What's In a Name?
Historically, from a production perspective, the printing industry has strived to achieve standardization, repeatability, and consistency. As a result, many worldwide standards - such as ICC profiles, CIP4 organizations, GRACoL, SWOP, PDF, JDF, AFP, CGATS, DDAP, environment, health, and safety, ANSI, ISO - have become entrenched throughout the industry.
But in contradiction, to a large extent our same industry has not extended the principles of standardization to its workforce. Instead, over the years job titles have emerged and evolved in isolation within the various disciplines that all work in synergy to deliver the end-product. As a result, the same titles have become attached to very divergent positions, depending on whether the function occurs with a content-creation, advertising or design agency; brokerage company; pre-press house; printer; or finisher. Diversities in job titles have also arisen among commercial printing, packaging printing, in-house, or in-plant operations - and even among different parts of the same country!
The objective of production standards is optimized and controlled manufacturing environments. Yet the building blocks that achieve the desired results are all managed, assembled, and controlled by people. It is the workforce that drives the workplace. And thus it only makes sense that industry-based standards should apply there as well.
At PrintLink, through reviewing countless resumes received from registering candidates, and the job titles and descriptions provided to us by employers, we have long recognized the need for greater standardization. Certainly, a consensus of job titles and accompanying job functions would greatly facilitate hiring activities. In all facets of our diverse industry worldwide, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to view a job title and understand immediately the function and functionality of the position.
Moreover, as business in general continues to migrate to a global economy, predictability is gaining increasing significance as a unifying goal. As just one example, ISO (International Organization for Standardization, the world's leading developer of international standards) includes a training component in its ISO-9000-management-system standards. This training clause addresses the need for staff to be suitably qualified to perform the functions required to deliver product that meets customer requirements each and every time.
With the ultimate objective of optimizing, standardizing, controlling, and streamlining print production workflows, the Canadian Printing Industry Association (CPIA) has spearheaded the Canadian Printing Industries Sector Council. The council’s intent, in partnership with industry stakeholders, is to assume “a leadership role in skills development through the creation of occupational standards and the development of relevant training tools and resources.” PrintLink applauds their mission: “to identify and implement human resource and workforce development strategies and initiatives to address the needs of the industry's workforce in order to enhance the image to the general public, make the industry the workplace of choice and maximize the career potential of every employee.”
Job titles versus job functions
The following examples are based on our constant review of vast amounts of job information from both employers and employees. They outline our current understanding of the titles, functions, and confusions associated with some of the printing industry’s core positions. In general terms, we are recommending not theoretical conformity for its own sake but rather the standardization of job titles and descriptions that seem to be working most effectively for companies in real-life practice.
Customer Service Representative
In print environments, we see the position of CSR evolving a somewhat standardized functional description and job title— as well as making significant gains in status and stature. Succinctly stated, the CSR is the keeper of a printing job or project from its inception through to final docket reconciliation. Initially he or she opens the job docket, interfaces with the company’s customers and sales department to collect requisite materials and background information, and collaborates with production to create a schedule that meets the customer's requirements. Throughout the project, the CSR serves as the contact person for customers regarding proofing and production issues, and maintains a constant liaison between production and customers to ensure that quality standards and deadlines are successfully met.
Alternatively sometimes called Account Manager, Inside Sales Representative, or Project Manager, typically in larger companies this role remains independent of production co-ordination. In smaller companies, however, the dual positions of customer service and production co-ordination most often converge into one.
Operations Manager, Director, Vice President
In some companies, any one of these designations is applied to the person responsible for the entire manufacturing operation, from front-end and pre-press operations through to shop floor, shipping and warehousing – in other words, everything except sales and finance.
This title is often misleading, since it usually includes responsibility over press, finishing, and logistics. Though the title of Production Manager sometimes entails these exact same functions, generally the roles of Production Manager and Plant Manager denote a still higher level of responsibility.
This title can either be referring to the person who manages a department of production co-ordinators or else someone who manages people and process related to production or manufacturing. In the context of printing, the title of Production Manager is often interchangeable with that of Plant Manager , although strictly speaking the Production Manager title implies a broader scope. Of the two alternatives, generally we are finding that the title of Production Manager is emerging as the standard.
In an advertising agency, however, the title of Production Manager generally refers to the person who plans, co-ordinates, and manages projects. In the advertising context, we feel this position is perhaps better called Project Manager—a distinction to clarify the fact that the position oversees project activities but does not manage staff.
Sales Representative or Account Manager
While sometimes these titles are used interchangeably, some people perceive a fine line of difference between them. In particular, one school of thought feels the Account Manager designation instills more trust, since it makes customers feel their key contact person is managing all their project activities.
But where direct sales activities are concerned, at the end of the day the outcome for both is a volume of sales activity comprising both new and repeat business. Regardless of their titles, successful salespeople or account managers are constantly mindful of a “funnel” scenario. (The funnel symbolizes the necessary balance between broadly gathering new business—at the wide mouth of the funnel--and servicing existing accounts—at its narrower tip.) We are also seeing instances where companies define new business development as a stand-alone function and assign it a separate title to distinguish it from management of ongoing accounts.
Shop-floor occupations carry established designations that may or may not represent standardized parameters. Historically, these designations have been defined by apprenticeship and journeyman programs, some of them international in scope. But then again, not every machine operator has participated in such programs nor attained a formal designation of any kind.
Team Leader, Supervisor, Department Manager, Middle & Senior Managers
Stated very briefly, the distinctions are as follows:
- Within a particular department a Team Leader is a hands-on operant who is also the go-to individual for other staff within the department.
- A Supervisor may also be hands-on, though often is not, and supervises the work of the department on a given shift
- A Department Manager oversees all activities of the department and has hiring and staff-performance-management responsibilities, often combined with responsibility for a departmental budget. The Department Manager may belong to a company’s management team.
- Middle and Senior Managers have more upstream strategic and fiscal responsibilities and definitely are the company’s management team.
(For more information, please see PrintLink’s past article for WhatTheyThink.com, “Why effective leadership delivers”, (March 2006, available at www.printlink.com), detailing the differences between various management and supervisory functions.)
As explained in another of our past WTT articles (“The credible resumé”, March 2006, www.printlink.com), we favor resumés that are functional—meaning those that report not only the past job titles candidates have held but also their related responsibilities and accomplishments. From the above examples, you can see how such job histories provide vital links in assisting us to understand what candidates’ roles have actually been. In addition, we debrief candidates verbally in detail about their work experiences before introducing them to prospective employers to confirm past job functions vis à vis job titles.
The few brief examples above also highlight the need for benchmarking staff positions --for exactly the same reasons benchmarking has evolved for manufacturing or production processes. Another implication of benchmarks is the need to assign value to job responsibilities and functions and to reward them appropriately as measured against established standards. So from the perspective of equitable compensation, too, we come back full circle to the necessity for standardization, repeatability, and consistency.