Production Managers Are Not a Commodity
Gratuitous staff reductions are evidence that production staffs are undervalued.
The significant layoffs impacting magazine production employees over the past few years can, in part, be blamed on a poor economy and, some might say, technology.
However, this is different from past downturns. It is also symptomatic of a misguided devaluation of the production function.
In order to get magazines out, inadequate staffing is forcing surviving production employees to overlook vital business practices that lead to making magazines most cost-effective. This leads to higher supplier costs. But some production executives who speak up to management are being told "If you can't do the job, I'll find someone else."
In many industries, technology has eliminated and even de-skilled many jobs. This is not true for publishing, however. In fact, the production department's workload and skill sets have actually increased due to computer-to-plate (CTP).
The solution is for publishers to undertake a program to assess and measure their most valuable business asset: employees. It's not hard or costly to do. I'll briefly describe the overall business process that I helped institute with a medium-sized publisher.
We used this as an integral part of the fiscal budget planning process, to value the worth of the production department and each employee. The prevailing objective was to improve on the prior year's performance by reducing expenses (overhead and supplier) and increasing revenue opportunities.
Step one was to ask each employee to review their official job description, making changes, additions, and deletions to it, until it reflected what they knew to be their 'real job'. This included a detailed listing of job duties performed, and the time spent on each, for each magazine issue. I also provided an updated job description and job duty listing for myself.