The Print Labor Force and Its Changing Demographics
Guest Post: Ryan McAbee, Pixel Dot Consulting and The Print University
Those born after 1981, usually labeled Millennials and GenZ, now make up the largest portion of the workforce at over 40%. This part of the labor force is different from previous generations but also shares some similarities. Unemployment rates have been low in most developed countries for the past few years, which makes hiring more difficult. The printing industry is no exception, as print service providers of all types and sizes have struggled to fill vacancies. Understanding today’s workforce and the growing GenZ segment can give you an advantage in shaping your recruitment, hiring, and retention programs.
How These Generations Are Different
Millennials and GenZ are digital natives, so they are adept at using and learning workplace technologies and modern communication methods. Slack, WhatsApp, and text messages are generally preferred over phone calls and e-mail. Unlike previous generations, these groups focus more on work-life balance, opportunities, and challenges in the work environment, in addition to engaged feedback. They are the generations with the highest rates of post-secondary education who want their ideas and opinions to be seen and valued within the organization — even more than the previous generations. Printing organizations should strive to include their input in strategic and technology decisions.
Contrary to popular belief, these generations are not lazy or unmotivated. Accenture’s GenZ Rising report revealed that 71% would consider taking an unpaid internship if a paid job was unavailable, and 58% consider it acceptable to work on the weekends. This does not imply that these generations do not expect equal accommodation and flexibility from their employers. To meet employee expectations, employers should focus on flexibility in schedule, including remote work when possible, more independent direction, and collaborative managerial oversight. Interestingly, 84% of respondents also expect their first employer to provide formal training. While formal training options have decreased in the printing industry, there are options for self-directed, video-based training that printing organizations can offer through The Print University.
Another key difference in the most recent generations is their belief that businesses can and should take on environmental and societal issues beyond their corporate walls. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important aspects within the workplace, not surprising considering GenZ is also the most ethnically diverse generation. Climate change and sustainability are also issues at the forefront for these generations. The printing industry continues to make gains in recyclability, removal or elimination of chemicals, transformation of printing processes that reduce input materials (like water), use of recycled content, and other environmentally beneficial advances. Creating and promoting these messages using resources like Two Sides should be used in marketing and recruitment efforts to reinforce paper and printing are sustainable and critical to society.
Be a Desirable Employer
Although Millennials and GenZ may have different skill sets, perspectives, and expectations in the workplace, they do share similarities with past generations. They expect to be paid a fair, livable wage for the work being done. The work must be engaging and sufficiently challenging. Managers that are encouraging, responsive, and supportive to the employee’s contribution and concerns are universally sought after. Printing companies cannot forget the fundamentals of being a desirable place to work, but they should also realize that the younger generations in the workforce have different motivations and expectations — ones that can be adjusted to improve your recruitment and retention efforts.
Ryan McAbee is the principal at Pixel Dot Consulting, a firm that partners with companies in the production printing industry to ‘Elevate print through tech.’ We help OEMs and PSPs define and build their future through consulting, market analysis, product strategy, sales enablement, and industry education services. Ryan has spent over 20 years immersed in the technology that powers print, working with a wide range of well-known and industry leading vendors and print service providers.
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