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Texas A&M University faculty members Dr. Bharani Nagarathnam, Dr. Norm Clark and Evan Vestal.
The Talent Development Council is leading the way in transforming talent practices for distributors with their efforts in a research consortium. From left: Dr. Bharani Nagarathnam, Dr. Norm Clark and Evan Vestal. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Three faculty members — instructional associate professors Dr. Bharani Nagarathnam and Dr. Norm Clark and senior lecturer Evan Vestal — from the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University are leading the Talent Development Council (TDC), an industry membership consortium. The goal of the program is to identify and advance best practices for retaining talented employees and present practical methods and applied tools for distributors to implement. 

The TDC serves as a sharing platform for industrial and construction companies from various channels to network with one another. A specific talent area is targeted each year, with 2022-23 focused on talent engagement and development. Previous focus areas include talent acquisition, talent development and talent management. 

Over the past four years, the council has worked with 27 industry partners and raised $800,000 to advance talent research and education. 

"Texas A&M University and the TDC have played a key role in helping us identify focus areas and providing a sounding board with those facing the same industrial distribution challenges," said Jeff Faaborg, vice president of sales and marketing at Acme Construction Supply Co., Inc. "We are very excited to be a part of the TDC for years to come." 

Distributor growth and profitability do not solely hinge on geographic reach, material assets, product selection or access to capital. The most powerful factor is quality employees, and the value of talent is often underestimated. 

"Our people are the single largest differentiator that separates us and our competition," said Andy Martinkus, chief operating officer at Western Materials. "The TDC is a huge contributor to the success of our strategy of investing in employee talent, which is vital for our company to ensure continued success and growth." 

Distributors utilize information technology and best practices to optimize their sales and operations. Yet, human resources are often left behind due to a lack of training resources, a poor understanding of the return on investment for employee development and the misconception that people are more expendable than other assets. 

"Today, every business leader wrestles with the ability to attract, develop and retain talented employees, especially in the industrial sectors," said Alan Singleton, president west region at Ryerson. "The TDC has provided us a platform for sharing best practices with companies facing similar challenges. The ability to share and learn strategies from similar companies, balanced with the immediate feedback from prospective recruits through the industrial distribution program, has been invaluable. Our involvement with the TDC aligns with our commitment to developing our people and their continued success in serving our customers." 

The TDC helps organizations identify new hiring strategies and performance management and provides companies with actionable steps to move forward. 

"The Texas A&M faculty associated with the TDC have been fantastic," said J.R. Richards, executive vice president of talent resources at Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply. "They are committed to helping organizations like ours develop and unleash world-class talent management and development programs that give us a competitive advantage. In the ultra-challenging world of attracting and retaining talent, our involvement in the TDC has given us a home-field advantage." 

For more information on the TDC, contact Dr. Bharani Nagarathnam, Dr. Norm Clark or Evan Vestal.