Staffing for the Future of Print
Our February 2008 article for WhatTheythink highlighted eight steps to help printing companies effect a successful transition in the pending retirement boom. Now the present article pushes this prospect even further by encouraging employers to think seriously about our industry’s future personnel requirements--not just in the next year or two but into the coming decade. While PrintLink doesn’t pretend to have a crystal ball, our 15+ years’ experience as industry-specific staffing specialists gives us the uncommon expertise to envision what your labor force might look like as we near 2010—and beyond
Background forces propelling change
Our projections for the industry’s personnel are based on many factors and forces, among them the recent observations of Niall Power, President of the Printing Industries of Wisconsin. After studying the various factors impacting the printing industry, Power has pinpointed globalization as one of the major forces currently affecting not just printing but all manufacturing.Power envisions that the trend toward globalization will alter our future labor force and job requirements in several ways. For one, since productivity and worker efficiency are critical in the global economy, he concludes that the workplace will require more well-educated workers, as well as more intensive vocational and on-the-job training. He further predicts that the labor force of the future will need to be:
Power defines ‘globalization’ using the Carnegie Endowment’s definition: “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well being in societies around the world.” We especially like this definition because it points out the reality that, because globalization affects everything, no company is exempted from playing on the global stage.
- more flexible
- strategically allocated, and
- driven by compensation based on incentives.
Other socially driven forces that will continue to impact our industry significantly include:
- Forest sustainability in resource utilization
- Socially responsible forestry
- Reduction of each company’s carbon footprint
- Workplace health and safety
Future employment picture
In general, PrintLink believes that printing’s future employment picture is bright, since the printing industry has always understood and responded to the need for change. And because we are the vehicle that disseminates information (although historically the deliverable has been known by many different monikers), we will continue to be a necessary and vital industry. As we progress into the millennium, our resiliency will continue to hold us in good stead.
Smaller, more productive workforce
Where productivity is concerned, over the past decade, economic conditions have served as one of the US’s strongest driving factors, spurring the nation to position itself as the world leader for enhanced productivity. Although Canada still has some catching up to do, it has matched US productivity levels in the past, and will definitely do so again.
And what both countries’ continued striving for productivity means to the employment picture is fewer people doing more. Capital equipment and technology manufacturers are already furnishing the tools to facilitate the reduction of manpower, and job functionality is becoming more tightly defined in the workplace. Ultimately, we will see a redefined and realigned workforce requiring fewer people to replace those who are departing. Just several weeks ago, this trend was dramatically foretold in the United Kingdom, where News International opened the world’s biggest printing plant with state-of-the-art presses that can print newpapers more than twice as fast as their former operation could with just one-third the number of staff to run them.
Jobs & qualifications in highest demand
Already in the job marketplace we are seeing an emphasis on project management and planning. As we have discussed in past articles, the job function of Customer Service Representative, Job Planner, Production Co-Ordinator (or whatever other title is assigned to the position) has become one of printing’s key roles, overseeing each project from concept through to final invoicing.
A strong technical background is also emerging as an essential qualification for virtually all positions, along with the resiliency to learn new things. And the workplace itself will need to be equally resilient to ensure that its key contributors maintain the tools and training necessary for a successful and profitable outcome, regardless of whatever new technologies and job functions arise.
Other key contributors to the profit picture are the specialists who will continue to address the environmental, health, and safety issues that increasingly govern how print-related companies operate. Buyers of print are helping to drive the environmental initiative because their own customers are demanding that they rely on responsible service and product providers. Public environmental awareness and the push to reduce carbon emissions among the general populace will also continue to fuel the trend toward stricter environmental protection. Employee health and safety will also be subject to increasingly exacting regulations and penalties affecting new equipment installation, new premise occupancy, and ongoing audits to ensure compliance. Already the gatekeeper positions that manage all these different processes are emerging as permanent full-time roles, and we expect their prominence to escalate.
Similarly, in the global economy, we expect that process-development-and-control and research-and-development positions will evolve into mainstays of all manufacturing environments. Printing companies will need drivers for these initiatives who possess both the appropriate experience and a foundation within the printing industry. Accordingly, companies will need to invest both in acquiring these people and in training them to enhance their expertise.
Hands-on positions are altering as well. Hands-on operating of equipment has turned from a craft into a science using tools that guarantee quality and repeatability. To operate these tools, companies need to hire skilled workers with the appropriate aptitude and provide them with the training to maintain maximum efficiency.
Above all, printing companies require able management to drive productivity as well as their social accountabilities. We expect the evolution that we are already witnessing of specialists who manage work into those who manage the people who do the work will be dramatic and continuing.
A redefined sales force
What about the salespeople who push all printers’ initiatives out to the marketplace? Are they a new breed as well? We say yes - since sales has become far more than a one-off, commodity-based project. It is now more aptly termed ‘business development’.
This redefinition is accompanied by a strategy and a plan with a strong manager to equip, staff and monitor it. It requires individual salespeople with the drive and creativity to take hold of a market, as well as the skills for collaborating with co-workers effectively to convert and develop customers. It also requires a dedicated production team whose support enables the sales force to build trust by delivering on their promises.
Invest in your company’s future
Even now, employers come to us all the time wanting staff with industry-based experience in the above positions. Sometimes such candidates don’t exist. And sometimes they do--but only because industry leaders have already nurtured them into being. Whatever your company’s future requirements, your investment in hiring excellent staff and in their progressive training and development will be money well returned by the year 2010 and beyond.