Workers of the print world, unite!

A gym onsite. Ear muffs to ward off machine noise. A technical workshop or seminar. These may sound like perks but are benefits to its workers that print companies are extending, and are making workers' well-being a priority. However, what we see in some print shops-workers are being treated like lesser human beings, underpaid and penalised for minor errors. This feature provides simple tips to boost your workers, make them happy as well as have them part of the business strategy.

01 Apr 2016 | By Noel D'Cunha

Three narratives are unfolding in the print industry.
It's something very few openly talk!
1) One print operator I spoke to said: “I work 12 hours minimum per day. Plus there are major issues of payment. I am paid in cash voucher because I cannot have a parity pay with the senior members of the print firm who are working for the same organisation for the past two decades. So, instead of re-working the terms and conditions, payment is in an underhand way."
2) There are innumerable stories about workers being penalised. For example, how legitimate is it to penalise a daily wage worker for an error that has resulted in the wastage of 200 sheets during the lamination process. Is this valid? Is this ethical?
3) When young people and print graduates approach us for help with a graduate recruitment programme, we realise that the serious high growth companies are growing and excelling because they tap fresh talent and utilise a graduate programme which gives them access to a talent pool they wouldn't necessarily have through other methods of recruitment.
Instead of dwelling on each firm, individually, I have put together ten reasons how your workers or employees can stay loyal.
Ten ways to please your workforce
1. A decent benefits package helps. Statistics tell us that benefits play an important role in employee motivation and retention. Please nb: cash is NOT benefit. A benefit is an attractive package at a minimum cost. Home loans; and even student support for the children of your workers are a good way to retain a good worker.
2. Regular feedback session. The reason for leaving your organisation is usually not a lower salary. The reasons could be ‘I don’t get along with my client service manager’, ‘I don’t like the job’, 'I am stagnating', etc. It's always good to conduct feedback sessions. 
One company in Bhiwandi does a daily huddle in all departments of the organisation. This daily huddle is an eight-minute meeting, which keeps every department up-to-date with the company’s progress. The huddle starts with every member announcing his foremost focus for the day, moving on to the important numbers for the organisation like sales targets, rejections, etc. Later, there's discussion about any missing system and/or opportunity that a member would like to highlight. This is how the company kick starts the day with a cheer on their face.
3. Soon enough the top print players will have to be "worker compliant". Already there is a buzz about medical insurances and a pension reform. Soon your clients (the MNCs) will demand health care provision for employees. As a result, demand for private healthcare plans delivered through employers is rising. 
4. Buying a holiday or a vacation is a popular scheme among some companies. This includes the dining discount card/retail discounts, gym memberships, etc. Even an ear muff or hearing aid for workers in the post-press department will be a boon.
5. Offering holiday flexibility. For instance, in Maharashtra, the Ganapati season is a good time to offer holiday, while it is the Durga season in West Bengal.  In practice, this means longer days during the peak production season are set off against more time off during quieter periods – this goes down well with employees, particularly those with young families or elderly parents in the hometown. 
6. To have an emergency corpus fund. This can help employees, should they need it. I have heard of innumerable instances where a company has lent money to workers who have been in financial difficulty. It would be nice if this is institutionalised rather than looking like a largesse from a benevolent boss. 
7. How to motivate senior staffers whose salaries are facing “the law of diminishing returns”. Salary sacrifice – a tax efficient arrangement, where the employee gives up a portion of their salary in return for a non-cash benefit – like PFs and pensions and to a lesser degree flexible working, a family-first policy, mental and physical wellbeing exercises and support, family crisis support and mentoring, helps. 
8. Print firms located outside of the city are likely to have many members of staff commuting in from some distance away by car. Therefore, rewards for car pools and even cycle from railway station to work are good boosters. Arranging a staff bus is also a great idea. But ensure the staff bus is an exciting space. Occasionally the top management should travel by the same bus to add to the WOW quotient. 
9. Free tea, coffee, etc go down well with workers. Likewise, pay for the mobile phones for the employee’s personal use. A lot of firms are doing a company deal with the service provider. This ensures a handset may be provided.
10. Providing training programmes. Ensuring the team (and not just the bosses) attend trade shows and seminars.  Also signing them for the latest webinars and online training. If you are looking towards new technologies. You wouldn't want your team to be driving an old Ambassador or a Fiat, would you? The fact is that people and technology are changing fast. More and more money is spent on digital and the like. You (and your team) need to move with the times, not stand still and daydream.
Conclusion: Ashok Goel, vice chairman and managing director of Essel Propack says, the secret to success in building any business isn't such a mystery, and ‘people power’ is one of them. “Nurture your people as a platform from where you can build a business that can propel further growth,” he says.


Workers are important.

This is a matter of concern among all firms (SME / MSME), and not just "my favourite list".

I spoke to a company CEO in Ahmedabad. His company, which has around 40 staff and a turnover of between Rs 5-6 crore, was “continuing to grow and strengthen in these difficult times”. The company supplies 1,437 vast-and-varied print product types.

This means having people who could sell concepts and understand all aspects of the business and external management qualifications.

Another company approached a design school and hired talent from it. The young designer I spoke to said: “It was the ethos and feel of print that most attracted me to apply. I liked the look of the start-up kind of approach. Also, I can rotate around the company, spending time in all the departments.”

If creativity, innovation and choice’ will be the theme for print – then along with new products, new technology, new applications, we need the best choice of candidates.

When we look at companies like Signtech System or Parkar Communication or Avenue or Pioneer which create POS / POP products you realise they are catering to an upbeat market in which the signage and promotional display sector have seen an increase in work. More importantly, the customers are from the creative industries, brand managers and graphic designers. This means end-users need someone who can help them navigate the products in an effective and productive manner, offer the new features and provide slick live demonstrations of new equipment.

You have to pay for this brain power.

It is our contention at PrintWeek India that the real wages of workers in Indian print manufacturing has to go up. In the past two decades, the growth in nominal wages appears to have been crowded out by a consistent stagnation in the consumer print index. This has meant the scenario for attracting top talent is bleak.