Millennials are an elusive demographic for recruiting printers – the sector is rich in experience but poor in new entrants, with its invaluable skilled workers reaching retirement age and taking with them the vital capabilities of their trades. Youngsters don’t seem to be interested in replacing them.
Print is not the only sector struggling to establish clear mentorships and succession plans, which is apparent given the number of business moguls and gurus extolling the virtues of their own secret ingredient to lure trainees, apprentices and graduates into traditional lines of work.
Speaking to Arabian Business in January, Badr Jafar, chief executive of UAE conglomerate Crescent Enterprises, thinks he’s found the magic beans – corporate social responsibility (CSR). Millennials aren’t just interested in it, they demand it.
“[Young people] are not just our customers, but also our employees,” he said. “Millennials are far more conscious about broader impact [generated by] the companies they are working in and behind the products they’re buying.
“Loyalty today will only be generated through those means.”
Ethics dominate the discourse among the 18-35 demographic today – celebrities and politicians are brought low by exposure of racist and sexist conduct, brands are boycotted for using single-use plastics or guzzling fossil fuels and there are more vegetarians and vegans today than ever.
So, with a transient young workforce unbound by corporate loyalty, printers must find a new angle to attract the next generation. Where start-ups might go for free Friday drinks or office ping pong tables, these perks are novelties that wear thin – the moral integrity of a company that fulfils its CSR earnestly could draw in faithful employees for life.
BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold says: “There are real business benefits arising from ensuring that your business is a responsible, well-run and engaged organisation.
“Engaged, informed and motivated staff, who are proud to be associated with your business will not only go the extra mile, but will help attract and retain customers, who’ll also be more likely to want to keep their business with you.
“Attracting and retaining good staff is a challenge in most businesses. A reputation for being an enlightened and engaged organisation delivers real, tangible advantages here. Word gets around, and people want to work with and for you.”
Fundamentally, there are plenty of attributes across the print supply chain that lend themselves well to CSR. As an industry that churns through countless reams of paper daily, prospective employees would understandably be cynical about the industry’s sustainability, until they became suitably acquainted with the facts.
Pushing against this preconception, merchant Premier Paper leads the way with the carbon offset initiative, working with the Woodland Trust to plant trees to compensate for the CO2 generated in the paper production process. It engages clients, competitors and families in tree-planting days to make the effort tangible and fulfilling.
Group marketing director David Jones says: “Our carbon capture initiative is our biggest example of CSR by far and we are a major supporter and corporate partner of the Woodland Trust – we are probably their biggest carbon partner.
“We have 400 customers engaged with our carbon offset programme and have raised £800,000 since we started – all that money goes back to the Trust to mitigate the carbon output of the sector. We hope to hit the £1m mark this year.”
CSR is key to the identity of print folk across the UK, possibly few more so than IPIA chair and PMG managing director Mike Roberts, who oversees extensive programmes within his own company, as well as coordinating with IPIA members to engage in best practice.
He says: “I think one risk with CSR is that people can just use it as a buzzword – there are businesses who might not work as ethically or honestly as they claim to. Printers must be mindful and promote their good work.
“This could be something like supporting a local sports team or engaging with the environment and the community. We are facing a mini-crisis in terms of our ageing workforce and CSR could be one of many ways to solve that.
“At the IPIA, we have formalised our code of conduct so companies can sign it and we can audit their behaviour – it’s a great, easy way to get started if you aren’t adept at good CSR yet.”
The IPIA works across its membership to make sure engagement and charitable work is thriving in print. One particular company Roberts highlights as a shining example is Yeovil operation Blake Envelopes, whose outreach is international.
One of Blake’s key 2018 projects was the School in a Bag initiative which gets school bags to children in underprivileged parts of the world packed with the resources they need for a year of learning.
Innovation director Tim Browning says: “Charitable giving has always been a huge part of our company’s identity and we realised a year ago that we could not measure the true impact of our CSR, so we set up our own foundation, through which we work with School in a Bag.
“Last year I went to Romania to see the effect our work was having on children out there and next year I will go to Zambia and Argentina where we have partnered with organisations to make sure our donations get where they are supposed to.
“It is very important to our employees – if you help to pack a bag then you can track the progress of the child who receives it, and many have pictures of their child on their desk.
“At the point of interview lately, we have noticed that the best candidates always ask about our CSR.”
Smart CSR will win over the younger generation
Katerina Rüdiger, head of social impact and innovation, CIPD
The following are the words of a tech start-up, not a charity: “We don’t call it CSR – our founders wanted to build a company that is woven into the fabric of our communities and contributes to a fairer, more connected society.”
In recent years demand has grown from people, particularly millennials, wanting to buy from, and work for, companies that act responsibly. In turn, more business leaders are rising to the challenge of running companies that turn a profit which are also a force for good.
Traditionally, one of the ways businesses have made a positive social impact is by running volunteering schemes, which are now popular again as businesses look to boost their ethical credentials.
Volunteering can help with brand reputation, employee engagement and skills development. To help make it a success, organisations should consider the following:
Be purposeful A volunteering programme needs to address a genuine need, so look to link up with a charity where you both stand to benefit. The partnership should hit the sweet spot between using your organisation’s assets and helping the charity to achieve its goal.
Use the assets you’ve got Look for opportunities where your employees can put their existing skills to good use, rather than choosing something random. Our own research shows employees who apply their skills in a different context report increased levels of engagement and an improvement in their health and well-being.
Make it strategic Employers should look at how employee volunteering can feed into any development opportunities for staff and help their professional growth.
Be collaborative The most successful organisations don’t go it alone, but engage their supply chains, local networks and industry peers. Data company Profusion has just set up the Silicon Roundabout Social Impact Network, bringing together like-minded businesses who want to help out in their local community.
What does CSR mean to your company?
Andy Jackson, managing director, H&H Reeds
“We are doing some really exciting things with charities and the local community. Each year, we pick a few charities to work with and ours for 2019 include Mind and the Cumbria Community Foundation. We also provide paper and resources to schools and art classes. People’s perception of print is as an old profession, so we aim to promote what we are doing. Young people think about an employer’s ethics more than pensions or death in service now. It’s more than just a job – it’s about how a business fits into the community.”
Gunvinder Bhogal, head of marketing, Bakergoodchild
“The whole company is quite aware of its responsibilities. One key initiative we are developing over the next few years is a commitment to the environment through recycling and new products like potato starch wraps. We want to encourage others to take up similar things. Our company dog Alfie, who won our Christmas jumper competition, died late last year, so we donated his winnings to the Broken Souls charity. Anything we can do to reflect we are part of a movement of progressive, ethical companies is good for recruitment.”
Lynn Brazier, joint managing director, One Digital
“Key aspects of our CSR are a duty of care to our staff and giving something back to the community. We are a successful business and it is important to differentiate by making clear we are in a position to give something back. We paid to manufacture a snail statue for the local Martlets Hospice and when it was auctioned off, I believe the 55 statues donated by businesses raised about £231,000. In the same month we took £1 from each invoice and donated, which came to an additional £1,000. Involving customers makes them feel good, too.”