Best Workplaces: Beyond Salary and Benefits
Why would someone work for your company? Perhaps the bigger question is, why should someone work for your company?
Perhaps your firm boasts name recognition within the printing industry. It could be that you offer the most competitive salaries of any company in the region, or offer career paths that help to entice the best of the best with advancement opportunities.
Regardless, yours is not the only organization positioning itself to reap the finest shop floor talent. Despite the dwindling workforce our industry is experiencing, the need for quality, skilled employees remains an Achille’s heel. Sometimes, it’s the most random, mundane or trivial aspects of an employer that makes for an attractive selling point. Whether its Yoga Thursday or team apple pickings, there’s a line of demarcation that can be crossed — and an employee gained — courtesy of a meager consideration beyond salary and benefits.
In what has become an annual tradition, we’ve turned to Printing Industries of America (PIA) and its “Best Workplace in the Americas” award list to provide you with a sampling of the finest employers the printing industry has to offer. We’ve even taken it a step forward by culling the top guns from among the “Best of the Best” honorees from each of the three weight classes: small (100 employees or less), medium (101-250 workers) and large (250-plus).
Accordingly, the PIA evaluates printers on an assortment of criteria, among them workplace health and safety, training and development opportunities, recognition, rewards and the ability to strike a work/life balance. We think you’ll be impressed by these firms’ ability to provide an ideal workplace through personal growth, team-building activities and social awareness, to name a few.
Hopkins Printing, Columbus, Ohio
This employee-owned (ESOP) general commercial printer, which primarily provides B2B sales materials for its clients, as well as point-of-purchase signage, direct mail, short-run magazines and catalogs, serves the financial, banking, healthcare, insurance, association, design and religious spaces. Its roster of 102 employees is no stranger to the Best Workplaces list. It seems that good habits are hard to break as well.
“At Hopkins, we build safety into our everyday behaviors; from our daily huddles where safety is a topic, to our monthly training sessions, to our auditing processes,” notes company HR Director Michelle Waterhouse. “Safe behaviors are frequently modeled and time is spent both in educational awareness and proactive initiatives. Employees are empowered at Hopkins to make critical safety-related decisions about their equipment and to share their knowledge for the betterment of all.”
Hopkins Printing holds safety discussions for all workers every other Thursday. It features an agenda with talking points intended to spark discourse and to foster safe activity habits at work, home or on the road. Last year, the company invited Gary Jones, the PIA’s health and safety guru, to tour the plant and provide feedback on its health/safety initiatives. Jones’ audit produced a list of improvement suggestions. Hopkins Printing took the list, created a spreadsheet and broke the suggestions down by department to address all of the issues.
In an effort to keep healthcare premiums at a minimum — a tough task for an establishment with only 100 people — Hopkins Printing has concentrated efforts on preventative health measures. A health coach comes to the plant on the first Tuesday of every month. Through the Affordable Care Act, preventative physicals are administered free of charge.
“We have found that meeting with our doctors and knowing our important health numbers are vital in preventing catastrophic health events that could take us away from work and away from our families,” Waterhouse points out.
Training is a high priority at Hopkins Printing, which boasts a three-deep program that is a succession planning effort. Thus, there are always two other people trained to handle a given role in place of the primary worker. Nearly 90% of the staff is cross-trained for more than one assignment.
On the fun side, Hopkins Printing hosts an annual company picnic, and last summer the firm attended a minor league baseball game. “Last year, we had weekly reminders of the benefits of working at an ESOP: chips [as in everyone chips in], candy bars [ESOPs have sweet rewards] and popsicles [ESOPs are cool],” Waterhouse notes.
As an employee-owned enterprise, suggestions that result in increased productivity, reduced waste and enhanced efficiency all have a salutary financial impact for all staff members. And while stock ownership provides long-term benefits for the employees, yearly bonus checks are distributed for meeting company goals for gross profits.
Non-financial recognition comes in the form of quarterly “Special People” honors — those nominated by managers for doing special things that aid the company/department. “Caught in the Act” awards are recognized for those who go above and beyond the call of duty, and a “Gold Star” program enables employees to recognize one another for making their jobs easier.
“Employees have a choice in the marketplace; almost every city has several printing companies,” Waterhouse stresses. “Whether they know it or not, employees are looking for a company that focuses on the eight categories in the ‘Best Workplace in the Americas’ contest. These categories resonate with Hopkins Printing. They are on our radar every day and always a subject of continuous improvement.”
American Packaging, Rochester, N.Y.
Obviously, a big hitter in the package printing space. American Packaging Corp. (APC) is a flexible packaging converter providing custom-engineered, printed laminations via 10-color rotogravure and 10-color flexographic printing. With more than 850 employees, American Packaging supports clients in a wealth of industries, including dry foods and mixes, dairy, produce, frozen foods, confectionary, personal care, medical and pharmaceutical.
According to Jeff Koch, executive VP, the company has made a large investment in employee training and has developed numerous tools and programs to bolster employee skills. American Packaging has been recognized through certification audits for its training and safety programs.
“We focus training on machine-specific skills, supervisory training, computer training, soft skills, sales/negotiating training, customer service skills, finance for non-financial employees and extensive safety training,” Koch points out. “For several years, APC has used the DuPont STOP safety program, which teaches safety principles beyond the manufacturing floor — resulting in 36% lower industry TCIR (Total Case Incident Rate) and 53% lower industry DART (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred) rates.
“All of these efforts make a huge impact of improving the skills of our employees, creating a team culture, and demonstrating the company’s interest in employee personal and professional development.”
In and around the community, APC participates in numerous extracurricular activities aimed at team building and unity. The company hosts holiday parties and summer picnics for both the employees and their families.
It hosts golf tournaments, sponsors sports teams and holds Friday night social outings for those who can attend. Team members can be found on city parade floats or doing road cleanups for adopt-a-highway type programs.
From a civic standpoint, employees sit on local groups and school program committees/discussion panels. The company sponsors charity walks/runs, food pantry drives and volunteer groups for community service projects.
APC recognizes and rewards its employees with incentive-based monetary awards. Milestone service achievements are noted and safety goals met are celebrated with employee dinners. Professional growth is encouraged through internal promotions. Its wage and benefit offerings are augmented by company match retirement programs (75 cents on the dollar for first 5%, plus a 4% retirement contribution for a total of 7.75%).
On the health and wellness side, APC offers programs including health risk assessments, smoking cessation, weight loss programs, continuous health coaching and subsidized health club memberships. In addition to a monthly newsletter, APC offers staff members free family counseling and the consulting services of an employee assistance program and Carebridge life management tools.
The company has invested more than $250 million in recent years in state-of-the-art equipment, new buildings, and expansion and employee training/development. The result, Koch notes, has been explosive growth in its business and all the benefits that come along with it.
“APC has maintained extremely low employee turnover in the past decade,” he says. “Our voluntary turnover is consistently below 6% and our total turnover is consistently 9% or below. We are fortunate to have a strong team that has bonded together to ensure the success of the company, as well as each individual team member. We can attribute this to excellent compensation/benefits plans and, more importantly, to employee involvement, engagement and recognition.”
Vox Printing, Oklahoma City
This specialty printer that provides tray liners, placemats and folding cartons primarily for the restaurant and frozen food markets underscores the adage that, quite often, the smallest companies have the biggest hearts.
Care for the employee and the community is an unmistakable core value for Vox Printing. This is not a new phenomenon: Vox Printing President David Reid notes that the company has been named to the “Best Places to Work” list by the Oklahoma Gazette for 10 straight years. This also makes it nine in a row from the PIA.
Reid points out that the 64-employee shop has a fairly progressive cross-training program that is stressed right from the start of a worker’s career. Several times a year, the printer hosts life-and-lunch events with a featured speaker, who generally covers self-improvement topics for the workplace and at home. These talks also include how-to tips for taking more of a leadership role at the plant.
From a spiritual standpoint, Vox Printing has the unique offering of chaplain visits. Once a week, the chaplain provides consultation to employees who feel they need to talk to someone. “Most employees have been through a difficult situation at some point in their lives, and this gives them someone to talk to,” Reid adds.
On the health and safety front, Vox Printing provides 50% reimbursements for gym memberships and will pay half the entry fee for employees who compete in 5K races. In 2015, the company completed an expansion that provided room for a racquetball court and basketball court, plus cardio and weight training equipment. Employees can also spend their lunch periods doing “boot camp” workouts involving cardio exercise and stretching.
The printer also incorporates a rotating safety committee that enables most employees to take a hands-on role in promoting positive safety habits and establishing it as a top-of-mind priority. Periodic audits, with the help of employees, takes the awareness level a notch higher, according to Reid.
One of the more popular extracurricular activities at Vox Printing is the annual Walk for Kids fundraiser that supports the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oklahoma City. Last year, the company raised a total of $3,574 through auctions, cookouts, donations and raffles.
“People were bringing in stuff from their garages and auctioning it off,” Reid says. “We had all kinds of fundraising events in the spring leading up to the walk. “It was employee-led, and they all had a great time for a fantastic cause.”
The printer also enjoys being a solid citizen for Oklahoma City. Vox Printing allowed its property to be used for Cub Scout Twilight camp, which hosted 300 scouts and their parents for a week last June. Reid also notes that his firm donates hundreds of roll ends to schools in the area and donates printing for schools, food banks and other charitable organizations.
Vox Printing likes to find any excuse it can to hold a potluck dinner, according to Reid. And when the company goes a full year without a lost time accident, all four shifts get to enjoy a steak dinner. When it reached two years without a lost time accident, the meal was bumped up to steak and seafood. In addition to the end-of-year holiday party, employees get treated to a water park outing during the summer.
The printer recognizes performance goals that are exceeded with gift cards, and employees have enjoyed year-end bonuses for the past 20 years. And there’s one small gesture that creates large smiles: each worker is treated to a cake on his/her birthday. So perhaps it’s also fitting that Vox Printing also pays 100% of employees’ health, vision and dental premiums.
“For some, it can only take one $1,000 deductible to wipe out someone’s savings,” Reid adds.
GPA, McCook, Ill.
GPA, Specialty Substrate Solutions, stands out primarily for the fact that, unlike other companies awarded the “Best Workplace in the Americas” designation, GPA it is not a printer at all, but a distributor. That isn’t all that sets GPA apart though; the more than 75-year-old company offers a host of programs and incentives that have helped it develop a rich corporate culture.
GPA, which provides specialty and traditional papers, synthetics, pressure-sensitive papers, laser labels, and eco-friendly substrates for digital, offset, and wide-format printing, focuses heavily on its people.
“Regardless of what your focuses are, whether you’re a manufacturer, a distributor, or a sales and marketing organization, any great business is all about people,” says Bob Niesen, president and CEO at GPA. “We recognized a very long time ago that we’re only as good as the people we employ and, quite frankly, the people we engage with ... We’ve always put our people first.”
For GPA that means providing a happy and rewarding environment for employees, but also an environment where workers can be comfortable and confident in their skills. GPA’s employees undergo a comprehensive onboarding process that includes developing an understanding of each team member’s job, sales ride-alongs and product training.
As part of an employee recognition program, specific employees, an individual sales rep and a sales team are honored each quarter, and annual performance awards are given out each year to recognize top performers at the company.
No strong company culture would be complete without team bonding activities. GPA hosts summer parties where attendees can have a bite to eat and play games, and even had an Easter egg hunt at its corporate headquarters last year. To keep things interesting, GPA also plans an annual Halloween costume contest to encourage employees to share their creative and humorous sides.
“It’s crucial to foster a healthy company culture because we think our employees deserve to come to a place where they can work hard, be rewarded and be happy,” adds Heather Jenkins, director of HR at GPA. “When you consider the sheer amount of time we spend at work, it’s important to have it be somewhere that you enjoy coming to every day and with people you like to be around.”
A strong culture has been crucial in developing deep loyalty among employees, who take pride in their work and take personal care for their co-workers. According to Jenkins, GPA employees have a sense of “agility” in that they have a flexible mentality. If a problem arises, the team is ready to jump in and ask, “How are we going to overcome this?”
“Even the most successful companies are not immune to stressful times,” she says. “Looking back on my personal experiences during 12 years as the head of human resources at GPA, the stressful times were usually mitigated by everyone’s desire to roll up their sleeves and help. Because we have such an authentic atmosphere of teamwork, camaraderie and family, you never feel like you’re in it alone.”
In addition to the physical health benefits that GPA offers, such as an employer-matched 401(k), financial counseling and confidential employee assistance programs for various topics, GPA offers resources to benefit mental health. The company provides free monthly webinars on a wide range of wellness topics, and one particularly popular bonus health benefit: chair massages during Customer Service Week.