A Glimpse of Some of the PIA's Best Printing Workplace in the Americas Winners
The printing industry is bombarding you with messages on what measures you can take to elevate your company to the next level. How about embracing production inkjet digital printing? It’s a panacea for what ails you. Bet you haven’t heard that lately.
How about wide-format printing? Actually, that is the hottest niche in the industry presently, and it is absolutely hypnotizing for those of us who are goaded by bright, shiny, big and pretty things. It offers signage, banners, POP displays, automotive and building wraps—the fun and the cool, backed by a relatively low-cost entry point.
All kidding aside, while it’s tough to win a first place ribbon without the right tools at your disposal, the secret sauce for any printing company is its legion of employees. Whether it’s 50, 500 or 5,000 people, you need to foster a family environment to maintain a happy and productive crew; a gaggle of clock watchers isn’t going to get you where you need to be. It also helps to offer more than a living wage and a dirty, old ping pong table in the back corner, with cracked balls and paddles that have the tread flopping off.
So what does it take to keep the masses satisfied? That’s an excellent question. Here are some shining examples of printers that have earned gold stars for their employee treatment, beyond the standard benefits package. And they didn’t slip us a $20 bill to be included; we’ve lovingly harvested the Best Workplace in the Americas Awards list, as compiled by the Printing Industries of America (PIA). Below is a cross-section of the “Best of the Best” honorees, from the small (100 or less), medium (101-250) and large (250-plus) categories.
The PIA evaluates printers via an assortment of criteria, including (but not limited to) workplace health and safety, training and development opportunities, recognition, rewards and the ability to strike a work/life balance. So sit back and take notes on what your company needs to do in order to reach the head of the class.
Smyth Companies, St. Paul, Minnesota
All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but this label and commercial print provider seems to have struck a nice balance between the two. Smyth, a UV, offset and digital performer that serves the personal care, health and beauty, food, beverage and automotive markets (among others), has a roster of 480 workers.
Training programs at Smyth cover best practices, employee diversity, sexual harassment and health/safety, which are administered either through in-person group sessions or online programs. Each plant and business team provides ongoing environmental health and safety (EHS) training, ensuring the company is in compliance with OSHA requirements. Employee progress through both the required and elective online modules is documented, and curriculums vary based on the worker’s job role. Testing is performed at the end of each module to gauge comprehension.
Smyth also offers Kaizen-based and other process improvement programs, along with Lean training tools. The company has invested in training several Six Sigma Green and Black Belts to bolster process improvement within the organization.
Smyth utilizes an e3 (engaging and empowering employees) strategy that entails deploying annual enterprise training initiatives focused on development and cultural improvement. Recently, all employees received training and some amassed continuing education credits through an internally facilitated workshop using materials based on Stephen M.R. Covey’s “The Speed of Trust.”
As to the aforementioned fun, Smyth offers team-building activities including softball teams, bowling and golf outings, picnics/cookouts, blood drives and local volunteering opportunities for organizations such as Feed Our Starving Children. In the past, employees banded together to provide relief for the Hurricane Sandy and Boston Marathon bombing victims.
Aside from traditional recognition and reward programs (tenure, birthday, attendance, catch of the month, etc.), Smyth offers employees a slice of the pie through its “Gainsharing” program. This provides the chance for workers to earn 10 percent of their annual base pay for improving the company’s year-over-year performance.
“We are very committed to empowering and engaging our employees in the day-to-day operations, thus ensuring long-term success,” notes Scott Fisher, president. “To show our commitment, Smyth has contributed more than $6 million to the Gainsharing program during the past five years and looks forward to continuing the tradition well into the future.”
Another unique offering is the William J. Hickey Award, presented to employees—nominated by one or more fellow workers—in recognition of those who “encourage leadership through example, seek the best in others, pursue innovation through cooperation and leave a legacy of community caring through involvement.”
Given the changing landscape, Smyth now offers flex hours to staff members where it makes sound business sense. This allows employees the chance to arrange their schedules to better align with professional obligations and personal pursuits.
Times Printing, Random Lake, Wisconsin
This full-service heatset web offset printer offers a comprehensive range of services, from design to mailing, including saddle stitching and perfect binding on the back end. Times Printing addresses the needs of the travel, medical, fashion and beauty segments, among others. The firm has long cultivated a family-type atmosphere, taking its lead from everyday man and overall good guy Ray Scholler, who passed away in September at the age of 97.
Fortunately for the 300 or so employees at Times Printing, his spirit and sense of community continue on through the 10 Scholler family members that work there, including Ray’s four children, who comprise the ownership group. That notion is confirmed by Jean Vetter, human resources manager at Times Printing.
“We are located in the picturesque countryside of Wisconsin,” she says. “Our company is operated in a small-town atmosphere and we treat our employees like family.”
According to Vetter, Times Printing has several employees enrolled in apprenticeships through the state of Wisconsin. Currently, two people are enrolled in programs at the local technical college—one for the industrial electrical program, another for the industrial electrical and maintenance technician program. The company also provides ongoing training in its prepress and pressroom departments.
“We have had a number of employees attend programs in past years: electrical, maintenance and millwright,” Vetter notes of the apprenticeships. “We have also had employees in the finishing stitcher operator program.”
On the team-building front, Times Printing has held fundraising events for staff members who are out of work for medical reasons. It sponsors trap shooting teams, a bowling team, bowling and fishing tournaments, and other activities that call upon the outdoor beauty of the state. And there’s no better way to bond than at the company “pig outs,” where employees bring a dish to share.
Recognition programs at Times Printing include gift certificates at Christmas, or as rewards for setting production records and great catches of potential errors. The families of employees who work overtime get a nice letter from the company, thanking them for the sacrifice, and workers can accrue additional vacation time for working double time that might be needed on weekends.
Employees are allowed to schedule vacation days as late as the requested day off, and can spend their vacation time in four-hour increments. That allows more flexibility for doctor appointments, daytime school events or other personal commitments.
MOSAIC, Cheverly, Maryland
A mosaic, by definition, is the creation of a picture or pattern created by arranging together small colored pieces, such as stone, tile or glass. Thus, it seems an appropriate name for a company that stresses innovation, creativity and collaboration—a melding of pieces that delivers multi-channel marketing, creative services, print communications, multimedia and app development, online storefront solutions and fulfillment. That’s quite a picture.
With a staff of more than 150, MOSAIC delivers these solutions to the B2B space, including construction trades and organizations, commercial manufacturers, non-profits and associations. Given its thorough and exhaustive litany of products and services, it should come as no surprise that MOSAIC takes great strides to ensure its employee base is gratified and productive.
As for the PIA recognition, this is certainly not MOSAIC’s first rodeo, according to Sarah Scruggs, marketing director. “For more than a decade, MOSAIC has won a PIA Best Workplace Award,” she notes. “Beyond the team camaraderie and year-over-year expansion of the company, MOSAIC is dedicated to our employees and ensuring they feel welcomed, motivated and excited to be part of the MOSAIC family.”
Employees have a hand in creating and conducting the company’s training/cross-training programs. These areas include account executive training, department cross-training, creative services team formal training, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) training, lunch-and-learns and a course at MOSAIC University called Social Media 101.
Following the belief that small gestures can leave great impressions, MOSAIC offers a range of perks and benefits that promote team building and a sense of community. Food always goes a long way, and if you don’t like the occasional pizza, there’s always the company’s annual all-you-can-eat crab feast. Other treats include an annual barbecue picnic and the ever-popular chili cook-off.
Communications are strongly encouraged, aided by periodic communication meetings, weekly manager meetings and a quarterly employee newsletter. The company’s “Why Not Ask” program enables workers to anonymously pose questions to MOSAIC’s executive team. On the community outreach end, MOSAIC’s employees provide donations and volunteers to organizations such as Angel Tree Gifts, Toys for Tots and Stop Hunger Now. The company itself makes an annual charitable donation of $10,000.
Bonus programs at MOSAIC reward employee referral, performance, sales incentives, training and “weekend warrior”—the firm’s on-call weekend program. Workers are asked to nominate the “Employee of the Month” honorees for going above and beyond the call of duty. The company also recognizes staff members who offer great ideas and celebrate milestone anniversaries.
On the work-life balance ledger, MOSAIC offers flex time, work-from-home opportunities and 11 paid holidays, not to mention a generous vacation policy and sick time allotment.
Tailored Label Products, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
A provider of custom labels, diecut adhesives, thermal transfer labels, ribbons and equipment systems, Tailored Label Products (TLP) serves the automotive, electrical, industrial, medical and power equipment markets. The 120-employee operation is ISO 9001, UL, CSA and TS 16949 approved.
Larry Harvey, marketing and communications manager for TLP, notes that his company takes the proper steps in order to attract and develop high-caliber employees. “We must align ourselves strategically with our internal and external workforce resources,” he says. “Whether we do this through community-based partnerships or through the creation of our own organizational development programs, TLP would not be able to achieve its business success without its innovative training/development and recruiting initiatives.”
The company has a number of programs designed to attract and embolden employees in the development of their careers. Its 3x3 Program ensures that all production workers are trained on three different pieces of equipment, which helps them stay well-rounded and apprised of the newest technologies.
TLP’s 2 of 10 Program, a four-week organizational development initiative, focuses on building upon an employee’s strengths. It is a hybrid of two author’s works, which maintain that only two out of every 10 people capitalize on their strengths. The program seeks out an employee’s top five strengths, then determines ways in which those assets can be used personally or professionally. TLP can, in turn, identify training opportunities, and the program has enabled the company to bolster its retention rate.
TLP also offers career track succession planning, which identifies key staff members for leadership opportunities. These candidates are provided with educational resources and job experiences to facilitate growth, along with a personal success coach. This coach provides life and business coaching to help build strengths and empower them to optimize their leadership abilities.
TLP has also worked with GPS Education Partners (formerly the Second Chance Program) for the last nine years, with the label printer sponsoring an onsite education center for the program. “We give high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to work in our facility under a state youth apprenticeship program,” Harvey remarks.
“This allows the students to gain exposure to manufacturing and shows them the different career paths available within the industry. Because of our commitment to the mission of GPS, we are proud to have hired multiple graduates of the program. Their employment with TLP gives them a stronger understanding of manufacturing and is strengthening the future growth of our organization.”
The TLP Wellness Program—an employee-led initiative—features meetings that examine healthy lifestyles issues like eating right and exercising, along with stress management and tips to lead a healthier, active lifestyle. The company hosts weekly workout classes taught by employees in the areas of body sculpting and yoga. And, to underscore the commitment to healthy choices, it places fruits and vegetables in each kitchen at TLP on Wellness Wednesdays.
“Being a company known for its diverse use of community resources states to our employees, and the public, that we believe in investing in our future and will seek out ways to enhance organizational development, Harvey adds. “It’s this reason alone why we continue to have people knocking on our door for employment, and why our decade-long turnover rate is less than 5 percent.”
TLP’s community outreach efforts include its United Way Team Drive, which it has participated in for the last 10 years. The company has enjoyed a 96 percent participation rate in payroll deductions and event participation. During the campaign, each department sponsors its own fundraiser drives, using clever activities and themes. In addition, TLP gives employees paid time off to participate in community philanthropic events.
On the recognition end, the TLP Tokens peer recognition and reward program salutes exceptional ideas or contributions. TLP also provides monthly company-wide rewards in the form of gift cards (grocery, entertainment, shopping, gas) for attaining goals in areas including quality, sales and billings. PI