How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: Introduction

If your organization provides printed training manuals, booklets, course books, or other educational materials to learners as part of a course or training curriculum, those materials are a critical component of the learning process. They need to be of the highest quality, be cost-efficient to produce, and of course, must be delivered to instructors and learners on time. If any one of these three criteria is no longer being met, it may be time to think about switching your print vendor.

The process of selecting a new print and fulfillment vendor can be time-consuming—time that your team doesn’t have to spare. And these types of changes come with risks—namely, the risk of the unknown. Will a new partner be able to really deliver on all that was promised? Will the transition add work to your plate? Will you have to change some of your long-standing processes to fit into a new vendor’s workflow?

The Print Vendor RFP Process: What it does (and does not) achieve

To help simplify the process, many organizations undergo an RFP process that is meant to level the playing field by gathering standard, objective data from each print vendor being considered. The goal is to make it easier to make an apples-to-apples assessment of costs and capabilities.

Most print and fulfillment RFPs are designed to assess vendors on three criteria:

  1. Capabilities match: do your needs fit within the print vendor’s “sweet spot”

    • Print type & print run size
    • Finishing and binding options
    • Warehousing and inventory management
    • Shipping options
  2. Quality metrics

    • Certifications
    • Turn times
    • Order accuracy rates
    • Quality control procedures
    • Length of time in business/financial stability
  3. Cost alignment – do their costs align with your expectations

    • You provide all specs and requirements
    • They provide a quote, often at multiple quantity breaks

While all these metrics are extremely important, they should be considered a basic “cost of doing business.” Most legitimate print providers with a long-standing history of success will be able to answer questions on capabilities and quality to your satisfaction. This means more of the decision is made based on cost.

But even in doing that, you still haven’t addressed the risk and uncertainty that might prevent you from making a needed change because most standard RFP questions don’t really tell you what it’s going to be like to work with a print provider, day-in and day-out. This could leave too much “gray area” around key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.

Instead, your evaluation process should consist of a two-way conversation designed to answer questions like:

  • Are they transparent?
  • Will there be any hidden or unexpected charges?
  • Are they going to make things easier for me and for other stakeholders in my organization?
  • Are they just going to take my orders, or will they add value?

Going Beyond the RFP: Better Questions for a Better Print Vendor Match

We’ve created a four-part series of articles that highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor:

Part 1 discusses the importance of digging deeper into the detail behind the estimate provided.

Part 2 addresses a better way to assess true print quality.

Part 3 reveals the insight that can be gained from sample reports and invoices.

Part 4 stresses the importance of knowing who’s on your team, and what you should expect of them.

Including these relatively simple requests as part of your print vendor selection criteria will make it easier to know what level of service you can expect, if they’re going to make things easier for you and your team, and whether they’re going to deliver on what they promised in their RFP response.

Continue to Part 1: The Estimate

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Estimate

In the introduction of this blog article series, we discussed the fact that when it comes to vetting potential new vendors to print, warehouse, and ship your training and educational materials, the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to with a new vendor.

Beyond capabilities and cost, RFPs limit the opportunity for a two-way dialogue on the “soft” details of the vendor relationship, like expectations on roles, processes, workflows, and communication. These are the details that can end up creating more work for you and your team if they aren’t addressed early in the process.

The first, and perhaps most important place to dig deeper with a potential new print and fulfillment vendor is to request the detail behind the print estimate they provide.

The Standard Print Estimate Process

The process to secure an estimate for print and print fulfillment services typically goes like this:

  1. You provide all specifications of your printed materials, including:

    • Single or annual print run quantity
    • Page count
    • Paper type and weight
    • Finished size
    • Finishing and binding
    • Proofing requirements
    • Shipping/mailing requirements
  2. Each vendor being considered uses this information to provide a total roll-up of costs that also may include:

    • Price breaks for different quantities
    • Per-piece cost
    • Estimated shipping costs based on a sample destination

If you are looking for costs on a one-time print project only, this process is usually sufficient. But if your training course or publications library consists of multiple titles, each with different specifications, different levels of demand, and are in different phases of their lifecycle, you’re going to want to dig deeper than the top-line number.

Questions Your Print Vendor Should Be Asking

Data your print vendor should request from you before creating an estimate includes:

  • How many titles do you have?
  • How many are your top sellers?
  • What is the annual sales volume of your top sellers?
  • How frequently does your content change? What drives these changes?
  • What are your current print quantities/frequencies, and why?

A More Insightful Way to Provide a Print Estimate

When they provide a quote, ask them for the detail behind the estimate to understand how they arrived at those numbers. A potential print vendor should be able to show you how they calculated:

  • Average print cost per title and/or per course
  • Average number of items in a package
  • Average box weight
  • Average orders a month
  • Average cost of shipping
  • Total cost per class or course and the annual cost per class or course

Requesting this level of detail achieves three important objectives:

  1. Know they understand your needs

    Before you sign on with a new print and fulfillment provider, you want to be sure they truly understand how materials are fulfilled for each course, and how well they know your needs, processes, and workflows. Any print vendor can put ink to paper. But can they work with you in a way that solves problems and adds value? If all they have provided is a top-line estimate without getting to know the ins and outs of your print and fulfillment process, you’ll never know for sure until you start working with them.

  2. Establish transparency

    The more detail a vendor provides on their estimate, the less likely you are to miss any hidden or unexpected expenses, like warehouse location upcharges, so you can prevent any surprises to the budget.

  3. Challenge the status quo with new ideas

    If your vendor has gone through the detailed exercise of calculating not just the cost per quantity but the overall cost per title or cost per course, they will have significantly more visibility into how your training programs run. With this information, they can help to find new ways to save money or create efficiencies. For example, they could use your data to determine the best mix of print run methods for each title in your training library that reduce costs, maximize cash flow, and minimize spoilage.

A truly optimal print solution is about more than securing the lowest price-per-piece. It’s making sure your print and fulfillment services provider understands your true print volume needs based on how each title is used and where it is in its lifecycle. Using this information, a print services partner won’t provide just a quote; they’ll look for ways to help you better manage your costs.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 2: The Print Sample

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Print Sample

Welcome to Part 2 of this 4-part blog series, where we highlight some of the most overlooked questions organizations should ask a prospective new print vendor. The goal is to get beyond the basic criteria of cost and capabilities, and truly understand how well they will work with you on key details like processes and communication flow—details that create those small, nagging hiccups that can easily derail your day.

We started with the Series Introduction that discusses why the typical RFP process doesn’t always paint a clear picture of what it’s going to be like to work with a new vendor.

In Part 1 of the series, we address the importance of digging into the detail behind the estimate, and what calculations you should request from vendors.

In this second part, we’re going to make a bold suggestion for how to validate the print quality promised by a prospective print provider.

Don’t Take Print Quality for Granted – Get a Print Sample

Producing a high-quality product is something you would expect every printer currently in business to have down to a science. But that’s not always the case. Much of it depends on just how close to their “sweet spot” your project is. The further on the fringes, the greater chance of receiving inconsistent print and finishing quality.

Other factors that can affect print quality include:

  • How well-established their quality control processes are to catch pre-production issues, match color, etc.
  • The skill level of their staff, how well they communicate and set expectations to address potential issues
  • What type of print and bindery equipment they have, and whether that equipment is better suited for single-page projects like postcards and pamphlets, or higher page count projects like books and manuals

At some point in your selection process, you may request printed samples from potential vendors that have similar specifications to your piece. And most vendors already have a library of samples they can readily send. The problem with this scenario is twofold:

  1. You don’t have the appropriate context behind the piece to really measure the quality. How does it compare to the proof? How does it compare to customer expectations? How well does the piece hold up with continued use over time?
  2. Prospective vendors are, by nature, only going to send you what they consider to be their highest-quality examples.

A Better Way to Measure Print Quality

Once you have narrowed down your pool of prospective print vendors, but before you have made a final selection, we highly recommend requesting a printed sample of your existing training manual, workbook, or another booklet from their presses so you can compare their print quality to what you’re currently producing—whether that’s from a different print provider or using internal resources.

Even more importantly, taking this additional step establishes a level of trust and transparency. It demonstrates their willingness to work with you and gives you the opportunity to see first-hand how well a project flows through their system, how well they communicate with you, and how well they understand both what you’re looking for and how the piece is going to be used.

If a print vendor is willing to have this level of dialogue with you about your materials, it puts them in a better position to offer improvement ideas that reduce costs, improve usability, and enhance your brand.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?
Continue to Part 3: Reports & Invoices

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: Reports & Invoices

We’re pleased to bring you this third installment of our four-part blog series discussing why it’s so important to dig deeper than the standard print services RFP, and what questions you should ask to minimize the risk when making a change to your print and fulfillment vendor.

In this article, we’ll make a compelling case for why you should discuss reports and invoices early in the selection process.

When you’re searching for a new print and fulfillment services provider, you’re probably looking at the reputation of the organization, whether its capabilities match your needs, and if costs are in line with your expectations. Reporting and invoicing have nothing to do with print production, and therefore may be the furthest thing from your mind early in the RFP process.

If you have a need to print and ship training and course materials several times throughout the year, if your printed training library consists of multiple titles, and/or if you need to warehouse materials for ongoing orders, you will want to request sample reports and invoices from prospective vendors as part of your selection process.

Why Request Sample Reports and Invoices from Print Vendors?

This is one of the areas that can cause a significant amount of extra, unplanned work for your team and your internal stakeholders. If you don’t discuss details like what types of reports you can expect, and how data is outlined on invoices, you won’t know it’s a problem until after the fact.

There are likely several stakeholders within your organization who need access to print and fulfillment data. That data not only informs decisions that impact programs and resources, but it also needs to be served up in a way that supports your existing processes so all departments—from operations to accounting—can do their jobs more efficiently.

To establish a successful relationship with a new vendor for your printed training and course materials, it’s important to think beyond their print and fulfillment capabilities. Request information and samples that help you understand every phase of the process, including reporting and invoicing. Use this conversation as an opportunity to establish clear expectations, avoid back-end surprises, and ensure they will provide data in a way that makes your job easier.

What else should you ask of your prospective new print vendor?

Continue to Part 4: The Value of Ideas

How to (Really) Choose a New Print Vendor: The Team

Throughout this four-part blog series, we have provided recommendations on how to evaluate and select a new print and fulfillment services provider using questions that go beyond the standard cost and capabilities criteria.

In Part 1 we discussed the importance of digging deeper into the detail behind the estimate provided.

In Part 2 we recommended a better way to assess true print quality.

And in Part 3 we made the case for requesting sample reports and invoices as part of the initial evaluation process.

All three of these steps are designed to encourage two-way dialogue, which is an extremely important component of any new relationship. They also help establish the nature of the relationship you should expect. Are they going to passively take your orders, or proactively provide ideas to help enhance your training materials, improve processes, and manage costs?

Our final recommendation is to make sure you know not only what to expect from the relationship with your print and fulfillment vendor, but with whom.

We are continually surprised by the number of RFPs we receive that ask few if any questions about the specific team that will provide ongoing service and support. Your team is a critical component to the success of the relationship. As part of your selection process, you should have full visibility into questions such as:

  • Who do you direct questions to?
  • Do you have a dedicated contact, or are you put in a support queue?
  • If you do have a dedicated contact or contact(s), what, specifically is their role?
  • How should you communicate with them?
  • How will they communicate with you?
  • How often?
  • About what?
  • What should you expect of them?

Ideally, you will have the benefit of working with one primary point of contact for the duration of your relationship with a print and fulfillment provider. This will help streamline communication and provide congruency across each print run.

Your contact should be the person that handles all your day-to-day needs, including:

  • Answering print and shipping questions
  • Handling urgent orders
  • Tracking shipments
  • Managing international customs
  • Delivering meaningful reports

Having a consistent resource who has an opportunity to really know and understand your organization—how it operates, how decisions are made, business objectives, challenges, and preferences—also means they are in a position to add value to the relationship beyond just taking your orders. They will be able to offer ideas and suggestions that help you simplify processes, save costs, and make your job easier.

Are you thinking about changing print vendors for your training manuals, booklets, course books, or other educational materials? We’d love to start a discussion with you.

“Right-Size” Your Print Runs Using a Micro-Inventory Solution

Nothing about this past year has been predictable, including enrollment in instructor-led courses that were forced to migrate from in-person to online. For those organizations whose printed training materials are a cornerstone of the course, these changes in enrollment have made planning print run quantities and shipping materials to virtual learners significantly more difficult—and potentially carry more financial risk. In response, many organizations have migrated away from their legacy print and delivery model to a micro-inventory solution.

The effects of virtual delivery on course enrollment

Due to gathering restrictions and health and safety concerns, many in-person, instructor-led courses were moved from the classroom to an online environment. This change in delivery model presents several pros and cons. On the one hand, virtual instructor-led training sessions provide increased access to a wider audience who are no longer restricted by room capacity, time away from the office, or travel expenses. On the other hand, replicating the intimate, interactive, and hands-on environment of the classroom can be challenging, and in some cases, may decrease the perceived value of the course.

This dichotomy has produced changes in course enrollment, but the effects for organizations are all over the board.

We just closed our annual survey of training and education professionals. While we’re compiling the data for release in our 2021 Training Trends Report, here’s a preview of one important statistic.

When it comes to the impact of the pandemic on course enrollment:

  • 33% of respondents report a slight to significant decrease in participation
  • 34% of respondents report a slight to significant increase in participation
  • 27% have not seen any changes to course enrollment numbers

Maintaining “right-sized” print runs becomes more challenging

This lack of consistency and predictability within the training industry has made planning print runs for training materials being sent to virtual learners more difficult. Without the ability to anticipate how learners will respond to changes in course delivery, it’s harder to ensure you have the right materials for the course, and therefore run the risk of over-printing and throwing books away, or under-printing and not having them delivered to the learner on time.

It may be the perfect time to consider a micro-inventory solution.

How micro-inventory works

A micro-inventory solution provides a perfect balance between having just the right amount of inventory with the best cost-per-piece print costs.

We work with customers to produce smaller quantities of your educational materials that can satisfy a few months’ worth of demand, instead of anticipating your annual order volume. You only pay for the materials you sell, giving you volume pricing without paying for excess inventory, which ultimately frees up cash flow for your organization.

It also gives you more flexibility to monitor and manage changes in demand as the year progresses, making it a perfect solution during this time of extreme uncertainty—particularly as restrictions are eased and in-person learning becomes a reality again.

Outside of the pandemic, micro-inventory is an effective solution for any situation where course demand is not well-established, such as with the introduction of a new course or program.

The measurable impact of micro-inventory on print runs

One organization in particular, (ISC)2, switched to a micro-inventory model, which eliminated the need to print, ship and store large print inventories around the globe and resulted in a 60% cost savings. Read the (ISC)2 Customer Profile to learn more about the benefits they experienced by switching to a micro-inventory print and delivery model.

Printed Training Materials: Design Tips For Learning Retention

In recent years, the definition of a “successful” training program has shifted. Instead of being a numbers game (how many people completed a course), more emphasis is being placed on how well learning is retained and applied. In response, the continuing education classroom has evolved from a place where learners passively consume information to a more interactive, collaborative, and hands-on learning environment.

This has changed the role of the instructor, for sure. But what about your printed training materials? Does the design of your course books, workbooks, and training manuals support an interactive approach to learning?

Printed training materials have the power to serve as more than just text on paper. We’ve compiled these industry-sourced ideas to transform your course materials and support a multi-dimensional approach to learning.

  1. Consider User Experience for Print

Design plays an extremely important role in the usability of your training materials and coursebooks. White space, fonts, visuals, colors, and flow all play a role in how thoroughly and quickly learners not only consume but truly understand the information being presented.

  • Present Content in Shorter Sections. In today’s digital world, most learners have difficulty focusing on longer pieces of text. Consider reducing the length of your chapters and sections, and providing more frequent breaks in the material so readers have a logical place to pause and digest.
  • Turn Text into Graphics. Use supporting visuals and graphics wherever possible to accompany or replace text-only content. Iconography allows you to present complex visual cues quickly while minimizing the amount of text needed. If you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic to help increase retention.
  • User-Friendly Production Specifications. How the book or material will be used dictates how it should be produced. If learners will need to write answers or take notes on the page, paper stocks and binding types matter. Use an uncoated stock for notes pages, as they are easier to write on. Additionally, ensure your piece lays flat. Coil binding works better than saddle-stitch for this purpose.
  1. Incorporate Multiple Layers of Learning

Mastery of a topic is rarely achieved by one read-through of a single piece of content. Most of us retain information by having that same content presented multiple ways. Here are some ideas of how to do that within your training manual:

  • Start each section or chapter with a quick overview of the topics to be discussed
  • Use call-out boxes that provide additional context, such as a “Putting It Into Practice” example
  • End each chapter with a chapter summary, highlighting the key takeaways
  • Incorporate quizzes and reflection exercises throughout each section to foster immediate retention and application
  • Create space for “brain breaks” or even doodling throughout your book to help learners refocus and refresh
  1. Provide a Direct Connection to Supplemental Learning Materials

Extend the learning beyond your book. Incorporate multi-media tools to provide real-world examples and applications.

  • Direct learners to supplemental online materials including videos, podcasts, and virtual renderings that can be accessed on a mobile device. Use easy-to-read vanity URLs or even QR codes—yes, they’re back!
  • If you’re looking to make a more seamless transition from print to digital while still providing the tactile experience of print, consider adding a companion digital flipbook. These multi-media tools have become more relevant in recent years because it’s now easier than ever to incorporate dynamic content such as embedded audio, video, and hyperlinks within printed text.

As you evaluate the strategy and design of your training programs to facilitate better performance from your learners, it’s important to also examine your printed training materials. Be sure to incorporate a design that not only reflects the quality of your training content but supports your learning retention and application goals as well.

Applying Micro-Learning Concepts to Your Printed Course Materials

 

In an earlier post, we discussed how micro-learning—or “the delivery of bite-sized content nuggets”— is considered to be the #1 trend for training professionals in 2018. But this doesn’t mean it’s being widely executed. While some organizations are starting to experiment with their offerings, most are still figuring out how to get started.

The discussion of micro-learning is typically centered around online and mobile-based training programs, which, according to recently-compiled data from a series of industry studies, is one of the primary reasons that the implementation of micro-learning programs isn’t as widespread as you would think. Continuing education professionals stated that the time investment required to create online and mobile-friendly content is a major barrier, particularly for those who are already tasked with growing their programs using the same or fewer resources. Meanwhile, according to the same series of studies, nearly three-fourths of participants provide printed training materials. If there is a clear, strategic benefit for your organization to create programs that consist of smaller learning segments, it may be possible to pilot a program by re-thinking how you present your print-based content.

Historically, course books and training manuals have been designed to support long-form learning, organizing content into longer chapters that both introduce complex concepts and dive into all of the supporting details.  Recently, however, some organizations have started looking at ways to redesign existing content in order to serve up the same information smaller pieces that can be consumed and referenced much more quickly. Here are just a few ideas to consider:

From One to Many

Take a large, single course book and break it out into a branded series of separate pieces that are each more singularly focused.  In doing this, you may have room to play with the format and add notetaking pages or other self-reflection and application exercises to make the content more personally relevant.

Keep Sections Short

If you determine that offering a single course book is the best way to deliver your program, consider reducing the length of your chapters and sections, providing more frequent breaks in the material so readers have a logical place to pause and digest.

Turn Text into Graphics

If you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic to help increase retention.

Provide Easy Access to Supplemental Digital Material

Most of us are never more than an arm’s length from our phones or other mobile devices at all times. Rather than presenting all of the necessary information in your printed piece, consider using print as a means to give a more concise overview or introduction of a topic, with directions throughout the piece to supplemental online materials from your organization or your industry’s thought-leaders, including videos, podcasts and virtual renderings that can be accessed while the learner is reading.

If you are looking to incorporate micro-learning practices into your existing continuing education programs but don’t feel you have the time or resources to develop online and mobile-friendly content, consider starting with your printed materials. This not only gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at existing content, but is also a lower-cost way to test-pilot micro-learning techniques before making a larger investment in new, digital materials.

Embracing New Learning Trends: Are Associations Lagging Behind Corporations? Not Really.

 

In any organization, there are moments where leaders and team members stop and wonder how theirs compares to others in their industry. Are we really as far behind as we think? Are our challenges really that unique? How have others responded?  Most of the time, it turns out you’re not as far behind as you think, your challenges aren’t unique, and others are looking to you and asking the same questions. For associations, a question that may come up often is, “Are we implementing new training and learning trends for our members?”

All that being said, it can also be extremely beneficial to look outside your own industry to get an even better sense of what’s actually happening in a larger landscape and use that as your benchmark. For associations, this may mean looking outside your direct industry, or even taking a cue from the corporate world.

We recently had the benefit of sitting in on a webinar sponsored by Training Magazine and presented by Dr. Allen Partridge, Senior eLearning Evangelist with Adobe. In his session, Trends in Training and Learning Management, he reviewed a compilation of data from several different surveys of corporate continuing education professionals to identify learning trends and compare them to what these professionals are actually doing in practice. The webinar focused on concepts that are also prevalent topics of conversations within associations as well, including the rise of mobile learning, gamification, video, micro-learning, and learner engagement.

It turns out, while new ways to deliver learning are topics of frequent discussion, in practice, corporations aren’t any further along than associations. And, many of the tried-and-true methods of course delivery are still just as popular today. Here are four of the learning trends highlighted in the webinar.

Instructor-Led Training & Printed Course Materials

Despite the rise of virtual learning options, one survey revealed that 4 out of 5 respondents deliver training through in-person presentations—a trend that has remained consistent over the past the past ten years. The reason: when learning is a conversation, engagement and retention are higher. Additionally, nearly three quarters of survey takers said they use print materials to deliver their training, whereas only ten percent offer mobile and tablet-based materials.

Mobile Content

Speaking of mobile-based materials, although only ten percent currently offer mobile and tablet-based materials, there is an overwhelming sentiment that mobile-based learning is something most respondents acknowledged they need to do. Device versatility, ease of access to content and just-in-time reference to content were all noted as important criteria to have in place to encourage greater usage of digital training programs. But the time investment required to create mobile-friendly content was a major barrier. Many organizations are starting by creating only a fraction of content for mobile—particularly their newer content.

Microlearning

Based on the research, microlearning is considered to be the number one learning trends for training professionals in 2018. While implementation of this training strategy is growing, the buzz is still greater than reality. This is primarily due to the fact that there isn’t a clear and uniform definition of what microlearning means, and therefore, how it should best be executed. Some consider it to be “informal learning,” others “mobile learning” or even “short learning.” Each of these definitions serves a unique purpose and warrants its own strategy.

Gamification

While gamification is a major topic of discussion, corporate training professionals haven’t fully embraced this learning trend yet.  72% of respondents surveyed don’t use gamification in their learning programs, and only 14% feel very confident that gamification increases employee engagement in training. Some of the reluctance stems from the perceived cost of implementing it, coupled with the doubt that it actually drives behaviors that are sustainable for the long-term.

If your association has not fully embraced some of the top trends in training strategies and learning engagement, not to fear. Your corporate counterparts haven’t either. But they are starting to think about how to take small, deliberate steps toward implementation so they are ready to engage future learners—something every organization should be thinking about.

How Printing Training Materials On-Demand Can Lead to Big Savings

Our latest Training Trends report highlights the fact that continuing education professionals expect the number of training programs they offer to increase over the next year. At the same time, budgets are projected to remain flat. Organizations are increasingly looking for ways to deliver their programs more efficiently, without sacrificing the overall experience for their learners. Switching to a print-on-demand (POD) model for course materials is one strategy that is often overlooked.

Many organizations assume they don’t produce enough volume for POD to be economically feasible. It is true that in general, POD can potentially be more expensive on a per-piece basis than opting for a longer print run. But that all depends upon how your POD strategy is executed, and what your ultimate goals are.

Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach (large volume print runs vs. one-at-a-time), it may make sense to think about printing a micro-inventory—smaller quantities of your educational materials that can satisfy a few months’ worth of demand, instead of anticipating your annual order volume. In doing this, you only pay for the materials you sell, giving you volume pricing without paying for excess inventory, which ultimately frees up cash flow for your organization. At the same time, it minimizes spoilage should your content need to change during this time, while giving you more flexibility to monitor and manage changes in demand as the year progresses.

One organization in particular, (ISC)2, switched to a POD model, eliminating the need to print, ship and store large print inventories around the globe, resulting in a 60% cost savings. Read the (ISC)2 Customer Profile to learn more about the benefits they experienced by switching to a print-on-demand model.

POD isn’t the right fit for every organization, but don’t be too quick to rule it out until you’ve run the numbers. It could lead to some significant savings while, at the same time, making it easier to manage your content.

Get Your Training Courses Ready for Generation Z

For the past several years, a common theme around the strategy planning table is how to attract and retain younger members. With each passing year, this conversation is less about the long sought-after Millennials, however. The oldest of this generation is now in their mid-30’s. Many associations now have their sights set on the up-and-comers known as Generation Z. And what everyone is starting to realize is how different they appear to be from their predecessors.

Who is Generation Z?

Although there are some reported variances in the dates that define Generation Z, the general consensus is they were born between the mid-to-late 1990’s (roughly 1995) through the 2000’s (roughly 2010).

The eldest are in the process of graduating college and hitting the workforce, while the youngest are busy creating Google presentations, blogging and creating iMovies as part of their elementary school curriculum.

They are a very multi-cultural generation that is even larger than Boomers and Millennials. Today they represent over 25% of the U.S. population. And in just 5 years, they will represent approximately 20% of the workforce.

And, their overall outlook on life—their ambitions, goals, and the way they plan to achieve them—is the product of events and innovations that have completely changed even the world that Millennials knew. This is (potentially) a very different generation.

Turmoil and Technology Has Made Them Pragmatic, Entrepreneurial

A Non-Standard Path to Success

Generation Z felt the fallout from the Great Recession and has never known a world without terrorism. Unlike the so-called “entitled” Millennials, they understand that success isn’t guaranteed. They are prepared to work for it, and to make it their own.

  • They actively seek out opportunities to learn, develop and grow
  • They aren’t necessarily set on taking a linear path to success
  • They have a greater entrepreneurial drive than their predecessors, and have grown up in a world where they’ve seen (via social media) even their youngest peers have success with self-derived ventures
  • They are also more financially conservative than their predecessors

Beyond Tech Savvy

For Millennials, technology was very much present in their lives, but as a parallel activity, something to “play with” in their free time. Contrast this with Generation Z, where technology is fully integrated into everything they do. It has changed the model for how they interact with the world around them, how they learn and, most importantly, how they process information.

  • Where Millennials are the generation that shares content, Gen Z is the generation that creates it
  • In the classroom, a Gen Z student uses multiple platforms (including both print and digital) simultaneously to learn and reinforce a single concept, and often has the opportunity to choose how they want to learn
  • Thanks to DVRs, media streaming and 24/7 connectivity anywhere, the concept of appointment-based anything is fading fast

Social Media Maturity

For Gen Z, social media is no longer a new fad. It’s an established reality. And while it is the basis of a majority of their social connections, Gen Z is much more “mature” in their use of it than Millennials are.

  • Social connections matter even more to Gen Z more than to Millennials. They want to be culturally connected, and have a tremendous fear of missing out (a.k.a. “FOMO”)
  • At the same time, they are more conscientious of social media privacy, and tend to be drawn to more private forms of social interaction such as Snapchat, Secret and Whisper

How Gen Z Might Shape Your Association’s Educational Programs

Today many associations grapple with how to remain relevant at a time when access to free knowledge is just a click away. But there’s good news. Gen Z will find tremendous value in the growth opportunities that associations provide by increasing knowledge and facilitating connections. As long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

Here are 5 things to consider in your next program development and planning session:
1. Is there an opportunity to re-define the classroom setting, using unique and non-traditional locations as a means to help apply learning?

2. Is there an opportunity to develop sessions that allow attendees to co-create content as a means to facilitate learning and professional development?

3. How might you combine instructor-led training and self-guided learning as part of a single learning strategy (versus an either-or approach)?

4. How can you more effectively tie print and digital materials together in a complementary way? For instance, does it make sense to use print to introduce a complex topic, with digital tools such as video, interactive platforms, virtual and 4D technology to facilitate hands-on application of the concept?

5. In looking at your printed materials, how might you re-develop and re-design them to provide shorter pieces of content with more visual cues that support the text?

Although Millennials are still extremely relevant to associations, it won’t be long before all eyes are on Generation Z. How accurately can we predict future preferences based this current profile of a very young generation? It’s too soon to tell for sure. What is certain, however, is that, just as with Millennials, it won’t be long before we’re reevaluating and reconsidering today’s best practices. And it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

6 Reasons You Should Print Training Manuals on Demand

When you prepare to print training manuals for your association’s continuing education courses, do you struggle with choosing the number of initial copies to print? All the historical data in the world can’t ensure that you won’t waste time, money, or paper on books that no one will use. Choosing to print training manuals on demand, however, can solve these problems.

When you print training manuals on demand, you can rest assured that amount of that waste will be kept to a minimum. Here are six reasons to choose print-on-demand for your organization’s continuing education materials:

Update content easily

How long does content in your industry remain current? Some organizations can effectively use large print runs because the content in their training materials doesn’t change much year-to-year. For other organizations, particularly those in highly-regulated industries and in STEM, content is updated more frequently, meaning the potential for material waste increases.

Lower overhead costs

Start-up costs for large print runs can be prohibitive or, at the very least, frightfully expensive for some organizations. Print-on-demand requires a smaller initial investment, keeping overhead low. Having less of your budget tied up in printed materials also leaves you free to spend capital on other projects to improve your continuing education programs.

Reduce guesswork

Inventory management becomes easier when you keep a smaller number of books on the shelf. Print-on-demand solutions often create a micro-inventory that feeds orders as they come in, and more books are printed as needed. You’ll know exactly how many books you have in-stock, removing the guesswork from the process.

Minimize waste

When you keep a micro-inventory instead of a large quantity of books on the shelf, you reduce the risk of having to toss out hundreds of materials when content is updated or a class is canceled. And, even better, your organization is only charged for the number of books that were sold from your micro-inventory, saving you extra money.

Eliminate back-orders

Learners can get frustrated when they are unable to order materials they need for a class because you ordered too small of a print run initially. Using a print-on-demand model eliminates this scenario entirely, saving you from the trouble of dealing with back-ordered books.

Improve turnaround time

Even when dealing with the most experienced print vendors, large print runs require a certain amount of lead-time to complete. Print-on-demand requires less set up and fewer resources, making turnaround much faster.

No two organizations are the same—your reasons to print training manuals on demand may differ greatly from another organization’s. What is clear, however, is that print-on-demand works well for many organizations offering continuing education courses, and it might by the right choice for you, as well.

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