Flexibility in HR Management Reaps Rewards
What do print, print management, and creative business management have in common? They're all technology-based. And all this emphasis on technology provides both challenges and opportunities that, if managed adroitly, can be the cornerstones of your highly successful business.
Where human resources are concerned, our industry's technological focus continually alters the qualifications and skills that printing companies require in their staff. And sometimes in order to help you meet this hiring challenge, we suggest that flexibility in hiring practices can reap significant benefits.
Flexible Hiring Criteria
Here we are discussing the relatively rare cases where a person with directly related qualifications for a position can't be found. Normally at PrintLink we can provide well-qualified candidates for all jobs we fill. Our extensive network of contacts enables us to match position and experience requirements closely, and introduce qualified job-seekers to employers for a large cross-section of roles.
But with our pulse on the industry, we realize that occasionally it's necessary for us to encourage hiring managers to consider a "Plan B". For instance, while print production workflow has essentially not changed, new tools are constantly being developed to facilitate its every stage. And because the technology tools are so numerous and also relatively new, there may not be a lot of people available who have direct experience with a specific tool one of our clients is using.
In such cases, we suggest that hiring managers can build in some flexibility for themselves by implementing training programs. They should audit their current talent pool, assess their future staffing needs, then determine a strategic plan of execution that fits their budget. And when hiring, managers also need to stay mindful of that same strategy and be open to selecting people who have the foundation, interest, aptitude and long-term motivation to become participants in their company's employee development program.
Of course, hiring managers would prefer to attract people with directly related experience from the outset - but it is not always possible to do so. As another example, many companies come to us looking for Supervisors and Managers who already possess a number of years of like experience. But paradoxically, the employees are usually seeking career advancement their current position doesn't offer. Unless they have specific issues with their employer or their jobs are at risk, employees often don't want to make a lateral move.
Similarly, employers may try to hold out indefinitely for the elusive "perfect" candidate--when if they hired someone requiring a ramp-up period immediately, they would quickly realize a return on this investment. By exercising some flexibility, hiring managers may just find a gem who is waiting for a chance to shine. We talk to candidates seeking advancement all the time, and the good ones will make a long-term commitment to companies who recognize their potential and invest in their career development.
Flexible Work Arrangements
It is also becoming increasingly necessary for companies to exercise flexibility to address the impending problem of large-scale retirement. Studies have shown that a significant number of organizations are expected to offer phased retirement programs in which older employees work fewer hours as they approach retirement. We suggest the value of these programs can be maximized by assigning some training and mentoring activities to retirees. While younger staff may be better versed in today's technology, the older employees have a solid background in the industry to pass along, not to mention their grounding with your company and clients.
Other flexible staffing arrangements-ones that address not only the shrinking workforce, but also everyone's need to balance work and home life--are:
- job sharing
- flex hours
- compressed work schedules
- vacation buying and selling
- both paid and unpaid sabbaticals
- elder care support
- wellness accounts
- unpaid time off for charitable work
- assistance with home technology purchases.
While a work-from-home scenario won't succeed for all aspects of print workflow, it just may work for a surprising number of job functions. Sales is the most obvious, but some of the front-end workflow management jobs could be facilitated off-site as well. While we don't advocate implementing remote access full time, it can be used creatively part of the time to provide more coverage plus a benefit to your employees.
Flexible Compensation Packages
Compensation packages are another area where flexibility pays off. Since compensation is not just about salary, employers need to effectively communicate the full extent of their entire compensation package to existing and potential employees. And conversely, employees need to clearly understand the value of what employers are providing over and above wages or salary. The better both sides understand their flexible options, the better their chances of striking a mutually satisfying and profitable arrangement.
Potentially the available "extras" may include:
- fully paid company benefits
- capital accumulation plans (including defined-contribution registered pension plans, group retirement savings plans, deferred profit-sharing plans, and employer-matched defined savings plans)
- pension plans
- bonuses and incentives
- educational or training allowances
- paid attendance at conferences, seminars, or other industry events
- stock options
- personal days off
- extended holiday time
- company car or car allowance that includes personal use
- fitness programs or fitness-club-membership subsidies
- moving allowances
- company-paid social activities (e.g., seasonal parties, coffee, impromptu lunches, or other edible treats)
- any of the work-life-balancing "extras" outlined above
Certain kinds of flexibility relate uniquely to specific jobs. As one such case, let's consider Sales. Company owners and managers ideally want to hire someone who can walk in the door with a bag of business. While circumstances certainly do arise that enable this scenario, in the majority of cases it cannot occur. So as a flexible compromise, employers may need to grow their own sales staff. This option becomes even more attractive when you realize that any new salesperson joining a new company, even a seasoned one, always requires a ramp-up time.
It may also encourage you to know that some candidates with production backgrounds do tell us they would like to move into a sales job. One such career evolution occurs naturally from Customer Service to Sales. And while customer-service roles can be careers in their own right, ambitious CSRs may welcome the prospect of further professional advancement into selling.
Additionally, the sales role itself is assuming new dimensions. As companies opt to become business solutions providers instead of commodity printers, the task of business development becomes more complex. Accordingly, we are now seeing a division between "hunter" and "farmer" sales roles, with Business Development coming to be regarded as a stand-alone, salary-plus-bonus position. Once accounts are developed, they are then turned over to an Account Manager who maintains them. Not only does this 2-part structure build business volume, but it can also offer employers more flexibility in recruiting or developing salespeople with a variety of aptitudes and functions.
As a second case study in flexibility, let's consider Department Supervisors or Managers. Historically printing has been an industry that concentrates on managing work - not people and process. Yet as the industry continues to evolve, companies are increasingly recognizing that the emphasis DOES need to be on human-resource management and process control - since that is how the work gets done most efficiently and profitably. Plus they want to hire people who have done it in a print environment. But the reality on the shop floor is that, when supervisors and managers have evolved from operators to hands-on forepersons, to supervisors, to managers, most often their companies have promoted but not trained them. So here again is where a flexible approach pays off: if you can't find the Supervisors or Managers you want to hire, you can provide the training necessary to create them. Similarly at the front end, customer services reps can become customer service managers, production coordinators can become productions managers, then operations managers, and so on. In all these cases, the same parameters for training internally promoted staff apply.
On the other side of the coin, if you're an employee, you stand to benefit at least 3 ways from applying flexibility to navigating your own career path:
#1 - Think Employer - Not Job
Identify vibrant companies that educate and train their employees and offer advancement from within. Once you have your foot in the door, you can strategically position yourself to get the training you need to become promotable.
#2 - Stay Put
If you're looking for a change of job but can't find one, consider staying in your current position for a while longer (if that's an option). Staying where you are enables you to regroup and reevaluate your career objectives and approach. It can also buy you time for training, networking, or gaining additional job experience to propel you towards your long-term goals. (Of course, you need to balance your obligations to your current employer with your career-development activities appropriately.) And on closer investigation you may even find there are indeed advancement possibilities with your present company.
#3 - Consider Relocating
To achieve your career goals, it may help to be flexible about location or relocation. Note, however, that relocation especially is NEVER to be taken lightly. It is a very major decision that may affect your family profoundly. And if you relocate for a specific company or position that doesn't work out, you need a contingency plan for what your next strategic move will be then.
Generally speaking, to employers, an employee who has proven a level of flexibility can be a valuable asset, and one that should be highly respected and encouraged. In an evolving industry, people who are entrepreneurial by nature and adaptable by practice will contribute significantly to achieving the changing objectives of both the company and its clients. So in a flexible organization, the employees who are the most elastic can truly make the best prospects for long-term employees.