What It Takes to Attract and Keep Great Employees
How does a printing company find and keep great employees? Meet them where they are — which right now is feeling exhausted, financially unstable, and stretched too thin — and offer solutions that make choosing your company the best decision for their careers.
The “State of the Industry” report from the research team at PRINTING United Alliance has predicted that business is going to increase in 2022. Yet print services providers (PSPs) are feeling the stress of being perpetually understaffed, which affects production deadlines and deliverables. Meanwhile, prospective workers are enjoying a shift in the labor market that is providing the opportunity to be selective in their work destination. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the changes in worker expectations and reinforced the importance prioritizing family over work.
The number of workers who comprise the future workforce is declining, which will exacerbate recruiting difficulties. According to the U.S. Census, the number of children born has decreased annually since 2008, with the exception of one year. In addition, the Pew Research Center reports that the number of immigrants entering the U.S. is declining, which further tightens the labor market.
PSPs that are successful in their recruiting and retention are being responsive to changing priorities of the modern workforce. The shift in work preferences isn’t new, having flummoxed employers since the Millennial generation hit the workforce more than two decades ago with a new set of expectations from employers about job satisfaction and work-life balance.
The shift continued with Generation Z, who started reaching the workforce about five years ago. This newest generation of workers have demonstrated an intolerance to inhospitable and unsafe workplace environments. And notably, Gen Z currently comprises 27% of the U.S. population. It is critical that companies adapt and create workplaces where Gen Z wants to spend their time.
Accommodate Family Responsibilities
The expectation that employees will unhappily grind through the work week just to get to the weekend is as much of a relic as the three-martini lunch. The old paradigm where a stay-at-home parent (usually a mother) covers the three “Cs” of childcare, cooking, and cleaning is also a relic. A quarter of minor-age children in the U.S. live in a single-parent household, which has tripled compared to 1960, an era when many executives were entering the world.
And in two-parent households, both parents are working in 64% of them. The makeup of the modern family makes scheduling exceedingly important. In addition, allowing for employees to take smaller increments of time away from work to cover school activities, doctor appointments, and other parenting responsibilities has become more necessary than in the past.
In a recent survey by a large childcare provider, nearly half of working parents reported that they were at their breaking point balancing their home and work responsibilities. Creating a work environment that is hospitable for working parents would be a starting point for both recruiting and retention. The importance of flexibility around childcare issues, if not actually providing childcare facilities, is worthy of consideration.
Even if potential employees don’t have children, future plans to have children may affect a prospective employee’s current choice of employers. In addition, the adaptation of the workplace to accommodate childcare issues demonstrates that company management is adopting an employee-focused approach to the work environment.
Create a Supportive Workplace
The most important way to retain existing employees is to identify the toxic people in your company, and either terminate them or train the toxicity out of them. Training is particularly important for managers who should master the “soft” skills of interpersonal communication and demonstrating empathy. A recent study by Revelio Labs, published by the MIT Sloan Management Review, looked at 38 industries and determined that toxic culture was the No. 1 reason that people were resigning from their jobs.
This reinforces an earlier Gallup study from 2019, which found that 52% of voluntarily exiting employees said that their organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their jobs. Better managers will result in happier employees, less turnover, and a reputation of being an excellent work destination.
The cost of training will be offset by the reduced cost in replacing employees, not to mention the potential liability associated with lawsuits that could arise from untrained managers unwittingly violating employment laws. The cost of replacing an employee can range from one half to more than double an employee’s annual wages. Using that formula, the cost for a 100-employee company that has a 10% annual turnover rate and an average wage of $50,000 will be $250,000 per year to replace departing workers.
Celebrate Current Employees
Companies that make the effort to recognize the hard work and milestones of their employees help counter any toxicity in the workplace. Employee recognition sends a meaningful message to current employees that they are seen, valued, and appreciated for their work. This will boost morale, assist with retention, and create engagement.
An effective recognition program may also incentivize people to excel in their jobs and achieve recognition. These programs also send a message to potential employees that the company is a great place to work. Create an employee recognition program that gives meaningful recognition with desirable rewards for lofty, but achievable, goals.
Offer Competitive Wages & Better Benefits
An employee’s desire to be paid more and have better benefits hasn’t changed, but the shift of the power-dynamics in the employer-employee relationship are putting pressure on employers to be more responsive to these issues. Taking on these additional expenses may seem impossible in the midst of working around a splintered supply chain and paying more for paper and substrates.
But the financial instability created by the pandemic and the resulting increase in the costs of groceries, cars, fuel, medicine, and other goods and services have put significant financial pressure on the working class. Find a way to pay at least as much as the companies in your area that are competing for the same workers.
When wages are competitive, benefits can be the difference-maker that sway prospective employees to choose your company over the competitors. Offer great health insurance. If you choose a high-deductible plan, deposit money in each employee’s Health Savings Account each year.
Offer generous retirement account contributions. When the stock market roared to life during the pandemic, only the people who had enough money to have investment accounts benefitted. Help employees plan for their future when they would not otherwise be able to afford the equivalent payroll deductions. The generations that are rejecting the grind also are rejecting the idea of working into their senior years.
Long-Term Success Matters Most
The effort to remake your work environment will pay dividends long into the future. Recruitment will improve because word will travel about the excellent work environment at your company. Retention will improve because employees will be made to feel like they are important, which will make them happy and win loyalty.
For a long time, employers had a “plug-n-play” method of churning through workers who didn’t conform to existing company schedules or didn’t appear to appreciate the workplace environment. As the competition for prospective employees increases, a much more thoughtful approach will be the only way to create long-term success in recruitment and the retention of existing employees.
Adriane Harrison is Vice President, Human Relations Consulting at PRINTING United Alliance. Adriane assists members with a wide variety of HR matters involving statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, culture, and staffing, as well as the gamut of day-to-day HR issues. In addition, she supports professional development by conducting webinars, participating in panel discussions, and speaking at industry events on human resources issues. Currently, Adriane is the Chairperson of the Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition, a member of the Women in Print Alliance, and a founder of the Women’s Print Mentoring Network.
Adriane received a journalism degree from the University of Illinois and a law degree from DePaul University in Chicago. As an attorney, Adriane practiced in both the public and private sectors. Her work was in the areas of Constitutional, commercial, securities, and criminal law. Adriane and her family live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.