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Author's profile photo Karen Lynch

Move Over Baby Boomers, a New Age Is Dawning – Wholesale Distribution by Millennials and for Millennials

I must admit:  I’ve procrastinated about writing this blog for some time now.  Perhaps it’s because I’m part of the Baby Boomer generation, albeit on the “younger” end of that spectrum.  That said, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research into Generation Y or Millennials, and find them to be a fascinating group.  In my opinion, more research, blogs and such has been written about this generation than any prior.

To set the stage:   GenY or Millennial are those born between early 1980 and early 2000, or 13 to 33 year olds.  Believe it or not, there are a whopping 80 million Millennials in the US alone, about 25% of our population.  So, how does this affect the wholesale distribution industry, and why should we care?

Let’s face it:  Our industry, as a whole, is aging, and it’s getting harder and harder to attract fresh, young talent to wholesale distribution.  In order for your company to continue to grow, thrive and innovate in the context of lightning fast technological and business process changes, you have to find ways to attract, recruit and retain Millennials.  That’s not to say that us Baby Boomers can’t adapt and change, but let’s face it:  we didn’t grow up with a mobile device permanently attached to our fingertips (or back pocket). 

In this particular blog, let’s explore the topic of a mobile device permanently attached to our fingertips] in the context of retaining that valuable group of Millennials as part of your workforce.  In a nutshell, Millennials cannot and will not live without their mobile device.

Their need is about much more than just having a mobile device at your fingertips.  It’s about having your personal device close to your fingertips, and being able to do something with that mobile device whether it’s texting with friends, finding the address of a nearby restaurant, entering your travel expenses, or executing business transactions such as customer orders on behalf of your company.   And, it’s doing it all on one device, and not about hauling around a company issued smartphone and a company issued laptop and your own personal smartphone.

Bring-your-own-device to work (a.k.a. BYOD) is becoming the norm in many companies, not the exception.  Millennials have the expectation that they will be able to use their own device in the workplace.  Is your IT department prepared to handle this?  To be able to separate Corporate sponsored applications from personal applications?  Update applications easily?  Ensure Corporate security in the event a device is lost or an employee leaves the company?  These are all serious considerations that need to be addressed with a BYOD model.  And, if your organization intends to continue to grow and thrive in the near future, it’s imperative that you address these questions if you have any hope to retain your future workforce – the Millennials.

Speaking of applications, or apps, is your organization prepared to offer employees the ability to not only research information on their mobile devices but also to conduct key business transactions on the device?  Can they see an easy-to-read dashboard of their quarter-to-date sales versus budget target?  Can they access a list of new products along with pictures and specs to show a customer?  Can they snap a picture of a receipt and create an expense report?  Can they walk down the aisle of a customer’s warehouse, stock room, or restaurant, see a list of authorized items and enter the on-hand inventory, and have the app automatically calculate a replenishment order that’s sent to the core ERP system for immediate delivery?  Chances are, your competitor enables their employees to do all this and more.

The Baby Boomer generation needs to get a dose of Millennial generation reality.  There’s no time like the present to position your company for future growth by using mobile devices and apps as the enablement tool to leapfrog your competition, attract and retain this valuable group of talent, and ensure you’re solidly positioned for years to come.

For details on SAP Mobile solutions access:

Karen Lynch is the VP of SAP’s Global Wholesale Distribution Industry Business Unit where she and her team are continuously creating mobile applications specific to the needs of Wholesale Distributors.

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      Author's profile photo Neetin Datar
      Neetin Datar

      Great blog, Karen!

      Yes, for the first time ever there are 4 generations of Americans now working together in our industry. Attracting and retaining the Millennials is going to be key going forward. They are a talented bunch and can definitely help grow our industry and keep the legacy of Boomers going! Btw, I happen to recently read an interesting book by Jason Dorsey titled "Y-size your Business." Game On!

      Author's profile photo Lynn Lupo
      Lynn Lupo

      Some great food for thought.  As technology becomes more and more part of our culture, we all need to think differently, work differently, and help our customers do the same.  And it's a good reminder to be sensitive to generational differences - whether it's Boomers working with Millennials or vice versa.

      Author's profile photo Mike Wise
      Mike Wise

      I just returned from the annual NAW Executive Summit and the full second day was reserved just for this topic.  How to recruit and retail Millennials.  Distributors today are facing a mass exit of employees through retirement and must replace them with new employees with a completely different expectation of their employer than current employees have.  The biggest one is exactly what you have talked about.  Today's distributors must have a solid mobile strategy.