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11 Innovative Strategies to Overcome In-Plant Staffing Issues: Part 1

  • Howie Fenton
  • |
  • May 07, 2024

Staffing issues aren’t getting easier for in-plants. 

In-plant printers today are facing a dire shortage of skilled labor, exacerbated by several factors: an aging workforce nearing retirement, a dwindling interest among youth caused by unfavorable industry perceptions, the absence of educational feeder programs such as print technical programs, and non-competitive compensation offerings.  

All of this means that finding the right employees is actually getting harder for in-plants. And in-plant service providers today need to do what they can to innovate their recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies to secure that top talent.  

This is the first in a two-part series in which I’ll outline 11 recommendations I’ve put together to help you recruit, hire, and retain new employees — especially Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennial generations as Baby Boomers begin to retire.  

This article covers the first six of those recommendations. 

6 Recommendations for Recruiting, Hiring, and Retaining Staff

So how do in-plants attract and retain these younger generations, to continue to build their staff as Baby Boomers retire? To come up with an answer, it’s important to look at what motivates Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials in today’s workforce.  

Competitive wage and benefits strategies, technologies that interest younger people, on-the-job training, modern recruiting strategies, and an employment referral program are all key to these generations. Which means there are plenty of tactics businesses can try — including several out-of-the-box strategic shifts — to appeal to these younger generations. 

We’ll dig into each more closely in the six recommendations below, as well as in the five yet to come in Part 2 of this series.  

1. Make an Effort to Better Understand Young People

Everything hinges on understanding younger workers, since these demographics are vital for the longevity of the industry. To cater to the distinct values and career expectations of Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z, you first need to understand what drives them: 

  • Gen X values job security, advancement opportunities, and work-life balance. They want clear communication, recognition, and to play a significant role at work. Leadership roles, professional growth opportunities, and a work culture that respects personal time are all very appealing to them.  

  • Millennials want a collaborative, innovative, and socially responsible workplace. In-plants can attract Millennials by demonstrating their commitment to technological evolution and sustainable practices and offering mentorship, career advancement opportunities, and flexible work arrangements.  

  • Gen Z, being true digital natives, look for workplaces that integrate technology seamlessly. They're entrepreneurial and attracted to innovative fields like computer design, 3D printing, labels, posters, and packaging. Creative roles and opportunities for innovation, as well as a demonstrable commitment to diversity and inclusion, will attract this newest working generation.  

2. Ensure Your Wages Are Competitive  

If you want to attract the best talent, offering salaries that match or exceed those of your competitors is crucial. When that is not possible, in-plants can emphasize their benefits packages, making job offers more attractive to both younger and older candidates.  

In-plant printers have an edge in this area, as they can generally offer benefits worth 35% to 50% of an employee's salary — significantly more than the 15% to 30% typically provided by commercial printers. A robust benefits package will attract both younger and older candidates.

3. Stay up to Date on Technology

Companies looking for help implementing or using new technologies — including web page development, design, programming for automation, and workflow automation tools — are particularly attractive to younger generations. After all, these generations prioritize innovation, creativity, and efficiency in the workplace.  

Software tools such as the Adobe Suite, Web to Print, Print MIS, color management, and prepress software all fit these criteria. These technologies foster environments that resonate with Millennials and Gen Z for their alignment with a digital-first approach, capacity for creative expression, and emphasis on streamlined, engaging work.  

By adopting and promoting these tools, in-plants signal a commitment to a forward-thinking, tech-savvy culture that values data-driven decision-making and offers a dynamic and flexible work environment — all of which are key to attracting and retaining young talent.

4. Offer On-the-Job Training

Both younger and older generations are highly motivated by companies offering on-the-job training. On-the-job training represents an opportunity for personal and professional growth, which is a significant draw for Millennials and Gen Z employees especially.  

They view it as a chance to enhance their skill sets, increase their marketability, and progress in their careers without necessarily investing time and resources in formal education outside of work.  

Today, digital training platforms — including e-learning and virtual reality (VR) — offer innovative ways to bring untrained new employees up to speed, providing a remedy for the dwindling pool of experienced professionals. Embracing these advanced technologies can also enhance the appeal of in-plants to a younger, more tech-savvy workforce drawn to cutting-edge and progressive workplaces.

5. Draw on Modern Recruitment Strategies

Harnessing the power of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for recruitment is a crucial strategy in the modern workforce. It goes beyond mere job postings to actively engage with potential candidates, particularly tapping into the passive job-seeker market.  

In addition, a forward-thinking recruitment approach includes tapping into the often-overlooked segments of the labor market, sometimes referred to as the "hidden workforce." This diverse group encompasses retirees eager to re-engage with professional life, caregivers returning to the workforce, and individuals without formal degrees.

6. Use Employee Referral Programs  

These programs are used in other businesses and encourage employees to recommend qualified candidates from their personal networks for open positions. They’re established by first clearly outlining the terms of the program and its rewards, which could include monetary or time-off bonuses or other incentives.  

Employees submit referrals through a formal channel — whether it be paper, web-based, or a meeting with the boss — providing details on why the candidate is a good fit. The company tracks these referrals and keeps the referring employees informed throughout the hiring process. If the candidate is hired and stays with the company beyond a probationary period, the referring employee will receive the promised reward.


Strategies like those above — and the further five I’ll share in my next blog post — can help showcase the industry's commitment to personal and professional development, and offer younger generations some of the qualities they’re looking for in a career today. By adopting some of these tactics, in-plants can begin to build their appeal for prospective hires — and better retain the staff they bring on.   

In the second part of this series, we’ll discuss more motivations beyond the paycheck, building a marketing ground campaign, getting involved in recruitment events, an innovative risk-free evaluation process, and retaining staff.

11 Innovative Strategies to Overcome In-Plant Staffing Issues: Part 1

Hiring employees has become increasingly challenging for in-plants. As older employees retire, younger generations — including Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Y — are becoming more and more difficult to draw in. But with a clearer idea of what these generations are looking for, and by introducing new programs and tactics that align with those needs, in-plants can begin to make their businesses more appealing for young hires.  

The first in a two-part series, this blog post looks at six of 11 recommendations on how to do that.

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About the Author

Howie Fenton

Howie Fenton is an independent consultant and trusted advisor to in-plant printers. He recommends equipment, best practices and workflow automation tools to streamline operations. To learn more about measuring performance, benchmarking to leaders, and improving your value e-mail Howie@howiefentonconsulting.com

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