‘Top Workplaces’ in Printing Industry Earn Recognition
In what is an annual tradition, Printing Industries of America (PIA) released its 2019 Best Workplace in the Americas award winners, which honors printing companies from across the U.S. and Canada. Each one is evaluated on a wide range of categories, from communication and culture to resources and benefits, and safety and work environment.
Running a successful printing business — no matter the size or type of work — is about more than just “feeds and speeds.” It is about the people, and this year, each winner embodies different approaches to how to attract and keep the best of the best. The one thing they all have in common is a human resources culture deeply invested in the happiness and health of their employees which, in turn, leads to higher productivity and better quality overall.
There is no one right answer on how to create a welcoming and inclusive work environment, but these five U.S. printing establishments can serve as inspiration for a great place to start.
DISC, Hauppauge, N.Y.
DISC got its start in 1969, with its first job producing labels for 33⅓ LP records — known as disc labels — which is how the firm got its name. Today, it is a company that has embraced the concept of convergence, offering prepress and design services; offset lithography, digital and flexographic printing; and finishing and converting. And, besides folding cartons, they still produce pressure-sensitive labels as well.
Today, 155-employee DISC is part of Oliver Printing & Packaging, a portfolio company of Pfingsten Partners with facilities in New York, Ohio and Virginia.
One of the reasons the company has been so successful, Diane Ferrante, VP of human resources, notes is the emphasis on putting its workers first. “Our company culture supports employee development and encourages teamwork. Our core values are
focused on making a positive difference in the lives of our employees, customers and community,” he says.
One initiative that helps recognize and reward employees is a recognition program that allows managers to reward points to any employee they “catch in the act” of doing something great, Ferrante says. Those points can then be redeemed for prizes. DISC also offers an ESL (English as a Second Language) program for employees, as well as a wellness program that provides discounts on health insurance for certain activities.
On the team-building side of things, DISC has both internal and external programs, Internally, Ferrante says, “[We] created in-house team-building programs that bring together groups from different departments to promote cooperation and an understanding of the needs of the internal customer.” From a community standpoint, DISC has also participated for the past several years in the local MS Walk to raise money for charity, as well as hosting a blood drive onsite twice a year.
“We also participate annually in the Long Island Cares Summer Food Drive,” she notes. “Over the years, our employees donated almost two tons of food. In 2018, we were the largest single-site collector of food and the largest monetary donation collector.” And, as part of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, employees fulfilled the wishes of 35 needy children.
DISC also encourages employees to enjoy both their work and being with one another. “We want employees to enjoy what they do, so we organize monthly and seasonal events to put some fun into the workday,” Ferrante says. “These include a monthly Friday Freebe drawing for a $50 gift card, and raffling off tickets to games to see the local baseball team, the Long Island Ducks.”
Graphic Visual Solutions, Greensboro, N.C.
This 100% employee-owned printing business has grown to more than 100 employees since it was founded in 1985 and has evolved into a full-service solutions provider that embodies a modern visual communications company. It offers a range of services, including printed materials, labels and packaging, cross-media campaigns, wide-format graphics, direct mail marketing, and a broad array of fulfillment, logistics and creative services.
According to Scott Engle, VP of marketing, the fact that the company became employee-owned is a big part of what bands everyone together to succeed. “At Graphic, employee ownership is not just about fulfilling an ideal of being a ‘socially responsible’ business; we strongly feel it also provides practical payoffs for our company and our clients,” he says. “Studies have shown that employees who see their enterprise’s success as directly tied to their own (and vice versa) take greater responsibility for quality, results and innovation.”
That doesn’t mean that they don’t keep striving to help all staff members improve and expand their skill sets, however. Last year, reveals Engle, one of the big initiatives the company undertook was implementing the Great Game of Business (GGOB) system. “The primary purpose in rolling out this program to all of our employees was to educate them about the foundation and principles of the GGOB and on the basic elements related to the business and financial aspects of running a business.
“The GGOB is all about ‘Building a Business of Business People Who Think, Act and Feel Like Owners,’ which results in each Employee Leader being able to participate at the highest levels going forward,” Engle notes.
All Graphic employees received 12 hours of training on the program, broken down into four three-hour training sessions. Employee ambassadors and managers had completed a 40-hour training program earlier in the year, and then in the fall, they divided the staff into smaller groups to pass along that information and serve as coaches to the rest of the team.
“These training sessions received numerous positive comments from our employees” Engle concludes. “This program will be a game changer in moving our employee-ownership culture forward.”
MOSAIC, Cheverly, Md.
For the past 70 years, MOSAIC has evolved from a traditional commercial printer to one that offers a wide range of services, including digital printing, an extensive bindery and a full-service mailing operation. It became 100% employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) on Jan. 2, 2019.
MOSAIC’s previous two owners — Brendan Connors and Joseph Fontana — were looking for a long-term succession plan to continue the legacy of the business their fathers built and they continue to grow. They decided that, instead of selling the company to the outside, they would allow the employees to benefit through an ESOP.
By creating an ESOP, MOSAIC is providing an additional retirement benefit plan to all of its workers. When employees leave or retire, they sell their shares back to MOSAIC, which creates an additional retirement account. Now, employees can directly benefit from the success of MOSAIC as the stock price increases. The best part? The ESOP benefit does not replace any of the 401(k) and pension plans already offered.
The fact that MOSAIC is a fun place to work also makes the 150-employee business stand out as a great place to work, Sarah Wilson, VP of human resources, points out. This fun atmosphere includes everything from Halloween events where the production staff gets to “trick or treat” for candy, to ice cream socials and crab feasts on hot summer days.
“We also host thank-you lunches,” Wilson says. This includes a luncheon to kick off the time period when MOSAIC does a lot of political-related printing, followed by a thank-you lunch at the end of the political season to acknowledge all of the hard work and to recognize the team for working well together.
Another reason MOSAIC stands out as a great workplace, according to Wilson, is its policy of open communication. Even though there is an official organizational chart, the company encourages every employee to suggest ideas for improvements they may have — at any time and to anyone. They can communicate and collaborate with any manager or even with staff members in different departments to develop new and innovative ideas.
MOSAIC has also invested in the equipment staff members need to get the job done, as well. During the past several years, the shop has invested heavily in expanding and upgrading equipment in order to improve not only their current offerings but also to bring new value-added services to the mix.
In addition, MOSAIC is proud of its strong trainee and mentorship program, which is designed to enable existing employees to learn new skills, as well as to help attract young, vibrant individuals to the organization. “The program spans 12 months of time, and participants don’t need to have any specific skills or requirements going into it,” Wilson explains. “We have had great success infusing new energy and skills into our departments this way.”
There is currently a mix of three internal candidates taking advantage of the ability to learn new skills, as well as two external employees who joined the company via the employee referral program. Wilson notes that MOSAIC also pays employees for recruiting top talent, and works with its local PIA affiliate to help in its recruiting efforts.
Ripon Printers, Ripon, Wis.
Ripon Printers embodies what it means to be a traditional commercial printer. The company specializes in the production and distribution of catalogs, direct mail and digital communications for small- and mid-size organizations. With 312 employees, Ripon has also received a wide range of awards and recognition through the years.
Despite the size of the company, Carol Cluppert, marketing director, says Ripon Printers goes out of its way to foster a sense of family among employees. “During employee reviews, staff members often comment that they really enjoy working alongside their co-workers,” she notes. “We have an average tenure of 16 years in both the office and plant, as proof that our employees stick around.”
Part of that loyalty centers around Ripon’s emphasis on maintaining a healthy work/life balance, rather than expecting workers to dedicate every waking moment to their jobs. “We encourage our employees to make time for family and volunteer opportunities,” Cluppert says. “Our community involvement shows up in the pride our workers take in caring for others in the community through volunteer efforts and fundraisers for different organizations and family members of our employees.”
One such outreach program is that employees get together twice a year to clean up one of the local roadways through the Adopt-a-Highway program, which Cluppert notes not only keeps the community looking great, but also allows the staff members to get outside for some fresh air.
“We hold a community E-Waste drive from time-to-time to allow community members to discard their unwanted electronics, and our company also sponsors local events such as a weekly free Friday night concert in our downtown park,” she says.
Another program that sets Ripon Printers apart is that it has a part-time nurse practitioner and physical therapist onsite that cover all three shifts. They also allow employees the option to purchase their own vacation in addition to their earned vacation, and hourly employees earn longevity pay after six years to reward them for their loyalty.
Each year, Ripon provides a bonus for employees if the company is doing well, according to Cluppert. “And we publicly recognize employee anniversaries during our weekly departmental meetings, and privately mark milestone anniversaries through monetary and gift awards.
“In addition, we expect all employees to contribute ideas to continually improve our processes that are not only great suggestions, but that also get implemented,” she adds. “We recognize all implemented ideas and give rewards to employees for saving the company money or for improving safety.”
Royle Printing, Sun Prairie, Wis.
For the past 70 years, Royle Printing has been specializing in high-quality graphic and distribution services, with a primary focus on publishers, catalogers and corporate partners. Employing a staff of 285 people, the company puts “our people and culture first, followed closely by our drive for continuous improvement,” Dawn Webber, director of human resources, points out.
While there are a lot of programs that Webber notes sets Royle Printing apart when it comes to great places to work, one of the big ones is Royle University, more affectionately known as Royle-U. “It provides participants with a truly immersive experience of learning the critical tools necessary to produce successful print products and gain hands-on experience throughout every department at Royle’s campus,” she says.
Royle-U covers a multitude of subject matters, including preflighting, web versus sheetfed signatures, binding, ad sales, and co-mailing and distribution, among other topics. It is taught by the management team, who can extol their many years of experience and knowledge to those who want to learn and improve.
But Royle-U isn’t the only training program in place, according to Webber. “Lean/6S is at the forefront of our efforts to engage employees. Daily improvement, safety and production barrier resolution are accomplished through the empowerment of the production teams. Daily GEMBA walks reinforce the positive changes we need in our fast-paced business environment. In addition, we offer enhanced safety training such as first responder courses and high-level technical training for personal growth within the company.”
It’s not just about training and education, either. Royle Printing goes out of its way to engage with its workforce and the community in other settings as well. Among them is a backpack program where employees help outfit kids in need of educational materials. Around the holidays, Santa visits the plant and kids have the opportunity to sit with him and receive a gift. There’s also an annual golf outing, as well as a 20-plus club and evening out that recognizes and rewards long-term staff members.
“We seek to improve the quality of life in the communities where our team members live, work and conduct business,” concludes Webber. “Through donations, community outreach and employee volunteer programs, Royle Printing gives financial support, man-hours and hope to those in our communities who need it the most. And we have developed first-class partnerships with many local, regional and national charities.”