital, Part II

Optimizing Your Distributorship’s Human Capital, Part II

Here are six ways to start leveraging your existing human capital while also attracting new employees in 2019.


In the first installment of this 2-part article series, we looked at the roadblocks that distributors run into when trying to optimize their human capital. We also pointed out why—in spite of these obstacles—the smart companies are taking the time to do this.

In this article, our workplace and HR experts give you six solid strategies that your company can start using today to turn its human capital into higher performance levels, productivity, and profitability.

Here they are:

  1. Put the right technology in place. According to a recent Kronos Incorporated survey, the workplace as a whole is falling behind in today’s on-demand culture. Younger employees in the U.S. are less tolerant of poor workplace technology than older employees. While just one-fifth (20 percent) of baby boomers think outdated processes and technology make their job harder than it should be, that figure steadily increases for Gen Xers (34 percent), older millennials (38 percent), younger millennials (40 percent), and Gen Z (39 percent). Just a quarter of employees surveyed worldwide (25 percent) disagree with the notion that their workplace technology makes common activities more complicated by adding extra or unnecessary steps. Robert O’Dwyer, Kronos’ logistics industry principal, says it’s time for distributors to start using technology to attract, train, engage, and retain employees. “Everyone is competing for the same marketplace of both skilled and unskilled labor, so the question becomes how do you ensure that you have enough employees to meet your current and future business needs?” O’Dwyer asks. “And, what are you going to do to differentiate yourself and make your organization more attractive to prospective employees?”
  2. Create an employee-first approach. Instead of trying to figure out what your next new hire can do for you, think about what your company can do for him or her. This “employee-first” approach goes hand-in-hand with O’Dwyer’s technology advice (in the previous point) in that it ensures these words never come out of one of your staffer’s mouths: “It’s easier to order an Uber than to request a day off at my company.” (O’Dwyer says about 60% of employees agree with this statement, by the way.) Looking specifically at existing workers, he says it’s important to understand that a Gen Xer’s compensation requirements may vary from, say, that of a millennial or post-millennial employee. Knowing this, he suggests creating ways for those Gen Xer’s to make more money to pay for their home mortgages and children’s college educations. For younger employees, consider creating work schedules that align with their own goals—namely, of working 30-35 hours per week. Managing these different preferences requires a workforce management solution that factors in these variances and helps distributors optimize their workforces (i.e., desired schedules versus facility demand). “You can use the old way of just making people work 40 hours a week regardless of their own preferences,” O’Dwyer cautions, “but don’t be surprised if they do it for four or five weeks and decide that it’s not for them.”
  3. Develop a supportive, empowering corporate culture where people aren’t afraid to fail. “As leaders, we need to create a very safe environment where people feel free to continually generate their best ideas,” says Fleet Maull, Ph.D., executive coach and author of the upcoming book Radical Responsibility: How to Move Beyond Blame, Fearlessly Live Your Highest Purpose, and Become an Unstoppable Force for Good. Acknowledging that not every idea generated is going to be a winner, Maull says distributors can even focus on metrics like “number of ideas generated per employee,” as a way to encourage more innovative thinking. He says this approach works particularly well with younger employees who expect to be appreciated and empowered by the companies that they work for. “The goal should be to get everyone to stop ‘editing’ themselves and just put their ideas out into the mix,” says Maull, “knowing that the best ones will rise to the top and move forward.”
  4. Cater to different motivations. As we mentioned in the first article in this 2-part series, not everyone is motivated by monetary compensation. Some people like to have a work-life balance while for others, career growth is a main motivating factor for working. “Ask everyone what their motivations are, and then change up the benefits and monetary compensation accordingly when hiring them,” says Siddhartha Gupta, CEO at talent measurement firm Mercer-Mettl. And remember that it’s not about what the employees can do for the organizations, it’s more about what the organizations can do for the employees. “Make sure you’re on the right footing with them,” says Gupta. On the retention front, he tells distributors to involve their employees in strategic decisions. This will help transform those valuable team members into brand advocates for your firm. “Your employer brand philosophy mustn’t reflect a strict employee-employer relationship,” he says. “It must be an ecosystem where every employee is an entrepreneur, thinking of innovation and new ways to make their channels, departments, and individual roles work best.”
  5. Create a strong employer brand. Liz Palmieri, one of The Predictive Index’s customer success managers, says that while new hires in the industrial segment may be hard to come by right now, that doesn’t preclude electrical distributors from making the most of their existing human resources. “Most of the younger generations, which now comprise a large percentage of the workforce, are drawn more towards white collar work than blue collar work,” Palmieri points out. “However, there are opportunities to attract new hires from the millennial and Gen Z generations.” Ultimately, it comes down to employer brand—not just visually and aesthetically, but also what’s the employee experience like? Remember that younger generations of workers are apt to reference websites like Glassdoor before choosing a job, and if they think the mission, vision, values, and culture don’t line up with what they’re looking for, they’ll pass on the opportunity. “Clearly defining, communicating, and upholding mission, vision, values, and culture will play a key role in this industry’s recruitment efforts moving forward,” Palmieri adds.
  6. Don’t overlook the importance of strong employee engagement. When it comes to leveraging existing human capital in companies, it ultimately comes down to employee engagement. “When employees are disengaged, which over 50% are across industries,” says Palmieri, “they are an increased flight risk and have decreased productivity.” Distributors can measure employee engagement using different kinds of software or a simple employee engagement survey administered through a tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. For employees who are more disengaged, consider doing a deeper dive into what’s actually causing that disengagement. “When we look at employee engagement, what we want to look at is ‘fit,’” says Palmieri. “Are they a right fit for their job, their manager, the organization, and their team?” Using a behavioral assessment, for example, a company can gain insight into the individual’s personality and that might give it an idea if the job is (or isn’t) a good fit. “For example,” she adds, “if someone has low levels of extraversion, then he or she may not be a great fit for a customer-facing role or a position that requires frequent interaction with others.”


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Bridget McCrea  is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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