added, and therefore people are shying away from it,”
explains McCollum. “We need to make a concerted effort
to make sure there is an awareness of what being a part
of this industry actually means, and the value that it
brings to customers.” This might mean actively working
with local schools to educate students on the fact that
distribution is more than just filling orders.
What They Want
Analysts have been studying these generational shifts
for years and there is much consensus around additional
must-haves for Millennial workers. According to a 2015
report by Ernst & Young, flexibility is one of the biggest
benefits these employees look for. Specifically, 75 percent
want the ability to work flexibly and still be on track for
a promotion, said the study. In fact, 80 percent of those
surveyed said their top reason to stay on a job was a competitive pay and benefits package that included flexibility.
The flexibility issue creates challenges for certain industries, especially those in more “blue-collar” roles like
fulfillment where telecommuting is a non-starter. Employ-
ers requiring a certain set of hours (including rigid start
and stop times in a shift-based environment) might look
to other opportunities like a flexible benefits plan, including flex spending accounts for medical or dependent care.
Other options might be job sharing, or compressed work
weeks where time off is balanced against the schedules of
other team members.
Another benefit Millennials require is parental leave:
86 percent said they would be less likely to quit a job
where paid parental leave is offered. In the U.S., the
number of private employers who offer paid leave is 1 in
5, meaning businesses who look at offering this benefit
could wind up with an advantage in a working world
where it’s still relatively uncommon.
Bridging a Skill, Generational Gap
While Millennials are quickly filtering their way into
every field, there’s another interesting phenomenon in
play that adds some complexity to how they are received.
According to a 2015 study by Princeton-based Educational
Testing Service (ETS), Millennials in the U.S. fall short
when it comes to the skills employers want most: literacy
(including the ability to follow simple instructions),
practical math, and, shockingly, a category called
“problem-solving in technology-rich environments.”
According to the study, as reported by Fortune, not only
do Gen Y Americans lag far behind their overseas peers
by every measure, but they even score lower than other
age groups of Americans.
With this in mind, it’s important that distributors
training, identifying goals and, perhaps, establishing a
mentorship-type program. McCollum has seen success
with mentoring at Epicor, where they “try to take the
folks who have extensive and deep domain expertise in a
given area, match them up with someone who is coming
in – who’s probably more tech savvy and innovative – and
having them work together so they both see the value
the other person brings,” he explains.
Establishing these kinds of connections between people
might also address some of the inter-generational tension
McCollum suggests can be common. “One recent statistic
shows that almost 70 percent of workers view the work
environment to be tense because of clashes between
these two different generations,” he says. “The question
is, how do we optimize the environment so it’s conducive
to both and, as a result, get them to engage and hopefully be more productive?”
Will Millennials Drive
A lack of understanding of the distributor business model might come back to bite sellers as Millennials also join the
purchasing field. A recent study by UPS revealed
that Millennials were more inclined to purchase
direct from a manufacturer, suggesting that they are
less likely to see the value of purchasing through an
intermediary. And not only are these buyers more
apt to go direct, they’re also more likely to make
purchases through third-party websites. In fact,
51 percent said they have already made purchases
through marketplaces such as Amazon and Alibaba.
“For distributors, it’s important to be very clear as
to the additional value that they can add through
services – in addition to the products they might
be selling – so these consumers don’t end up going
back to the source,” says McCollum.