Listen on These

Kathryne Newton on generational differences in the distribution workforce

Episode: 72

You better be thinking towards the future, or you’re going to get left behind. -Kathryne A. Newton, Ph.D

How do you manage the generational divide within your company? Kathryne A. Newton, Ph.D., may not have all the answers, but she does possess more than enough intel to coax groups toward more productive communication. Whether those conversations happen face-to-face, through email, or via text is another matter.

Self-professed generation geek Jason invites Kathryne to bust the cohort myths that get in the way of innovation. She also shares insights from her career as associate dean of Purdue University’s Polytechnic Institute and her tenure with the University of Innovative Distribution.

In case anyone assumed otherwise, Kathryne makes her cohort allegiance clear: I am not a basher of Millennials or Gen Z or any of ’em. Instead, she champions creating environments where the differences build stronger teams rather than pitting one group against another.

With literally five generations currently working side by side, there’s a staggering wealth of expertise and innovation in the workforce right now – and an inevitable amount of friction. Helping management navigate intergenerational conflicts is Kathryne’s specialty. She often finds that attachment to generational stereotypes (the cynical GenXer; the entitled Millennial) derail good intentions. Each group possesses unique talents, influence, and outlook; it’s incumbent upon management to recognize those differences and foster a company-wide appreciation for them.

Her top tip? Meet the individual cohorts where they are rather than expecting everyone to operate in the same style.

Kathryne’s time at Purdue has afforded her a unique vantage point to assess the mettle of distribution’s next leaders. She likes what she sees. She does wish that more institutions would follow Purdue’s lead and provide students with creative programs for financing graduate degrees. However, no matter where they’ve graduated from, wholesale distribution professionals can continue their education via The University of Innovative Distribution, one of Jason’s favorite events. Kathryne is the department chair and a faculty member of the concentrated CEU program.

Although a Boomer herself, Kathryne doesn’t sound eager to join the ranks of that generation’s retirees, at least not yet. She still enjoys transforming generational discord into workplace triumph.


DT069: Steve Diest on career paths and recruitment strategies in wholesale distribution

Generations At Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers in the Workplace – by Claire Raines, Ron Zemke, Bob Filipczak

Adaptive Spaces: How GM and Other Companies are Positively Disrupting Themselves and Transforming into Agile Organizations – by Michael J. Arena


University Of Innovative Distribution

Purdue University





Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.

This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.

Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: INxSQL Distribution Software, integrated distribution ERP software designed for the wholesale and distribution industry.

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