Until very recently printers had a stable workforce, perhaps with casuals if they had a significant finishing activity and overtime was the primary means of dealing with peaks. Troughs meant staff cleaning the machines, tidying the shelves and generally trying to look busy when the owner walked by.
Now however in the new tightly run commercial world there has become an evident need to take a more creative approach to the staff task relationship.
This need is being met by specialist recruitment firms such as my own, Stockdale Printstaff in Melbourne, which supplies quality casual staff and recruiting services just for the printing industry. Qualified tradesmen and skilled assistants are now readily available in all prepress, printing and bindery fields for long and short-term assignments. Many of these recruitment firms work around the clock.
Yes, some casual loadings do apply in the short term, but you only pay for what you need. And these days the choices are endless. You can hire prepress tradesmen, designers and graphic artists, CTP operators, printers and assistants for all sheet fed machinery, guillotine, folder and stitcher operators, bindery assistants and bench hands. And they’re all available 24/7.
This on-call supply of qualified tradesmen means printing companies have much greater flexibility and improved production capabilities. The only thing stopping the presses now, is a breakdown.
It does not stop there, the ability to meet clients needs are also improved, as quick turnarounds become more feasible. Printing companies can say yes to more jobs when they are flat out because they have the right people to work when they need them. This means more dollars on the bottom line at the end of the month.
Legal responsibilities are also minimised. How many production managers have a thorough knowledge of the Privacy Act and how it applies to the correct handling of candidate’s applications and resumes? Companies could get themselves into trouble if personal information is collected and not handled correctly.
Your internal accounts and payroll departments will also benefit from using an outside supplier of casual staff because the reporting is done for you. Most agencies include all Workcover, Payroll Tax and Superannuation liabilities in their hourly rates and handle the payroll themselves.
Many modern printing companies are now moving towards this new methodology. You have a skilled core of permanent employees all year round and then top up with highly skilled casuals in prepress, printing and bindery to cater for your highs and lows. You preserve company morale and improve production capabilities whilst maintaining flexibility in your scheduling board. Problem solved.
There are other options though. Companies could adapt to the change by hiring more permanent staff. This is a valid approach and it does have its benefits. There are always people at hand to do the work when it arrives and having a stable group of employees is great for morale. However hiring too many permanent employees can also be costly in many ways and the biggest cost of all, besides paying employees to sit around when it is quiet, is in lost time.
The recruitment and selection of the ‘right’ type of staff is crucial for a business to succeed. It is a lengthy and thorough process when handled correctly and does take up a lot of time. For many companies the responsibility lies with direct managers and supervisors. This means that the most crucial managers in the business are spending their time writing advertisements; answering calls from unskilled applicants, reading resumes, interviewing staff and hiring and firing as opposed to attending the more immediate needs of their department. This combined with the lowest unemployment in many years means your management team are probably spending more time trying to find quality staff than they are managing them. And quite possibly by the time they find them, it is quiet again and you need to let them go.
Then there is that issue. Letting staff go. It is not that simple anymore. You cannot just let someone go without expensive payouts and due process. Then there is the negative effect on the morale of permanent witness that see one of their co-workers being forced to leave. Nobody wants to lose a good workmate. At the same time no employer wants to lose a good employee just because it is quiet for a few weeks.
Weigh the negatives up against the benefits of running a leaner permanent team and using quality casual staff to fill the gaps and the decision is easy.