I’m now getting hate mail from sales reps and CSRs. OK. I understand the concerns – but I used to get hate mail from typographers and strippers when I suggested that their days were numbered. I’m not saying sales reps and CSRs are going to go away – I’m suggesting that we need to do things differently. With today’s workflow and movement of files, do we really need sales reps holding a customer’s hand? Do CSRs really need to be running all over the plant chasing down jobs? If you look at our industry’s more sophisticated operations, they’ve integrated their MIS systems with their production workflow. So, why aren’t more companies doing so? As always it gets down to money – and vision.
The software technology exists to truly have a Management Information System and an integrated production workflow. But it takes a capital investment in “non-production” equipment AND re-training our team to work differently. And if you think about it, our front offices still operate very similar to how they did 15-20 years ago. Not true for our production folks.
Do I have an answer? NO, each company is different, but the need to squeeze costs out of our traditional workflow in the front office is necessity for all companies.
Here are some thoughts to consider: Does your sales and CSR team still operate the way it did 10 years ago? What have you done to reduce the touch points between the estimating process and order entry? Are you estimating from a price list? Why not? Are you still having production meetings every day? Why? What can you do so that these meetings are not necessary? What can (must) be done to simplify the process? It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be painful. So put on your Big Boy/Girl pants, and get after it!
I just can’t resist returning to health care — or The Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA/Obamacare) as that wonderful piece of legislation is known. It’s such an oxymoron, I can’t resist.
I had my interest piqued the other day by a notice I received on AHCA — it was a notification from the Department of Health and Human Services on the development of standards for the Affordable Insurance Exchanges (45 CFR Parts 155 and 157 for you geeky types). These are the state run exchanges which “will provide competitive marketplaces for individuals and small employers to directly compare available private health insurance options on the basis of price, quality, and other factors.”
I don’t know what I was thinking (or was I?), but I started reading the 35 pages of details in the Federal Register — and rapidly determined that the Exchanges (as they are known) are going to make Homeland Security seem like a micro agency. The scope of detail which will be monitored and regulated by the Exchanges is very broad and will necessitate a very large bureaucracy. The exchanges will be responsible to make sure that individuals have valid social security numbers; that they qualify for appropriate discounts (which means they’ll have to interface with the IRS and/or employers); coordinate with Medicare/Medicaid/CHIP to ensure that the individuals don’t qualify for those plans — and these rules didn’t even mention how the Exchanges are going to work with insurance carriers to make sure that the coverage is “affordable.”
I’m amazed at how our government has determined that the “initial” cost of the exchanges will be expensive, but long term costs will be reduced because of the “use of efficient systems.” Hmm. Government and efficient systems — another oxymoron. In my opinion, this solution is not going to be affordable — in the short-run or long-run. But it sounds like a pretty creative way to reduce unemployment.
My last posting covered the Administration’s proposal (or attempt) to provide goodies on one hand, while dishing out “other” stuff with the other. Well, it really hit the fan on Thursday with the announcement by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which will require mandated postings in the shop/office explaining employee rights for collective bargaining (unionization). Continue reading
This past March Motheral Printing hosted an Association breakfast meeting on the generation “gap.” It was one of the best programs I’ve seen on this topic – and I’ve been to a few.
It was led by David Danforth with Eastfield Community College and Dr. Rick Lumadue with Texas A&M – Commerce. These college professors, who are both Gen X-ers (born between 1964 and 1980), were very entertaining and candid with their observations. These were not guys who are consultants or doctorial candidates writing research papers. Every day they are seeing the new generation (Millennials) in the classroom, and they are also interfacing with the Boomers (administrators).
The key to this program was the observation that the upcoming Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are motivated very differently than the Boomers or Gen X-ers. They communicate differently—via blogs IMs and text messaging rather than phone or face-to-face preferred by the older generation, who are frequently their supervisors. They are heavily influenced by their parents and peers and are very team oriented. Where Gen X-ers were highly independent and self-motivated, the Millennials need structure and very focused leadership. Millennials are multi-taskers and are not use to having lines of authority – they ask “why.”
Given that our industry’s workforce composition is beginning to change, managers and supervisors need to understand the dynamics of the groups they manage and how their own biases can affect their leadership. The more we can learn about ourselves and our workforce, the better leaders we become. If you would like a copy of the PowerPoint presentation used by Danforth and Lumadue, please contact me.
It’s not what I really expected to happen, but Wisconsin’s legislators “went medieval” (to use a wonderful phrase from “Pulp Fiction”) on the unions this week. The repercussions should be very interesting and started with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka saying that the action was a “corruption of democracy.” A bit far-fetched, and as Jim Kyger, PIA’s Human Relations guru noted – why wasn’t Trumka saying that about last year’s landmark health care legislation?
What’s being hidden in all of this rhetoric is the fact that collective bargaining has created situations which are now becoming financially un-supportable. With over 50% of unionized employees working for the government, this also creates some crucial issues for taxpayers – who tend to be supportive of collective bargaining for government employees (although I mistrust how the survey questions are designed). The electorate doesn’t really have a clue what it’s going to cost them. There continues to be the idea that the “government can afford it.”
Collective bargaining may have had its place in past years, but over the decades both sides (management/employees) have acted like high school football players at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and are now paying for their over indulgence. Or should I say we’re going to pay for it.
We are seeing unprecedented changes in the Middle East. Egypt and Tunisia are being transformed, and now we are seeing similar occurrences in Libya. Needless to say these changes are going to have ramifications on the US for years to come. But if you really want to look at some potential radical change, don’t go east — but north to Wisconsin. Continue reading
It’s interesting how we are seeing the Executive Branch take a very aggressive position in attempting to create/change legislation through regulation. We saw it earlier this year with the EPA attempting to regulate CO2 emissions. Now we have the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) wanting to require all employer to post notices informing employees of their rights under the NLRA. You don’t know about the National Labor Relations Act? It’s basically the law which give employees the right to unionize. So, if the NLRB has its way, businesses will be required to post a notice that says, “Don’ like it here? Call a union organizer.” Wonderful. Public comments are due by February 22, 2011, and Printing Industries of America will be commenting per Jim Kyger, PIA’s VP Human Resources.
An article last week made mention that Wall Street’s banks had eased their credit terms to hedge funds and private-equity firms that borrow against securities and trade over-the-counter derivatives. To quote the great Yogi — “It’s deja vu all over again.” There is more cash sitting on the sidelines than there’s been in a long time, and these guys get more access to additional dollars so they can speculate. Wow, what a country!
Elizabeth Warren, who leads the congressional panel overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said U.S. taxpayer bailouts helped Wall Street and not small banks. TARP “worked really well for the Wall Street banks, but it didn’t work well for the rest of the banks in the system,” she recently said on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop with Betty Liu.”
I hate to say it, but I think that our financial system is out of sync.
Meanwhile, the folks who make this country great, our blue collar workers and small business men and women are getting the short end of the stick. Our politicians are not willing to find creative ways to help businesses and people, get off the sidelines. There’s talk of more money for education, job creation, and small business lending. Why not just stop writing laws for a while and let the system move forward. Get creative with finding ways to support small and medium size businesses to get the money they need to start producing and hiring — and don’t expect it to happen overnight! Too many folks in our country don’t understand that business (and consumers) won’t start hiring/spending until they know what’s going to happen over the next 12-18 months. As long as the Administration and Congress keep talking about more laws and more deficit spending, more the reason folks will stop, wait and see. Not a good way to kick-start an economy.
Education it’s not what it used to be . . . or so goes the mantra uttered by many baby boomers and their parents. And it’s true. It’s not what it used to be especially when it comes to technical/vocational training. As our society has become more complex and the demand for better educated individuals has been voiced over the past two decades, the solution has been a focus by our country’s educators to improve education in the United States. Yet, I’m concerned about the results. Continue reading
Several months ago I ran across commentary from individuals criticizing the industry for its lack of commitment in supporting educational institutions and training. While I agree that we have some real issues facing us regarding workforce development, attempting to re-create the trade/vocational programs in the high schools to solve this problem may not be viable – for a whole host of reasons. Continue reading