A Resource Guide for Workforce Development
Running a business in the 21st century requires innovation to stay competitive, including innovation in recruiting and retaining employees. The most effective way that employers can find potential employees, recruit them into their companies, and keep them engaged is to have a two-pronged strategy: Meeting future employees where they are at this moment in time, and meeting them where you expect them to be in the future. An investment of time and money into this effort will pay dividends both in the short- and long-term future of the company.
An important first step to fulfilling recruitment goals is to create a strategic workforce development plan (SWDP), which will have clearly stated goals, step-by-step methodology for reaching those goals, and a timeline to keep the company on target and accountable to itself. The barriers to innovation are change fatigue, feelings of being overwhelmed, and being unsure of the methods to execute innovations. Creating a strategic plan forges a path so that if these barriers emerge, the SWDP will keep innovation and initiatives on track.
Creating a Strategic Workforce Development Plan
The key to creating an actionable strategic plan is to have an outside party lead the process. This will help take emotion and personal agendas out of the analysis, and will allow stakeholders to provide information to a neutral party, which will help them be fully forthcoming and will protect their confidentiality.
How to Get Started with the SWDP
A successful SWDP will go beyond the goal of hiring some people to fill specific vacancies. Rather, it should focus both on short-term strategies for filling vacancies, and on long-term strategies of building relationships with organizations that will result in a consistent talent pool of future employees.
The SWDP needs two different recruiting sections — one for short-term needs (immediate to up to one year from now), and one for long-term needs (one year or more from now).
A third section of the SWDP should be designated for retention strategies. This section will focus on how to keep the people who are already on your team. The cost of recruiting and training can be high, estimated to be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 per employee, depending on the skill level necessary for the position. These figures reflect the time of both the trainer and new employee, cost of training materials, the loss of productivity during the transition from one employee to another, and administrative costs including recruitment. Retention strategies are worthwhile investments.
The fourth and final section should have a specific marketing plan that will pull together the other three parts of the SWDP. External marketing for sections on recruitment, and internal marketing for the section on retention. Every company promotion effort should be done to appeal to both future and current customers and employees.
Building the SWDP
First, determine where in your region potential employees exist, and begin to develop a relationship with these organizations. Look for:
- Veteran’s Groups
- Government, nonprofit, and casual (think Facebook pages and meetups for local vets)
- Underserved communities with high unemployment rates
- Re-entry / ex-offender second-chance hiring organizations. PRINTING United Alliance has a resource for these services for both federal and broken down by state.
- Vocational schools
- Community colleges
- Universities with graphic communications programs
- Industry Resources
Next, interview employees, workers in the community, educators, and others who are very knowledgeable about the workforce in your area. Do not assume that you know the answers to these questions. If it turns out that your company did know the answers, then it’s off to a great start. Ask the following questions:
- What do workers in your area value from an employer?
- Does your company provide what workers value?
- Is there public transportation to your facility?
- If not, are there affordable transportation options that could be created?
- Could your company run a shuttle bus to the nearest public transit hub?
- Do your shifts align with childcare and school schedules? In households with two working parents/caregivers, creating flexibility to align with nonflexible childcare issues is important.
- Is the pay commensurate with other organizations in the area competing for the same candidates?
- What are the health care and paid time off benefits like relative to businesses in your area?
- Offer lunch-and-learn opportunities on financial literacy, college opportunities for employees and their children, and other important life skills.
- If you have potential workers in the community that are not native English speakers, do you have someone on staff that speaks their language?
- Would your company be able to institute scheduling shifts in blocks shorter than the typical eight-hour shifts?
- Could the blocks move to four-hour shifts?
- Would implementing job-sharing work for certain positions?
- Can the company move to a four-day work week?
- How active is the company in the community?
- Is the company engaged in community activities at a minimum quarterly?
After gathering all of this information, the next step is to bring together that information into an actionable form.
The internal part of the process requires the executive team to evaluate policies and processes to determine if the company provides the things that potential employees find valuable. The challenge will be to change those things that are not valuable to your employees, and to create things that are.
This step is where the company can be bold and innovate. This is when production schedules can be reimagined, shifts changed, and support systems created. Maybe the company works three shifts on a four-day work week, giving people days off Friday through Sunday. Maybe the schedule remains as is, but on-site childcare and after-school care is provided. Maybe the company cross-trains employees so every person can safely operate several machines, providing much more flexibility in scheduling.
Grow relationships with the groups that have been identified as a source of future employees. Create regular events that engage those groups. Rather than a call once a month, arrange a plant tour at your facility. Also, go to them — give a presentation, host an event that benefits that organization, donate goods and services from time to time.
The Lure of the Online Presence
Once these resources have been discovered, connections made, and questions answered, begin to put together the marketing section of the SWDP. The best tool for that will be the company’s website. This is where the company can really shine.
Communicating clear and compelling messages on the website will draw the best candidates. Often companies think of their website audience as future customers, but the audience is also future employees. Use this opportunity to not only say what the company can do for customers, but also tell the story of the company that makes people want to work there. Be sure that the website shows not only what the company does, but also its mission and its culture. Here are some examples of companies in the industry that have created an online presence that sets them apart. Take videos. These can be slick, high-production pieces, or as simple as a GoPro or a cell phone camera. A combination of videos and still photos matched with short, punchy text will help attract your future workforce.
- DWS Printing is a fourth-generation printing company that produces labels. The company uses the power of story for both still photos and videos to draw in both potential customers and future employees. The company has a specifically identified section on its website for videos.
- Graphic Visual Solutions not only is very clear about what the company does, but on its careers page, it is very transparent with identifying employee benefits so that right away, a potential candidate can find out if this company values and supports its employees.
- Quad’s careers page has a dramatic and visually stunning video aimed at job seekers that shows what employees do, makes sure it features a diverse workforce, and has a narrative that sparks a variety of emotions in the viewer. The company also includes a “Candidate Experience Survey” to get feedback about the effectiveness of its marketing pitch to job seekers.
- Shweiki Media, a San Antonio-based company, has a cleverly named podcast “Tacobout Print” to make a connection with potential employees in its region.
- Hopkins Printing puts mission in the forefront of its messaging. The first thing that a website visitor sees is the mission statement. The company also does an outstanding job of showing what it is like to work in a printing company with a page of videos for each part of the process.
- J.S. McCarthy Printers also features its mission prominently on its website home page. The mission — to be the printer of choice for the environmentally-conscious consumer — is one that is relevant to both potential customers and employees. This is an example of where one message can reach more than one audience.
- Suttle-Straus does a fantastic job of using videos to show the production process, as well as many videos to show that the company culture is playful and supportive. Check out out the Elf on the Shelf parody, as well as inspirational employee videos.
- Steinhauser is a custom label printer that has an entire page on its website featuring its community engagement. The company features four local causes that it supports in different nonprofit segments: Children, Animals, Homelessness, and Small Business Support. This approach to philanthropy will broaden the appeal to an audience of potential employees.
Part of meeting potential candidates where they are is to create a social media presence. Older workers can be found on Facebook, but younger workers use TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube far more often. Creating a compelling social media presence on these platforms is critical to attracting a younger workforce.
While very few industry companies are on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram are social media destinations for many companies that want to feature videos and compelling images. Here are some examples:
Stoughton Printing creates vinyl LP jackets for a wide variety of artists, and the company’s Instagram features great images of their work, including some iconic records.
GPA is a substrates provider that has curated images that communicate what the company produces in a way that is visually connected and very interesting. While substrates may not be thought of as the subject of compelling imagery, GPA has boldly defied that thought.
Sappi has branded itself as a renewable resource company, and has a very strong YouTube presence called SappiTube with nearly 17,000 subscribers. Its collection of videos reinforces the company’s brand and engagement with environmental issues. This message is particularly compelling to a younger generation of potential employees.
Additional Marketing Focus
In addition to creating a compelling online presence, the SWDP should also address other marketing opportunities. These would include radio, television, and podcast advertising, signage in the region — from billboards to yard signs, and community events. The opportunity to directly interact with people and to put a face with the company is a very good way to reach potential employees.
Some strategies to consider are:
- Tours for high school, vocational, and community college students
- Internship opportunities
- Tabling at community events
- Sponsor activities in the community
- Host a 5K for charity with a name that can be associated with your company, such as The Print Sprint or something clever.
Putting the SWDP Into Action
Creating the SWDP is a big job, but it should be designed to guide the company policy in this area for at least three years. Create a task force within the company of people from various segments of the business. Attach deadlines when developing the plan to keep the process going. Once the plan is in place, the task force should continue to meet periodically to make sure that the rollout of the SWDP is happening on schedule. Give the SWDP a chance to work, but keep track of what is successful and what doesn’t seem to be working. Be nimble enough to revise the plan after a reasonable period of time.
Being intentional about how to attract and retain workers should result in more and better potential employee prospects. Be bold and innovative in your workforce development, and follow a SWDP to achieve the company’s workforce goals.
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.