Best Workplaces: No Place I'd Rather Work...
There's no doubt that if a "Seven Habits of Highly-Effective Printing Companies" publication were to be released, at least one of the tenets would touch upon employees: How to nurture them and cultivate relationships that are mutually beneficial for the worker and the employer alike.
Finding top talent is one thing. Any HR staff worth its salt can spot a multi-tool performer in sales or glean the cream of the crop that emerges each year from Rochester Institute of Technology, Cal Poly and the like. Providing a compensation package for employees that goes beyond a salary commensurate with that person's experience and skills is paramount for printing companies that wish to be more than a stepping stone to a better gig.
Instead of devising our own wholly subjective criteria with which to judge printing companies, we have instead deferred to the wisdom of the Printing Industries of America (PIA), which produces its own annual Best Workplace in the Americas Awards. It's not that we're shiftless and lazy, but how could we possibly improve upon the flawless judging system concocted by PIA? We can't, so we won't.
What we have done, however, is provide you with a cross-section of companies that garnered Best Workplace designations last year. It is not all that surprising to note that many of these printers have copped Best Workplace distinctions in the past, as well. And what better recruitment tool can a printer have than third-party validation of its greatness?
The PIA judges printers based on a number of criteria, ranging from workplace health and safety, training and development opportunities, recognition, rewards and the ability to strike a work/life balance. The 2014 honorees will be announced by PIA shortly.
Midstates Inc., Aberdeen, SD
The Midstates Group consists of four brands—Midstates Inc., Quality Quick Print, Panther Graphics and Jacob North—and employs about 400 workers across the enterprise. Its brands cover the full range of printing and serve a wide client base, ranging from health and wellness to education, manufacturing, automotive, communications and agriculture.
Steph Huber, training coordinator for Midstates Group, points out that the firm has a number of programs that stress training and development, as well as health and safety. On the training front, Midstates provides tutorials for powered industrial truck and leadership development, as well as on-the-job training and new employee orientation. Midstates has a safety committee that monitors safety items, a group of certified first responders and on-site consultation with a nurse and/or physical therapist.
The Midstates Group engages its employees through a number of extracurricular activities, including a company picnic, holiday parties and company-sponsored sporting events. Recognition and reward initiatives include years-of-service awards and an Employee of the Year for each department, Huber notes. Midstates also uses its bi-monthly company newsletter to pass along customer compliments, promotions and "spotlight-on" employee profiles.
Midstates happily accommodates employees who need to adjust their work schedules for appointments and other activities, and permits telecommuting for those who are able to work from home.
"We are family-owned and operated, and have a sales-driven organization," Huber notes. We develop five-year strategic visions for the companies as a guiding path, but we are flexible to adapt as technology continues to change. We believe that this makes our clients and employees have confidence in our vision."
The John Roberts Co., Minneapolis
This heartland printer, which boasts 300 employees, touts itself as a bow-to-stern marketing services provider, offering sheetfed, full- and half-web offset, as well as digital printing for conventional and UV work, packaging, variable data campaigns, static and print-on-demand fulfillment services and full mailing/distribution.
Like Midstates, The John Roberts Co. addresses a wide cross-section of clients, among them health care, financial services, insurance, education, retail and automotive.
The John Roberts Co. takes an aggressive approach toward training, development, health and safety—and that approach is achieved from the top down. Partnering with several outside firms for leadership coaching and mentoring, a number of sessions have touched on topics including conflict resolution, addressing performance concerns, and effective personnel management and communications. Sales and customer service reps are provided courses in building customer satisfaction and managing expectations.
According to Debby Boyd, director of human resources, harassment and diversity training are staples for all John Roberts employees. General training is built into the calendar, with at least one aspect slated for 10 of the 12 months. Topics range from emergency preparedness and defibrillator (AED) training to back injury prevention and hazardous waste.
Boyd notes that the company does its best to help employees strike a work/family life balance. Creating an atmosphere that is comfortable, familiar and friendly goes a long way in making the Twin Cities firm a worker's paradise.
"John Roberts is a great place to work. It is a safe environment where our employees can excel and grow," she says. "It has a feel of a family-owned company. We bring our employees together for events like baseball picnics, breast cancer walks, golf tournaments, fitness classes and Take Your Dog to Work Day."
The John Roberts Co.'s quality recognition and continuous improvement bulletin boards keep employees abreast of such examples on a quarterly basis. Blank "good catch" and "continuous improvement" cards are available for employees to fill out in citing a co-worker for his/her actions in identifying a mistake before the product reaches the customer, or in improving systems and processes to increase workflow efficiencies.
Upon review, the cards are posted. Each recognition results in the employee receiving a thank you note, which can be converted into VISA gift cards after hitting a certain threshold. Prizes are also doled out each quarter for the QRC (Quality Recognition Committee) Lottery award. Employees can earn as much as $120 in gift cards or one paid day of vacation.
Ripon Printers, Ripon, WI
Ripon Printers has grown by leaps and bounds since it debuted as Ripon Community Printers back in 1962 with 13 employees. Now boasting a staff of 340, the company offers an arsenal of coldset and heatset web presses, along with sheetfed offset and digital printers. Ripon prides itself on satisfying the needs of its customers, from premedia down the line to fulfillment and distribution, with multi-channel sources including Traxion Marketing Services.
The G7 Master Printer-qualified firm addresses the needs of small- to mid-sized catalog marketers and publishers, producing catalogs, directories, manuals and soft-cover educational products. Not surprisingly, five of the PIA's 27 Best Workplace honorees hail from Wisconsin, the unofficial printing capital of the United States.
Safety training is offered to staff on a quarterly basis, with additional instruction provided for those using machinery. Webinars, in-house training and off-site seminars help supplement the health/safety education. Ripon's wellness program includes biometric assessments and the creation of wellness goals that, when achieved, can earn dollars used for health expenses.
Twice a year, Ripon Printers employees can be found cleaning a stretch of highway near their office. The company also sponsored an electronics recycling day for the community.
Carol Cluppert, marketing director for Ripon, says the company encourages workers to suggest ideas for improvement. "Employees who report close calls receive a small prize to thank them for bringing them to our attention," she says. "Our average tenure is 15 years and employees with significant anniversaries receive a gift card while others receive recognition in our employee newsletters."
Using 5S principles, Ripon Printers employees maintain organized and clean offices and manufacturing areas. Executives and floor personnel alike make an extra effort to greet each other on a first-name basis.
Courier Corp., North Chelmsford, MA
The nation's second-largest book manufacturer has appeared on the Best Workplace list every year since the program's inception in 2000. It manufactures one- to four-color books for a variety of markets, including trade, education and religious. In recent years, the company has established two digital book printing plants to go with its headset web and sheetfed operations, and also provides inventory management and order fulfillment, backed by its employee base of 1,600. Aside from its book manufacturing division, the company operates Courier New Media (Highcrest Media, FastPencil) and Courier Publishing (Dover Publications, REA).
Training is critical in the Courier Corp. chain, with employees averaging 122 hours apiece during the past 12 months (its human resources department tracks all training). As a result, 77 percent of its employees are cross-trained in multiple job functions, according to Diana Sawyer, vice president of human resources. To that end, the printer has taken great strides to provide its employee base with the best technology available.
"The company has made significant capital investments in equipment and technology," Sawyer notes. "Our employees are working in clean manufacturing environments and using state-of-the-art equipment and processes that can't be found in manufacturing operations in other industries."
Continued education relevant to work is encouraged by Courier. The company offers tuition assistance for college-based programs that are work-related, with reimbursement up to $900 per course.
Each of Courier's plants has a safety committee that meets on a regular basis, and a safety roundtable meets monthly to track injuries, ergonomic initiatives and other issues. This committee can implement equipment upgrades/modifications and process change across all plants. On the health end, Courier boasts an active wellness program, including a summer walking initiative, flu shots and weight loss programs.
Courier's Kendallville, IN, facility (which employs 600+ workers) participates in the Adopt-A-Highway program and sponsors a "trash bash" twice a year to clean up its two-mile stretch of Route 6.
The printer's service award program reveals some interesting figures. Its average length of service is 11 years, and 11 percent of the base has 25-plus years on the job (two workers hit the half-century mark in 2014). Average service length of its managers across all plants is 19 years. Plant managers have an average of 22 years each.
Courier recognizes those "good catch" actions by employees with newsletter highlights. The "Citizen of Courier" award, handed out to two or three employees each year, is presented to workers who exceed expectations, show team unity and are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty with a positive, can-do attitude.
Various other incentives for employees include picnics, baseball opening day parties, discounted event tickets and logo apparel. PI