The key to efficiency in your shop is investing in your employees.
When looking at ways to improve the efficiency of a business, much attention is paid to bottom lines and dollar signs. But to make significant enhancements company-wide, what is often overlooked is investing in people. Arming your staff with key knowledge, encouraging continued education, and putting frameworks in place that open communications channels within the company are all ways of maximizing your investment in staff. This is an investment that will pay off in increased efficiency, increased levels of staff morale and workplace satisfaction, and innovation. Really, it’s all about the people.
Invest in Staff Training to Maximize Equipment and Software Use
The print industry is constantly evolving. New equipment, new software, new products, new ways of serving customers. It’s a lot to stay on top of, and it’s expensive. When you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on equipment or new software, it doesn’t make sense to have it run by staff members who are only vaguely aware of its full range of functions.
When I first arrived at StickerYou, it quickly became clear that staff members lacked insight into the software and equipment we use. There was an old-school approach to training, which was to throw staff into the deep end to learn on their own after a very basic overview of the job. For an e-commerce company that relies on timeliness in production and quick-response customer care, it was imperative that we make changes to educate staff so they could easily keep up with the demands of the business.
We created a team of trainers within the company that consist primarily of production, HR, and sales staff with a goal to create a 12-month calendar plan for training sessions on specialty topics including product knowledge and sales techniques, with primary training twice a year and refreshers slotted in-between. There’s a heavy emphasis on production, types of product, and quality. Armed with this knowledge, client-facing sales staff are much better equipped to answer client questions quickly and satisfactorily, gaining more sales and losing fewer.
Make Use of Vendors
Your relationship with your vendors shouldn’t end when the equipment or software arrives at your company. Connecting with vendors and working with them to provide insight into industry trends, how they relate to products, unique features, and what’s new in the market are excellent ways to keep staff up to date with the latest knowledge. This not only allows client-facing staff to answer questions quickly without putting customers on hold while they search for an answer, but also allows these ideas to percolate, providing a fertile ground for innovation and increased efficiency in your business, as staff apply the expert knowledge they’ve acquired to the workplace environment.
Educate your team on workflows, the differences between substrates, cut laminate, UV applications – anything that helps them to more accurately understand timelines so they don’t overpromise to customers and can easily answer common customer questions. Some vendors already have training programs in place, but others may need some pushing. There are many ways to engage vendors in training, whether it’s bringing a rep to your company or sending your staff to the vendor. Whichever way works, it’s of benefit to your company to maximize vendor knowledge.
You may have hated tests in school, but they served a very useful purpose. Studies show people better remember information when they’re required to recall it. With regular testing, knowledge levels will improve quickly.
As we build our training schedule at StickerYou, we’re implementing twice-yearly testing in order to ensure our staff retains knowledge from training throughout the year. This not only helps staff remember what they’ve learned, but also will give you a good sense of what your staff has retained, and what they may need further training in.
Train Your Customers
It’s not only your staff that needs training. Your customers need training, as well. It’s essential that your staff are able to work with customers to inform and train them in the best ways to use your company to maximize the dollars they spend with you. This can be anything from consulting on what size files print best to educating them on timelines, refund policies, and more.
For us, educating customers on issues with bad files, refund revenue, etc., helped improve internal programs, such as OnHolds and refunds, and resulted in improved wait times as staff were much more quickly able to handle customer complaints.
Make your customers accountable for what they send to you. Send files they need to fix back with an explanation and instructions on how to do it properly. Have your well-trained staff walk them through the process. The more you can teach your customers about best practices with your company, the fewer repeat mistakes you’ll encounter when they submit orders or engage with your brand, and the more efficient processes across the board will become.
Build Staff Morale
Staff training is more than just making sure your staff knows the ins and outs of your company. It’s also a way to build engagement and confidence in the job, which leads to higher staff morale and lower turnover rates. When staff are not engaged at work or are overwhelmed by tasks they haven’t been trained well enough to handle successfully, this snowballs into feelings of frustration that can lead to high turnover rates. It’s frustrating to make mistakes purely because you didn’t have the information necessary at the time not to make them. It’s disheartening and can have a detrimental effect on staff morale.
Feeling like you don’t really have a full understanding of your position or work is frustrating. No one likes to feel inadequate at their job. By training staff to get them up to speed, not only are you investing in making your company more efficient, you’re showing your staff they’re worth investing in, and you believe they can and will learn what they need to excel at their jobs.
Implementing effective staff training takes time, initiative, and planning. But the results are worth it. By introducing new knowledge through internal and vendor trainings, regular testing for knowledge retention, and helping staff train customers on best practices, you will create an environment in which your staff can learn and flourish. Your staff are your most important investment: they run your company and they’re the front line in customer engagement. It’s good business sense to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, which will in turn lead to a more efficiently run business, higher morale, and lower turnover rates. Your staff is your biggest asset – it only makes sense to invest in them.
Ward Stewart is the director of production operations at StickerYou where he oversees print production, production art, quality control, order management, supply chain, logistics, inventory management, and the entire production management team. He has 20 years of experience managing and building brands regionally and nationally.