When we think of adding personnel to a company, chances are the candidates who first come to mind are millennials, especially since they, according to a July 2019-issued report from the Pew Research Center, comprise the nation’s largest adult generation. While those individuals, with birth years between 1981 and 1996, have numbers on their side, they do not constitute a monopoly, as employers enjoy spanning generations in filling their staffing needs.
We might, however, consider millennials as the most coveted group if we use the metaphor of “young blood” because many are just starting to find their way as workers, eager to inject new energy and ideas. In short, though, everyone has value and anyone’s endeavor to sustain a company must consider many factors. Is a company prepared to engage in extensive onboarding to strengthen business? Would a proprietor, in making a hiring decision, rather lean on someone who is battle-tested in a comparable field than choose someone green? How might seasoned professionals contribute to the learning curve of far younger colleagues and vice versa?
These resonate as some of the biggest inquiries for places to ponder and answer. To see how they tackle these and other approaches to maintaining their business models, Print+Promo connected with Alex Morin, vice president of sales for Hub Promotional Group, Braintree, Mass., speaking for its Debco operations, Concord, Ontario; Andrew Alford, president of Launchpad Intelligent Software LLC, Austell, Ga.; and Todd Pottebaum, president of Quality Resource Group, Plymouth, Minn.
A Talented Pool
The print and promotional products worlds have long filled their ranks with immensely gifted people, generating billions in revenue and engendering thousands of lasting relationships. While they have continued to depend on accomplished hires, businesses also find themselves constantly thinking about where they could make even more splashes. But given the challenges in trying to contain COVID-19, everyone now is wondering what the future of the economy might look like. Assessing one’s workforce might sound like a perplexing task, but it is an absolute necessity.
The Quality Resource Group executive noted that mid-March, during which President Donald Trump declared a national emergency as the virus began to ravage the United States, stunned everyone, with the month commencing job cuts that have placed the unemployment rate in double digits. As the spring has unfolded and companies have devoted time to what the summer might yield as states ease stay-at-home orders, print and promo businesses have been wondering how to continue to assist remaining clients, where opportunities might be to secure new partners and how many workers they are enlisting to accomplish their goals.
As Pottebaum stated, these are confusing times, but ones through which people can demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit and find ways not only to remain afloat, but relevant and necessary, too. Take, for example, the hard work, particularly in the promo world, that has gone into keeping restaurants and other establishments alive. T-shirt sales have abounded as a way to raise funds for them, but signs and banners—many of which have stressed a communal vibe in the battle against coronavirus—have also been plentiful, informative and often eye-catching. Someone is obviously taking great care in making them, and they are reflections of the possibilities within the print world. In other words, at a time when everything seems as if it is falling apart, the print and promo industries are striving to be a type of glue to patch matters up. The thought of adding people to their payroll, where applicable, therefore, will take up a significant part of such businesses’ conversations in the coming months because they have created models that have proven effective and they believe that they can weather the damage that the pandemic has thus far caused.
“People fall in love with the industry because it’s creative, solution-driven and rewarding,” Pottebaum said. “We have great clients and team members who care about each other, which is circular, driving engagement and satisfaction.”
Alford and Morin share those takes and find that highlighting their company cultures plays a major role in attracting new talent, whether it flows through the veins of rookies, veterans or career changers. Is now, though, a feasible time to self-promote so heavily? For Alford, the answer requires little deliberation.
“When we hire, we’re not just looking for someone to fill a position; we’re looking for someone who will fit the mindset and culture of our company and who can enact real and tangible connections with our clients and our platform,” he revealed. “Before we hire, all interview finalists get a chance to tour our offices and meet the team they’ll be working with. These finalists have the opportunity to interview current employees to get a sense of their personal experiences at Launchpad. Ultimately, we drive the cultural statement that we’re not just a company, but one team with a shared goal of doing our part to make the industry a better place to hang our hats for the long haul.”
The notion that everyone needs a job is obvious, but what measures are companies taking to see that seekers end up hearing about them? How are they also considering different generations for positions, and what are companies revealing about themselves in building their workforces?
“The vast majority of our recruiting comes from word of mouth,” Morin said. “Managers keep a file of people who are interested in working for the company and always have a well to go to when there’s a position to fill.”
In considering candidates, with many recent hires having not been in the industry prior to their joining Debco, his company looks for a variety of traits—many of which are standard across all fields. For every desire to have someone be punctual, organized, enthusiastic and open-minded, though, Debco also hopes to find prospects who hone an appreciation for lateral thinking, humility and their ability to listen and evaluate. Regarding the benefits of adding new people, either those who are just starting their careers or people who are looking for change or have decided to find new paths within their fields, Morin sees an upside to his efforts and those of his contemporaries.
“The benefits to the industry of adding new personnel include an influx of new thoughts and new energy,” he said. “Additionally, given the rapid development of new technology, bringing in someone with newly acquired skills, right out of college, for example, allows the transmission of this acquired knowledge.”
Pottebaum holds that with the right culture, anything is possible, and the last three years have solidified that, as retirements from the Quality Resource Group ranks have given him the chance to challenge the structure and vision of his company, while also diversifying its workforce. That has meant great news for millennials, who have constituted most of the newbies, but it has fostered satisfying gains for all workers, no matter what their birth certificates say. That has been the case for Launchpad, too, with Alford particularly eager to discuss how outside-the-industry additions are driving business.
“The greatest benefit of hiring outside of our industry, especially younger talent, is perspective,” he said. “Buying habits are changing, business is moving online and the products themselves are evolving to meet the requirements of the next generation of buyers. This renewed perspective enables us to see our industry without the blinders of our own experience.
“My favorite question asked of most newcomers to this company and industry is, ‘Why is it done this way?’” Alford continued. “While incumbent experience is extremely invaluable, it often clouds our ability to see things for what they could be, not just why they are.”
When companies take on new employees, regardless of the hires’ ages, they are obviously looking for those who will further their culture and strengthen the identity of their given business. No matter the position, there exists an expectation that a durable partnership will occur, but what of the current landscape for the print and promo worlds, especially now that COVID-19 has made jobs and the stability of workplaces its chief prey?
“From a demand perspective, I think that the pandemic will negatively impact marketing budgets and, consequently, promo spend,” Morin offered. “From a personnel perspective, I think that attracting new talent, as of this moment, will be challenging given the financial benefits many are collecting from the government, but when financial packages dry up, there will be many people looking for work.”
Through his Launchpad duties, Alford has likewise found that capturing the attention of younger talent has grown more difficult over the years, but he contends that finding and nurturing it are not out of reach.
“At the end of the day, we find that providing our talent with confirmation that they are making a significant contribution to the company and our clients goes a long way,” he stated.
That collection of hires has needed to work especially hard these last three months, a task that he has enjoyed seeing them tending to convincingly.
“Since the beginning of time, necessity has always been the mother of invention, and invention is key to our survival,” Alford said. “During this pandemic, we’ve seen an unprecedented paradigm shift in business and product mix. Liftoff, our flagship e-commerce platform, has seen the creation of over 560 new online stores that have been solely dedicated to the sales of personal protective equipment products since the middle of March. Many of these products incorporate not just key safety standards, but also branding and communication.”
We could say that the summer will involve sorting through the rubble, but we are still experiencing so many uncertainties that it is tough to say if the rebuilding process can begin earnestly. What will the unease mean for present and future leadership roles? Who will be the pacesetters in this way of marketing oneself and securing the best people to do so?
“Many aspects of life will eventually return back to normal, but there will be residual effects of this pandemic,” Pottebaum said. “I have every confidence that new solutions will be developed to answer age-old questions and some new ones, too. It will be fun to watch the creativity unfold.”
“I think that the promo industry business model will remain largely unchanged, but there will be a significant shift in the model as Boomers and Gen Xers make way for millennials to join leadership teams,” Morin concluded. “As this happens, the influx of more youthful ideas will alter the face of promo. E-commerce, although already a part of the industry, will become much more commonplace, as will innovative new ways to monetize industry value propositions.”