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Build Your Business: Management
Managing Today’s WorkplaceDigital technology, multiple locations and a new employee demographic are a few factors contributing to a new professional reality.
When managing multiple locations, communication and check-ins are essential.
Two months ago, we were all enjoying the synergy typically found in most workplaces, whether it’s handing out high-fives for fellow colleagues’ accomplishments or socializing near the microwave in the break room. Conversations — mostly of the trivial nature — centered on traffic or whatever weather Mother Nature felt like throwing at us.
What a difference a few months make. As of press time, many of us are working from home offices, chatting with co-workers via Zoom or, unfortunately, navigating circumstances related to unemployment.
In today’s economy, the best companies will move quickly and adapt. Considering this global COVID-19 pandemic, this is not only beneficial for the bottom line, but also for survival. Scrapping original plans and changing on the fly becomes a reality. Case in point: This article originally was going to be focused on how to keep your team organized and provide an analysis of the new workplace in a much broader scope. Given recent events, however, that focus has shifted.
Some companies have chosen remote operations due to their cultures or nature of their businesses; the majority of the apparel industry was forced into it. This can be a major hurdle for manufacturers.
Some apparel-industry experts have provided insights for a well-rounded view of how the industry has responded to factors such as digital technology, managing multiple locations and the “new” worker — all comprising today’s new workplace.
Our AMB3R Creative team always hunts for ways to do things more efficiently. Selecting technology for your workplace, as well as constructing a plan for how all of those technologies will work together, is more vital than it may seem at first glance. Dominic Rosacci, CEO of Superior Ink, Denver, and a founding member of Allmade Apparel, says digital technology has helped him scale his business.
“I think one of the largest benefits has been the process of building and improving workflows,” he says. “This helps things like the supply chain for sure, but also just the small details along the way — from proofing and approvals, to ordering, to accounting and sourcing.”
Saving a few minutes a day, implementing communications software that allows for a major mistake to be caught, and automating tasks and customer relationship management (CRM) can make or break your company’s profit margin. If you invest in software that costs $300 a year, but allows you to avoid a $4,000 mistake, then it should be factored into the cost analysis of technology-related purchases.
Automation and digital technology also allow more time for your employees to expand company ideas and move forward rather than waste time by manually entering tasks or tracking projects in a notebook. They likely appreciate the help digital technology provides as well, contributing to a happier culture.
With the recent pandemic, companies have been forced to find the right software overnight. Those that don’t have cloud-based software received a hearty blowback to get their staff up to speed, configure offsite access and comply with non-essential businesses shutting down. Bob Mannarelli, CEO of California-based HB Apparel, uses the Google Suite, cloud-based Monday.com and Box.com for file sharing.
Danny Gruninger, founder and general manager of Denver Print House, Lakewood, Colorado, elaborates on a key piece of digital technology that has helped with manufacturing, even though key employees now are working offsite.
“Onsite Shopworks is a cloud-based management system that gives all of our team members access to all job information,” he says. “This software allows us to handle accounting, production, artwork and all necessary steps to handle our processes. Shopworks allows us to utilize iPads throughout each stage of our overall process.”
Managing Multiple Locations
Having multiple locations isn’t just about owning a franchise or brick-and-mortar retail chain. These days, employees working from their couches may count as a secondary office location.
Accountability is a major challenge with this scenario — one that can be solved by communicating clear goals and expectations. It’s also important to have transparency across each location. This can include weekly check-ins or everyone on the team sharing what they accomplished in the previous week. This not only will build morale, but it also will hold everyone accountable publicly.
Executive management should regularly visit secondary brick-and-mortar locations to ensure the company culture is similar or complementary between locations. It starts with the local managers being intertwined with the other locations.
Communication and check-ins are essential. If they are ignored, the company could morph into multiple entities with self-serving goals; it’s too easy for lone locations to lose sight of the larger picture if left to fend for themselves.
Give each location its own identity or personality when applicable. Many corporations with large numbers of employees don’t always do this, but those with smaller scale — letting each location have a voice — give the staff a sense of autonomy and pride. This also makes content marketing even better; Google loves niches.
The ‘New’ Worker
Researchers at Gallup Inc. define Millennials as the part of the population born between 1980 and 1996, while Gen Z is defined as the population born between 1996 and 2010. Both demographics comprise a vital group in the United States workforce.
Opinions about this segment can be polarizing, as many hiring managers can cite less-than-flattering examples of encounters with Millennial and Gen-Z employees. My favorite anecdotal example involves a potential new hire who, during negotiations, requested one month of paid time off, 30% more salary than the industry average and the ability to work remotely. I withdrew the offer, but still remembered not to judge an entire generation based on this encounter.
At the other end of the spectrum, I have employed some of the most hard-working, unselfish and bright Millennials with whom more experienced workers would have a hard time competing. I respect their perspectives and have had many of mine altered by working with them. For example, I had never been a fan of my team working remotely, but that has changed. Mannarelli, a self-proclaimed “old person,” provides insight.
“As an older generation, we may have a knee-jerk negative reaction of a younger employee not wanting to be in at 9 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m., but then you realize that they will work until 10 p.m. and [on] weekends communicating on their phones, etc., with clients just because they want to be productive,” he says. “It’s just done differently. I’ve come to appreciate the younger generation’s creativity and perspective on certain things. I’ve come to understand that people — regardless of age and generation — want to do a great job, and just need leadership and insight and guidance to do well.”
Generational differences among workers generally exist when it comes to things such as loyalty, expectations of freedom, technological prowess and communication idiosyncrasies, among others. However, merging the ideas of Millennials and Gen Z into your company policies will allow you to attract younger talent, with the understanding that they require flexibility and the ability to take ownership of their own productivity.
The ‘New’ Workplace
The changes that were mandated by COVID-19 beg the question: “What will the ‘new’ workplace look like when all is said and done?” This post-pandemic analysis goes beyond new technology, generational shifts and stricter cleaning guidelines.
JP Hunt is co-founder of InkSoft, a cloud-based, business-software platform that offers solutions tailored for apparel decorators. He says the results-oriented company has long embraced a remote work environment and flexibility.
“A results orientation means so long as the quality of work remains at high levels, team members earn the right to establish their work schedule,” he says. “So we don’t see much changing in this regard.”
He expects the coronavirus, along with strong workplace-design trends, will lead companies to transition away from open floor plans to more private spaces.
“Today’s modern workplace, though, is a fluid, casual environment where work-life balance is championed and — depending on your company culture ¬— some employees might even come to work dressed in sweat pants from time to time,” he says. “The modern workplace environment has a blended workforce, is becoming more responsive to problems and less tied down to physical locations.”
As we move forward, workplaces seem to be more focused on supporting employees to ensure they thrive, which allows the company to do the same. Modernized companies in the apparel industry will be able to adapt quickly to change. Quick movement, the right technology and the ability to manage a mobile staff — one that isn’t required to be in the same building — is essential now and in the foreseeable future.
Jeremy Picker is the creative director and CEO at AMB3R Creative, a Colorado-based apparel-design firm. He has more than 20 years of experience in the fashion industry and has deep knowledge of custom design, screen printing, embroidery, appliqué, finishing and promotional products. He has helped numerous brands launch, grow and manage merchandise for major-label brands. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From communication to finding freelancers, many software solutions, websites and applications exist to help business owners manage certain facets digitally and, in some cases, virtually. Below are just a few options you can research to find what works for your shop, as well as websites for more information.
• Communication: Slack (slack.com)
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