Strategic People Management

Posted By: Wayne Lynn Pressing News,

As Millennials move into leadership and ownership responsibilities in our industry they are uniquely positioned and qualified to take a strategic view of the management and development of our human assets. In this article Wayne Lynn takes a look at this opportunity and how it can be capitalized upon.  Read on to see how the future can be better shaped by better use of our people.

The oldest millennials who are working in the industry today are in their early 40’s.  They are moving into ownership and key leadership roles.  If you are in this group this article is for you.  You are entering leadership roles at a pivotal time in the industry’s history.  Over the last 50 years we’ve seen digital pre-press technology eliminate hordes of manual, highly paid crafts people.  We’ve been through the quality revolution and learned to improve our processes.  We operate extremely lean compared to the waste and productivity levels that were the norm when I first joined our industry.  We’ve seen automation make serious impacts on our technology to the point that the amount of skill and knowledge to do many of our jobs is much less demanding.  It took four years back in the day for an offset pressman to learn to properly set color.  That entire process is automated on today’s latest equipment.

We’ve come a long way and should be proud.  In my view, there are still challenges that we’ve not confronted and dealt with and, frankly, a couple of them may be here for a while.  We work in an industry that is awash in change in two areas; 1) advancing digital technology and 2) how graphic reproduction and adjacent services are looked at and used by customers who have a plethora of media channels to choose from and whose expertise is not in what we do.  To better equip ourselves to deal with these challenges there are two issues in the talent management area of our companies that need to be dealt with.

Carol Dweck in her book Mindset identified two mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in his book Hit Refresh explained the two mindsets like this.

People in the grasp of a “fixed mindset” spend a lot of time being excellent, proving how good they are, and seeking to be right.  People who approach problems with a “growth mindset”, in contrast, are focused on learning, on keeping an open mind toward new information, and are less concerned with being good than with getting better.

I included this quote because I think it puts a great frame around the two issues.  The fixed mindset was prevalent for decades.  There were no inflection points looming on the horizon until the invention of the internet and the concept of one-to-one marketing.  Many people and companies vanished from the industry almost overnight as the Great Recession altered marketing budgets and the way marketers thought about their craft.

A growth mindset is required today as things change so fast and in unpredictable ways.  To cope we need to keep learning, be open to new ideas and new information, and highly motivated to stay focused on self-improvement.

Now, to the issues I mentioned earlier.  They are:

  • We need better leaders and we need to accept the fact that it’s up to us to develop and grow them ourselves;
  • We need to learn to find, attract, hire, motivate and retain great people. If you were to somehow assess your employees and compute an average level of talent I think most of you would be disappointed.  We need to win over our fair share of bright, young talent needed in an industry where technology is converging and historical market segments are rapidly blurring.

Now is the time to come to grips with these issues.  So, my plan for this article is to lay out an approach to move us in a direction than can resolve them.  This is pretty prescriptive.   It flows step-by-step in the way I would begin this journey into the future. 

  • The first thing to know is that you’re going to need a behavioral assessment tool. This tool must:
    • Measure enough behavioral factors to accurately assess and predict the probability of success in a specific job;
    • Once you read a report analyzing the probability of success in a job and it predicts a potential for failure in one or more areas due to behavioral gaps or imbalances the tool must provide a process for overcoming the behavioral issues that may be in your way.
    • From the same original data set that came out of your online survey the tool should be able to:
    • Measure emotional intelligence;
    • Assess leadership potential;
    • Assess employee engagement;
    • Measure how well a person will perform as a team player;
    • Measure the effectiveness of a team and identify issues that will keep it from performing at a high level.

  • If you’re going to build a company that leads its market through high performing people you must do your best to insure that the folks you hire and the ones you promote are well suited for the job. They not only need to be qualified through their experience, skills and knowledge (they must know how to do the job) but they need to have a good behavioral match to the job.  People who enjoy their job are likely to be good at it.  This means the strongest traits and tendencies they have insure they will do the job.  On the flip side, if we are not vigilant this is how people who are poorly suited for their jobs enter your company and, later, perhaps get promoted beyond their level of competence.  This is your first line of defense in building a superior team.

  • Learn to properly triage non-performance issues and take the appropriate corrective action. There are 4 general categories of problems that can lead to non-performance:
    • Personal issues – things going on in someone’s life not related to the job but impacting their performance, i.e., marital difficulties, financial stress, sickness in the family, etc. The corrective action is to make available any employee assistance resources you may have.
    • Skill issues – they may not have been properly trained or there may be handicap issues. The corrective action is providing the training needed or the proper workspace needed.
    • Motivation issues – the employee may not be getting their needs met from an expectation standpoint. This is crucial for many Millennials as they tend to want more from their jobs than the generations that preceded them.  There are around 20 of these expectations typically found in people and the intensity of any of them varies from person to person.  And, some of these expectations can remain unmet due to the lack of certain behavioral tendencies.  For example, some people have a strong desire for advancement and want to see opportunities for promotions.  If those people don’t have a strong Wants Challenge trait they will probably not succeed if promoted.  This must be assessed and a conversation had with the employee.  Cutting to the point here, the proper corrective action is to assess those expectations, meet with the employee and agree on a course of action that will give the employee opportunities to meet their most intense needs and expectations.
    • Behavioral issues – the employee is not well suited to perform in the job they hold. There are two sub issues in this one.  First is the case where the gap is large.  The best solution in this case is to re-assign the employee to a job they are better suited to do.  This can be touchy but the painful reality is that the employee is not performing, probably doesn’t like the job, and is experiencing a lot of job-related stress.  The second case is where the gap is not as large and the employee is motivated to perform but because of the behavioral mismatches is struggling.  This is a tough place for a person to be in.  It’s a tough place for a manager to be.  There is an effective way out however.  The appropriate corrective action is to begin coaching in a structured manner that is designed to help the person learn new behaviors and become comfortable using them.  As those new behavioral habits form the employee will start to enjoy his/her accomplishments and job performance will move into acceptable levels.

At the end of the day, as an owner you can invest your capital in assets used by the business model of your company to make and sell products to your market and yield a good financial return.  This hinges, of course, on your ability to smartly decide which assets to invest in, use them in growing markets, and maintain them for their serviceable life.  As an owner, you can also invest capital in the human assets of your business to train and develop them.  If done in a knowledgeable and smart way, this investment can pay back, probably with increasing returns, over the entire lifespan of an employee’s service with you.  That’s a very powerful way to spend your money.  Besides, where else can you invest in your business and give another human being a chance to improve and live a better life?

If you are interested in exploring this further, I encourage you to contact me personally at You can also sign up for the The Paradoxical Leadership Development Program which has been developed by me specifically for the members of PIAG. Each participant, once enrolled, will take a 25-minute online personality assessment to create the database from which all their behavioral information is derived. Once the assessment has been taken, participants will then join a half day class to understand how the 12 paradoxes of human behavior work together on a personal and professional level. Interested? Register today.