Business success derives from the balance of assets, and every day PrintLink’s discussions with employers and employees deepen our appreciation of the importance of human resources in this asset mix. In fact, people are one of the two fundamental assets on which the printing and communications industry depends. The other is tools--tools of the trade, tools of workflow management, and tools of business management. But people are equally essential to make these tools all operate together effectively, push the resulting product out to the marketplace, and promote your company’s services.
Consequently, it is impossible to review the magnitude of your capital spending without also considering the strategic human-resources side of the equation. Balancing today’s robust tools of technology with the right people to manage and operate them is indispensable to achieving successful, customer-focused results. Recently the Conference Board of Canada echoed our view by noting: “The hiring game has changed. Workforce optimization is now essential to organizational success and HR's performance could mean the difference between success and failure.”
Moreover, the human-resource requirements of our large and complex industry keep changing rapidly. Right now the industry overall is being redefined by its present pattern of evolution from a craft into a technology and a service. Current factors hugely affecting our human-resources requirements are:
- The escalating technological revolution
- The pending mass retirement of Baby Boomers
- Generational differences in how the workforce views the workplace
- Financial pressures on—well--everything
Despite or perhaps because of the above challenges, this is a time of tremendous opportunity for business owners, executives, and managers to strike a strategic balance between their human capital resources and investment in technology to deliver the best possible results. This process--called workforce optimization--is a major catalyst to productivity that yields major, measurable return. It requires hiring managers to shift their focus from reactive hiring to strategic workforce planning--meaning analyzing and forecasting the human resources and expertise their company needs to achieve its business objectives, identifying skills gaps, and formulating a plan to fill them.
In this process, management initiatives and information systems serve as valuable resources by enabling tabulation, analysis, and gap identification. As a further valuable resource, PrintLink works as a strategic partner to the industry and its supply chain across North America, assisting businesses in identifying and securing the right people with the right skills at the right time.
Retiring Baby Boomers
The imminent mass retirement of Baby Boomers is a phenomenon that will affect your strategic workforce plan significantly. In response, you will need to review your past successes alongside the skill sets of the people who championed them, as well as tabulate the skill sets your company’s technological advances will require going forward. You will also need to calculate when and how to enlist your soon-to-retire staff in training their successors.
A further consideration is that technological advances are delivering more output from fewer people, yielding increased productivity. The resulting attrition in the workforce will somewhat offset the drain in manpower caused by the escalating retirement of Baby Boomers.
In past generations, people defined themselves by the way they earned their livelihoods. Many lived to work. But now, for the most part, people coming into the workplace are opting for a more holistic balance between career, community, and home life. Their outlook is diametrically opposed to that of the preceding generation of workers: today’s employees basically work to live.
So obviously, your plan for strategic workforce optimization requires hiring managers who demonstrate the flexibility to accommodate greater work-life balance for staff by implementing such relevant initiatives as flex time--or even a simple policy that allows employees to take work time for personal needs provided they put in extra hours another day to make up for it.
(Everyone, in fact, is confronted with personal matters that can only be accomplished during business hours, and such circumstances have always required a mutual give-and-take between employer and employee. But conversely, accommodating staff’s need for work-life balance does not mean pandering to their sense of entitlement. People entering and advancing in the workplace still need to achieve and contribute—then be rewarded only retroactively for their accomplishments. At no time does the work-life balance entitle employees flagrantly to use work hours for their personal commitments at the expense of their commitment to their employer. During the business day, staff’s primary attention must be to the employer’s endeavor, and a viable employee will not take advantage of any flexibility for work-life balance that an employer generously provides.)
Another implication of the growing demand for work-life balance is that people on your payroll should and will use their allotted holiday time to the fullest. Already standard vacation periods for most workers are longer in Europe than in North America, and most European corporations recognize the pragmatic value of giving employees opportunities to relax versus contributing actively to burning them out. Ultimately, as we progress further and further toward a global economy, will North American companies follow suit by extending the standard length of holidays for their staff?
It will become increasingly important in your workforce optimization plan to ensure that jobs and workplace procedures are well defined and documented, so that when people are absent on holidays or for personal reasons, someone else can fill the void. Productivity measurement and management will also be paramount. Again, many management-information tools already exist to help managers and human resources departments capture, measure, and analyze employee-activity data, then apply the results toward maximizing their human capital resources.
Financial Pressures on Employers & Staff
Today, as we all know, financial pressures are affecting everything and everyone. Faced with cost escalations that are not easily passed along to customers, most employers are left to juggle many diverse economic factors when making both their workforce-optimization and job-costing decisions.
For example, one financial pressure that is impacting workforce planning significantly is the soaring price of gas, since the desire to reduce the expense of commuting has become a growing motivation for job seekers. When screening new job candidates, we routinely ask them how far a commute they are willing to undertake for the right work opportunity. And in recent months, with gas prices climbing out of sight, their answers are becoming more and more conservative. Consequently, one of our clients in a relatively remote location recently expressed willingness to offset the commuting costs of new hires by paying them a distance premium.
Often in the past employers have offered car allowances as a frill—but are such perks now becoming a necessity? Other creative measures employers can implement to combat rising gas prices include company-organized ride-sharing programs, longer-work-day-shorter-work-week options, and telecommuting from home offices. At PrintLink we expect these and similar measures to become more commonplace.
Review your Workforce Plan Regularly
Strategic workforce planning is essentially a continual dialogue about the impact your human capital resources have on the priorities of your company. We therefore recommend that you not only develop a present and future workforce plan but also review it regularly as an integral part of your annual planning process.
While a workforce plan has always been necessary, today’s challenges make it arguably more essential now than ever before in determining the success of your business. But remember that you do not have to face the growing complexities of workforce optimization alone. For over fifteen years, PrintLink has stood as a uniquely experienced, specialized resource for the printing industry that can aid you in developing a strategic and profitable workforce-optimization plan and recruiting the personnel to fulfill it.