2022 Innovator: Hopkins Printing Focuses on Employee Development
(Editor's note: In today’s printing industry, the concept of innovation is wide in definition, but rather narrow in its goal. Leading companies have grasped many tools to define themselves, increase profitability, and differentiate. They utilize new technologies, systems integration, an expanded product mix, exemplary customer service, and more.
The company profiled below — among the 2022 class of six Printing Impressions’ Innovators of the Year — was nominated by a group of printing industry experts and consultants who identified the business as notable. The summary that follows shares what makes it innovative, interesting, and exceptional.)
“The Great Resignation,” as it’s come to be known, has left many printers scrambling to fill roles and keep a full staff. Like nearly every industry and business, the printing industry hasn’t been immune to the employment turnover and upheaval that’s happened in the past couple of years.
While many businesses are feeling the effects of this economic change, Hopkins Printing, in Columbus, Ohio, stands out as somewhat of an anomaly. Currently, 51% of its employees have been there for 10 years or more, 25% have been there for more than 20 years, and 13% have worked there over 30 years.
Those are strong numbers by any definition, and they’re accomplished through innovative internal efforts to make Hopkins a great place to work.
More Than Benefits
The company started in the quick print copy field in the early 1970s and progressed to commercial printing in 1986. Currently, Hopkins Printing is a full-service commercial printer with digital presses and 40" offset presses supported by complete prepress, bindery, mailing, and fulfillment teams.
Behind the scenes is a well-oiled machine that has been working together for decades. Michelle Waterhouse, HR manager, is just one of those employees. Having been at Hopkins for 32 years, not only is she living proof of how long employees stay at Hopkins, she’s also been a part of building the strong internal culture. “While no place is perfect, we try really hard to make Hopkins Printing a great place to work,” she says of the team. “If you’re unhappy at work, that will impact your home life, your weekends, and we don’t want that. We care about quality of life, both at work and at home.”
She notes that when most people think of human resources, they think of pay and benefits packages, and that’s important. But to truly provide a great place to work, it takes so much more. For example, Hopkins actively participates in wage surveys in order to make sure it pays its employees a competitive wage. There is also a bonus program that pays out twice a year.
There’s more. “I would say the progressive side of our HR practices here at Hopkins centers around communication,” Waterhouse says. “Every department has a Huddle meeting every day ... HR provides a Monday Huddle update to all employees with celebrations of employee work anniversaries and birthdays that week, with new customers from the prior week, and with news to share with all employees. HR also provides the Thursday Huddle agenda with safety training sessions or handbook topic reviews.”
The company even goes so far as to provide an Improvement Newspaper where employees can submit improvement ideas for their department or the whole company. Waterhouse also lists a Purple X program (used for improvement), Gold Star program (employees can submit another employee’s name and share how he or she did something great), and a safety program as initiatives that reward people for hard work and to keep everyone connected.
But when you really boil it down, Waterhouse says it all started with the concept of lean manufacturing, which is just one reason Hopkins Printing was nominated as an industry innovator by Adriane Harrison, VP of human relations consulting for PRINTING United Alliance. “Hopkins incorporates continuous improvement and lean manufacturing concepts into its processes,” Harrison points out. “It has innovative paid leave programs, a generous employee stock option plan, along with a 401(k) plan. It prioritizes safety in the workplace and has one of the safest facilities in the industry. Hopkins also prioritizes the health and wellness of its team with excellent health plans, wellness benefits, and generous Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions.”
The benefits of all these innovative initiatives are evident by Hopkins’ low employee turnover, especially in a climate where people are leaving their jobs in droves. For Waterhouse and crew, it might be about avoiding high turnover but, more importantly, it’s about the humans who work there.
“Employees don’t generally like changing jobs — it’s one of the most stressful life events,” Waterhouse believes. “So, if you are happy where you are and you are watering your own grass instead of looking for greener grass, you can just grow as a person. A strong focus on human relations benefits the employees who work at a company. It’s [also] important to a business because turnover is expensive and painful.”
She acknowledges that today’s climate has certainly changed. “Times are changing … the younger generation isn’t coming in with plans to retire,” Waterhouse admits. As such, Hopkins Printing is
already implementing plans to change with it. “Our plan is to understand there’s a cultural shift and offer better training. We need to take those young minds and help them grow. If they want to move on, we’ve decided to embrace that, learn from them, and grow with them.”
Waterhouse says that it comes down to core values as they directly relate to employees. “Lean is the foundation that starts with respect for people, but it also involves the practice of continuous improvement for our people and our processes,” she states. “Integrity is another core value, and to us it means doing the right thing, every time, and treating others as we want to be treated. The last one is cooperation — we want to be easy to do business with, both internally and externally. We all have a choice of where to work and who to buy printing from; we hope employees and customers will choose a place that is easy to do business with.”