Key Strategies to Navigate the Skilled Labor Crisis
On day one of PRINTING United Expo last week, Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of Printing Impressions, hosted a panel discussion on how commercial printers are addressing the skilled labor crisis. He was joined by John Falconetti, chairman and CEO of Drummond; Cheryl Kahanec, CEO of Quantum Group; and Chris DuBach, executive vice president of sales and business development at Phoenix Innovate.
The skilled labor crisis has been an enduring issue plaguing the printing industry for years, and in a general consensus by the panel, the remedy for employee recruitment and retention is multi-pronged. While automation adoption is certainly one critical solution, the panelists delved into other remedies that include education and training – specifically for the younger workforce – as well as creating a strong company culture, cross-training, monetary incentives, feedback surveys, and more.
For Falconetti, recruiting new talent is not a rushed endeavor. He stated, “The goal is to proactively set up [employment opportunities]. We have trickle campaigns where we’re constantly curating on social media and at certain events for hard-to-find positions.” To achieve this, Drummond has created an internal process in the form of a boutique headhunter firm, that enables the HR department to work with management to curate skilled labor positions. There is a strong focus on the “how,” “when,” and “where” of finding the right individual for the right job. For other PSPs struggling to find skilled labor, Falconetti offers this advice: “I would highly encourage you to talk to your local public school system, curate positions through social media – LinkedIn for example – and also take advantage of the career fairs that are both convenient and relevant to what you’re looking for.”
In a similar fashion, Kahanec of Quantum Group takes a unique approach to recruitment by tapping into a highly-valuable and often over-looked population of individuals – those with intellectual disabilities. Working with Shore Community Services, a program that improves the quality of life for individuals with disabilities, Quantum Group provides employment. Kahanec stated, “Their cadence is phenomenal. Whatever their job is, they take it very seriously and learn how to do it exactly the same every hour. And, the most amazing thing is their quality control is the highest among our employees because they insist on doing it perfect.” Not only has the program created opportunities for those with disabilities, but it has had a profoundly positive impact on Quantum Group’s company culture – a key trait in retaining satisfied and fulfilled employees.
At Phoenix Innovate, company culture is a major player in retaining employees. One way the company continues to uplift its staff is through improving communication through training. DuBach stated, “Training has been a huge part of our culture and it has proven to be an exceptional way to uplift everybody, together, all the time, and still be able to build communication and community in a different format.” Phoenix Innovate utilizes DiSC profiling with employees to understand how they react in both stressful and natural situations, providing unbelievably effective ways to communicate with staff.
In the search to solve the printing industry’s labor crisis, it would seem that automation is not the only answer. As exhibited by Drummond, Quantum Group, and Phoenix Innovate, there are vast opportunities in recruiting “A players” and carving a path for them to stay for the long-haul. Utilizing creative strategies, tapping into unlikely communities, and investing in a company’s current workforce are just some of possibilities to keeping the lights on and machines running.
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