Diversity is a key driver of print innovation – here’s why

We work, breathe and sleep in a world of constant evolution. But we don’t all experience it in the same way. Global events like climate change or a pandemic affect us all differently. Local events like the weather or bad traffic affect our communities. And individual events like a good night’s sleep or hearing a funny joke might only affect ourselves. 

diversity print innovation

So, if we all experience life differently, how can a print business hope to meet the needs of every one of their customers? Today, a catch-all approach is destined to fail – and so is a workforce that doesn’t have the diversity to represent and reflect the people your organisation is talking to.

You can’t innovate if you can’t relate. And innovation is at the cornerstone of success when everything is on the move.

Diversity versus the print industry

Diversity has been a challenge for the print industry for many years, but combating the status quo and driving change is more important now than it has ever been. As print businesses strive to gain a competitive advantage, modernisation – a journey of digital transformation – is getting ever higher on the agenda. And the reason is, fundamentally, printers’ customers have also changed.

This kind of change is a huge challenge, and if they have not already done so, print business owners must assess whether they are equipped to address such a momentous upheaval with the skills and experiences of their existing teams.

How diversity leads to a competitive advantage

For many in the print industry, this huge challenge is one they are not prepared for. Yet, attracting new skills and new ideas is now an urgent requirement to ensure you can claim or retain a competitive advantage. 

Leading brands like Ricoh have already battled through this process. Ricoh identified that building a more diverse talent pool was fundamental to its success, both for its own approach to the many markets it operates in, and also for the benefit of its customers – who can gain by extension from Ricoh’s own injection of fresh thought. 

Data suggests that diversity drives innovation by up to 20% – and it’s innovation that will lead print organisations into the future.

The importance of perspective

Perspective is everything. The only way for your business to look at things from the right angle is to make sure you’re looking through the eyes of someone who understands your customer’s wants and needs. As a female Sales Director in the print industry, and part of a leadership team where half of us are women, I’d like to share how diversity drove success for our business.

“We are already finding and developing new and effective ways of working with our customers that utilise this new mix of skills, outlook and experience. This is relevant for our customers in the print industry because the diversity that we represent is a mirror of their own customers, whose backgrounds and personalities and motivations are varied. We can, therefore, help printers to interpret and understand what their customers are trying to achieve. We understand the voices of their customers because in many instances those voices match our own.”

Tanya Howe, Sales Director, Ricoh Graphic Communications

Why is diversity in print innovation crucial right now?

Different types of markets are emerging, and even though in the past customers have been served well by traditional print sectors like transactional print, it is now vital that print businesses actively support niche print services in both the commercial and corporate space. 

These different markets have a new range of clients that have different behaviours, experiences and characteristics and that in turn requires a renewed perspective and position.

diversity print innovation

Listen to Ricoh’s Anything in Print podcast with the BPIF on talent and diversity in print

Three stages for the future at Ricoh

Going forward, bringing diverse perspectives to bear on digital transformation within the print industry will be a key part of the way Ricoh builds and sustains client relationships; especially as they continue to develop their consultative approach through programmes such as EDGE, which was launched last year. EDGE delivers a three-stage process of:

  • Discovery – where clients assess the barriers to production efficiency, with a focus on people, processes and production systems.
  • Transformation – when new or improved structures, roles and responsibilities are created to build on the discovery findings.
  • Sustainability – which promotes embedding that transformation as a culture and not a one-off review.

What other benefits does diversity have on the print industry?

It’s not just the print industry that benefits from a focus on diversity. This approach brings many additional benefits to any employer, and a wealth of research exists to back this up. 

McKinsey, for example, has shown that gender, ethnic and cultural diversity on leadership teams can improve financial performance. It also makes your company more attractive as a prospective employer to Millennials and those in Generation Z if they see this diversity already exists in your workforce. Beyond that, diversity is directly linked to profitability and is likely to increase it by 25%.

It’s down to richer and deeper conversations which lead to mutually benefiting strategies, building relationships that last, lower customer churn and sustainable business operations.

Moving forwards with a people-first partner

Our experience at Ricoh has only strengthened our commitment to diversity. We have found our organisation to be more willing to challenge the way things have always been done. We believe that this is giving us a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and with humility in our hearts, we think that print businesses that go on the same journey to build a more diverse workforce will also enjoy that advantage. Fresh talent and fresh ideas don’t just arrive on the doorstep though; you must go out of your way to attract it and nurture it, and therein lies the challenge for print.

Looking for inspiration on how to grow your business in 2022? Start by listening to our Anything in Print podcast on nurturing the next generation in print.

And you can also check out our ‘Anything in Print’ online brochure to discover a new world of opportunity!

Article originally published in Printweek November 22nd 2021.

Tanya Howe

Sales Director at Ricoh UK Graphic Communications

Read all articles by Tanya Howe