Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
December 22, 2017  |  ByPatricia Lilly

By the year 2025, 75% of the workforce will consist of Millennials. With this rapidly growing demographic, many employers are finding themselves face to face with an evolving work culture: What once motivated Baby Boomers and Gen Xers doesn’t quite fit the bill for today’s working Millennials. Across many industries, employers are finding challenges in innovative and effective ways for both how they recruit Millennials and how to retain them in the workplace. Are you ready for the Millennial Invasion?

Meet Dave Shrigley, a Business Development Manager at Revere Electric Supply located in Mokena, Illinois. Over lunch during NAW’s Distribution Program for Rising Stars at The Ohio State University in June 2017, Dave shared his concerns about the challenges of attracting a younger workforce to the wholesale distribution industry. What made this conversation so insightful is the fact that Dave himself is a Millennial—at the age of 29! 

Dave is a graduate of the first apprentice class at Revere Electric. The Revere Sales Apprentice Program is a multi-phase program designed to bring entry-level personnel into the company while developing and advancing talent to become Account Representatives at the end of an approximately two-year period. Joining the program after graduating from Augustana College, Dave readily admits that the wholesale distribution industry wasn’t a top career choice or even one he had given thought to. However, it was Revere’s recruitment and potential opportunities offered that ultimately spiked his interest.

As employers, we constantly hear stories about how Millennials jump from one job to another, usually not staying with a company for more than two years. Contrary to that notion, Dave is in his seventh year at Revere, and most of the Millennials who have joined Revere have stayed with the company. Why? Dave says that his satisfaction derives from receiving continually increased responsibilities, great mentoring programs and professional development opportunities.

However, like any company looking to improve its retention and grow its talent pool, Revere took notice of those who had left the company and began exploring why Millennials would leave Revere for other opportunities. Through research, the company discovered that many of Revere’s recruits had limited or no ties to the region, and therefore, no real reason to stay in the area. With this information, Revere turned its attention toward identifying potential hires from surrounding colleges in Illinois and Wisconsin, such as Augustana, Illinois Wesleyan, Carthage and many others that now serve as fertile ground for Revere’s recruitment efforts. In addition, Revere works with Handshake, a site shared by hundreds of colleges where approved employers can post jobs and search résumés for potential candidates.

While Revere participates in traditional college fairs, the company also schedules time in the college classroom to introduce the company to graduating students. Revere provides an overview of the company and of the wholesale distribution industry. Revere has found that these classroom visits also provide a great opportunity to engage with students, gaining greater insight into what Millennials are seeking in a prospective employer. Through the classroom approach, Revere has learned the following:

  • The number 1 priority for Millennials is a flexible working schedule.
  • Millennials want a fun working environment.
  • They are interested in working for a company that places importance on social issues and a sense of purpose. Dave noted that this interest has been gaining ground rapidly over the past couple of years.
  • Millennials are technology savvy and they expect their employer to have a strong investment in technology, if not state-of-the-art technology.
  • Millennials are looking for innovative vacation, bonus and incentive packages.

Noting that the interest in social causes and living with purpose are growing trends, Dave emphasized the importance of organization health. Millennials are interested in teamwork and they thrive on mentorship and collaboration. They want coaches and meaningful relationships where the association of “colleagues” is synonymous with “friendship.” Perhaps most importantly, Millennials need to be shown a plan for their career. As Dave points out, “Millennials want to move faster, have more responsibility as well as a vision for where their career is heading.” Once you have recruited your team of Millennials, pay attention to the onboarding process. Set expectations early and communicate clearly the steps that are needed to succeed in your company.

The great thing about every new generation is that each of us is given the opportunity to learn, grow and improve daily, while at the same time to discover new ideas that strengthen the industry. Imagine what your company could learn by implementing tactics like those in Revere’s recruitment strategy! To learn more about what Dave and other Millennials in our industry suggest you can do to attract their generation to our workforce, join us at the NAW 2018 Executive Summit, January 30–February 1, where you’ll hear their thoughts during a panel session titled, “Attracting and Retaining Millennials: Do You Think I’m Sexy?”

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Patricia A. Lilly

Patricia A. Lilly is NAW Senior Vice President-Thought Leadership and Executive Director of the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence. She has overall responsibility for thought leadership functions, including identification, development and distribution of research studies, and is responsible for certain activities in the areas of communications, sponsorship sales, meetings and educational programming. Trish may be reached at plilly@naw.org.

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