Q&A: The Evolution Of Distributor/Manufacturer Recruiting Strategy

At seemingly every industrial distribution/supply association conference, at least part of a keynote speech or 'state of the association' speech focuses on the challenge of talent recruitment throughout the industry.

Industrial distributors and suppliers are challenged more than ever to find qualified talent, especially of the millennial age bracket. So many of these companies are family-owned and several generations old, with many executives, managers, sales staff and even warehouse workers at or nearing retirement age. This has led to a perceived large upcoming shortfall of talent needed to replace retiring employees and a major call to boost recruitment efforts.

ID recently spoke with Larry Basel, vice president of professional staffing firm Ajilon, about how distribution/manufacturing recruitment strategies have evolved in recent years and things these companies should keep in mind when looking for new talent. One of Ajilon's industry focuses is on supply chain and logistics recruitment.

Here's what Basel had to say about a variety of topics in this area:


ID: How have distribution talent recruiting strategies changed over the past 5 years?

Larry Basel: Manufacturers and distributors are typically more traditional in their recruitment strategies, but the competition for the best talent in this space has forced companies to change this paradigm. 

To attract top talent, best-in-class companies have enhanced their recruiting practices by implementing internal changes aimed at increasing employee engagement and boosting workplace culture. Once company culture gaps have been addressed, employers are looking externally to partner with resources that get them in front of fresh talent, be it a staffing firm, consulting firm or collegiate program. 

A combination of internal improvements and external partners are driving a more competitive and comprehensive recruitment strategy that is far more attractive to prospective and current employees.

ID: Manufacturers/distributors have been challenged over the past 10 years with ‘making manufacturing/distribution seem cool to millennial job candidates.’ What can these companies do to attract new, young talent?

Larry Basel: Employers should reflect on whether their organization tells a compelling story. The millennial workforce places a premium on work-life balance, social responsibility and an innovative, colleague-centric work environment. If a company is lacking in those areas, they will likely need to shift their culture to better match the elements most attractive to this segment, or else risk losing relevance. 

This can be a real challenge for companies, as the ideal millennial workplace is atypical of manufacturing and distribution centers' historical norm. A high level of organizational commitment will be required in order to successfully  transform company culture.

Companies should also make sure they’re fishing where the fish are – to reach millennials and Gen Zers, employers need to be more ingrained at the collegiate and even high school levels. Building a pipeline of talent early on will help ensure businesses have a complete, skilled workforce in the future. 

ID: A recent trend in distribution hiring, and the overall job market seems to be putting less emphasis on industry experience, and more emphasis on culture fit. What are your thoughts on that?

Larry Basel: The world of distribution hiring has entered a time of colleague-centric thinking, a notion that counters the industry’s reputation for being more traditional in recruitment practices.

We are seeing a number of top employers loosen their requirements around experience and instead align with schools to help job candidates get the training they need to be successful on the job. This shift is in part due to an ongoing shallow pool of talent available to the supply chain and logistics industry. 

ID: Where should distributors/manufacturers be looking to find/reach out to new talent to fill either sales or warehousing jobs?

Larry Basel: Right now, companies should be tapping into colleges and high schools — especially those with supply chain and logistics programs — to make students aware of career opportunities. Partnering with educators on work-based learning programs, such as internships, apprenticeships and co-ops, is an effective succession planning method and can ensure a company is prepared for the future of work.

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