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Staffing Issues & Insights for the Graphic Communications Industry.
Making Every Hire Count: Maximizing Your Human Capital Investment
Quality of Hire Begins With Sourcing: Pick Your Method to Suit Your Needs
Getting a grip on mission-critical "soft" skills: 5 simple steps
Forget Doing "More with Less" Older Workers Help Companies Accomplish "More with More"
For Expanding Your Value-Added Services Profitably, Hiring Is Rocket Science
Assessing job candidates beyond the technical skills
Employer Branding: The solution to attracting & keeping great staff
Successioning Your Business: Five Simple Steps that Aren't Exactly Easy
The 20-60-20 Rule: Simple Concept, Practical Applications, Profitable Results
Universal Employment Concerns: Creating Opportunity Out of Adversity
Hanging Flexible in Tough Times
Value-Driven Outsourcing
Downsizing: Don't Retreat - Motivate!
Navigating Today's Hiring Minefield: Who Is Available & Do You Really Want Them?
Today's Financial Storm Inspires Tomorrow's Long-Term Success
The case for HR: Why & how you should implement formal policies & procedures
Staffing for success in a soft market
The Challenge of Hiring Sales People
Workforce Optimization
Evolving Your Company into a Service-Oriented Business
Redefining Sales
Staffing for the Future of Print
Communicating With Employees From Start To Finish
Eight Steps to Prepare You for the Retirement Brain Drain
Job Hopping for the Right Reasons
Resumés are just the Tip of the Iceberg
How Some Hires Fail
Hire Like You Mean It
Concluding Your Hiring Workflow: Closing the Deal
A Hiring "To Do" List
Challenging Employee Excellence to Achieve Company Pre-eminence
Aim for the Top: Getting Value for Compensation Dollars
The Productivity Challenge
The Dynamics of Telephone Interviews
How People Enable "Enablers"
The People Side of Succession Planning
Tips for Effective Interviewing
Corporate Culture: What It Is, Who It's for, Why It Matters
What's In a Name?
Investment in Regulatory Managers is Money Well Returned
Flexibility in HR Management Reaps Rewards
People Drive Technology
Return on Experience
The Credible Resume
Leadership Delivers
Managing Employee Skills & Knowledge
Managing Employee Success
Profit by being a good employer
Achieve Employee Excellence with Effective Job Descriptions
Maximize your Human Capital Investment
Demystifying Job Descriptions
Benefits of Outsourcing
Surviving The Management Paradigm Shift
Invest in the Best


Staffing for Success in a Soft Market

Many printers tell us they are encountering a soft market in the fall of 2008. Even those who are holding onto most of their customers are finding their revenues drained by lower margins. In response, rather than decreasing their costs, the more successful printing companies are reacting to the soft market by:

  1. using technology to be more effective and productive
  2. infusing energy & creativity into their marketing efforts
  3. developing ways to increase their value to clients & expand their relationships with their most profitable & growable customers.
The key lies in taking action not merely to withstand the soft market but rather to seize the opportunities it offers for future growth. But the prerequisite for such action is that you employ staff with the knowledge, creativity, and skills to improve your business performance along the above lines. Without such expertise, not only are you forced to rely on discounting to get and keep business while the market remains soft, but you are also missing out on opportunities for multiplied success when the market turns harder.

The top 3 staff investments in soft economic times

To execute the above three success steps for tougher times, you’ll likely need to evaluate the strength of your operations in the following three areas:

1. Management

You need superlative management now more than ever to assess and configure your infrastructure to respond effectively to market conditions, your sustaining clientele, and current and potential customer needs. You also need expert managers to review resources and optimize the productivity of staff, technology, and workflow.

2. Marketing

Contrary to what usually happens in a soft market, businesses that offer products or services should increase their marketing and advertising activities at this time. This mandate applies to every commercial sector–-including retail products, food, entertainment, travel, real estate, and fuel, as well as printing. Purchasers are still out there and are more apt to buy from companies that put themselves forward in the public eye, hard times or no.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing marketing with sales. Rather, marketing delivers strategic messages both externally and internally to reinforce branding and business development. In turn, these messages provide the tools for sales. In a soft market the most effective marketing messages amount to informing your prospects that your company’s mandate is to help facilitate and grow their business, then demonstrating how you will achieve that goal in each case to deliver a return. Such strategic messages serve to de-commoditize your product in the marketplace (even if your offering really is a commodity!)

3. Customer Service

Customer service is rapidly becoming the foundation of our industry. Careers in this category have become highly demanding, since they require strong technical expertise as well as strong ‘soft’ skills to interact effectively both externally with customers and internally through all aspects of production. Investing in the right customer-service people and in their development is absolutely essential if you desire fast and sustaining results, because the highest levels of productivity and customer satisfaction start with expert planning and continue through all phases of project management. Additionally, in tougher times when companies must carefully review their staff count, you will require fewer people throughout your entire workflow if you have well qualified staff to initiate and manage all your projects. Furthermore, it is imperative to select customer-service staff who can advance and adapt to the changing business climate while still maintaining long-term client relationships that can weather change as well.

Of course, both of the above three-item lists are handy oversimplifications. The fact is that all positions in the workflow are important to your company’s productivity and profitability. And every position on your payroll, rather than being just a static expense, should be a dynamic investment to yield you financial return.

Achieving hiring ROI

PrintLink’s numerous preceding articles for WhatTheyThink explain many of the keys to maximizing your return on staff investment. These include:
  • Pinpointing your hiring, productivity, & business-development requirements
  • Understanding the range, uniqueness & corporate culture of your company
  • Optimizing your workforce both to advance & to adapt to changing business trends
  • Hiring strategically by assessing a prospective employee’s compatibility & advancement potential within your company’s long-term strategic plan
  • Exercising creative alternatives if perfect candidates aren’t available or you can’t afford them
If you’re recoiling in fear because such measures require complex analytics and strategies, you’re right. Hence the answer to the question: “Why use a personnel agency when you can cut back on expenses and fill your staffing needs yourself?”

A capable personnel agency pays off

Your core business is, well, your core business, and as a manager, all your time and energy should be spent on your core activities. If, like most companies, you’ve cut back on staff during the soft market, you definitely don’t have surplus time to invest in a thorough candidate recruitment-and-assessment process. Even in companies with dedicated human-resource departments, the core function of their internal H-R professionals is to manage existing personnel and assist with hiring—but not to source candidates. So especially in tougher times that don’t allow for lengthy or inefficient hiring practices, your best course may well be to enlist a third-party staffing agency with proven expertise in personnel recruitment, screening, interviewing, hiring, and negotiating.

The value proposition of industry-specific personnel services

Besides all the above proficiencies and unlike generalist personnel agencies, PrintLink offers employers the rare added advantage of specializing in print. We provide staffing services entirely and only to the North American printing industry and its supply chain--and we’ve been doing it for a long time.

One common scenario in which our specialized focus proves essential is in filling technical positions. In these cases, some in-house human-resource professionals and generalist personnel agencies face a disadvantage because they do not necessarily understand printing. So they do not necessarily grasp the specific requirements of the job. But because we are always able to provide specialized technical insight when selecting candidates, we streamline the hiring process - not just for human-resource departments but also for the managers of the specific department in need of staff.

(In fact, both for companies with and without H-R departments, we work most effectively in partnership with the specific manager to whom the position reports. This alliance constitutes a time-saving measure, for one because it helps us hone in faster on strategic issues. It also enables us to evaluate candidates’ soft skills efficiently by assessing their interactions with the prospective manager and other key staff with whom they may eventually work.)

But far more importantly for employers, the biggest benefit of our specialized, in-depth knowledge is our expertise in devising personnel strategies specifically for the industry. Our long experience with hiring for all its various sectors, technologies, and past and current trends enables us to understand your company’s own unique circumstances and staffing needs. Even better, we can recommend customized workforce strategies to help ensure that your business remains indispensable to your clients now and into the future. And in the insecurities of the present market, our historical perspective, gained from experiencing prior economic downturns and recoveries, enables us to offer you both realistic reassurance and effective practical strategies for continued business success.

In short, hiring - or worse, hiring delays or mistakes - can be an extremely disruptive and expensive proposition. The value of PrintLink's specialized personnel service is that we possess a thorough and comprehensive understanding of both the technical requirements and the future trends of printing. So we excel at helping you hire strategically - both in the present soft market and for the long-term profitability of your business.

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