FLEXO: Much is made of the age gap in the workforce, and the friction between younger and more veteran workers. Is there any truth to that?
Mullaney: Age itself is not a determining factor that causes friction in the workforce. The perception and application of knowledge, and having both of those meld together cohesively, will prevent friction. Both young and veteran workers need each other to help the company succeed and let the vision endure. Although the industry is currently dominated by people who are well established, it needs to be known that there is potential for a younger perspective to help it evolve. This does not solely apply to the flexographic industry—evolution is welcomed and inevitable in any industry.
FLEXO: What can human resources managers and company executives do better to attract young talent to their organizations?
Mullaney: Last year, FTA emerging leader Jason Cagle was asked this same question and we started an open-ended conversation. We frequently discuss this topic and brainstorm how we can help attract more young talent. Considering we spend more time at work than we do with our family during a given week, we do not want to feel isolated during the work day. My generation would like to get to know their colleagues as individuals and not solely as coworkers. Being excited to go to the office every day because it is a great environment with even better management is something not only the young generation can benefit from, but the seasoned workers as well.
I have had the privilege of being on internal planning committees for social and charitable functions at MacDermid. These initiatives serve as an opportunity for seasoned and young workers to interact and communicate with one another in order to establish a positive working environment. I recommend that new employees join planning committees, to not only help the organization, but to become a part of their organization’s family.
FLEXO: Why is it important for young people to stay connected to peers of a similar age through groups like the FTA Emerging Leaders Committee?
Mullaney: The benefits of staying connected to peers of a similar age are endless. As an up and coming professional, situations that arise in daily work life are sometimes more relatable to other young professionals than they are to veteran workers. Being a young professional in the industry, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by veteran workers who are willing to share their expertise, but the interaction with someone my own age is sometimes more beneficial. Staying connected with your peers allows us to continue to seek advice from people who are at the same stage in their careers.
FLEXO: Any advice or words of wisdom for any young students reading, or students studying marketing?
Mullaney: I mentioned earlier my most important piece of advice—soak up any and all information that is afforded to you. Seize any opportunity to learn, even if it is not related to your specific job title. Do not hesitate to ask questions. All of my mentors have reiterated that there are no questions that cannot be answered by others or solved together. A misconception about seasoned workers is that they do not want to share their knowledge, but this is far from the truth. They embrace us as much as we embrace them. They appreciate our energy and want to assist. The different viewpoints and approaches to the same job are immeasurable and invaluable. It is a team that makes a business successful, not one or two individuals.
FLEXO: As an outsider who didn’t necessarily go to school for printing, what have been some of your challenges working in the industry and how could employers help with that?
Mullaney: The toughest challenge to overcome working in this industry has been the lack of industry knowledge. Not a day goes by that I do not learn something new. I think it is important for employers to establish mentor programs and provide the necessary training to form a foundation of knowledge. This is something I believe MacDermid has done a great job of and will continue to do so.
FLEXO: Was there anything specifically that attracted you to the printing industry and do you think there are things we can do to attract more people to come to the industry?
Mullaney: The internship opportunity is why I am part of the printing industry today. I would suggest for industry organizations to begin and continue providing internship opportunities to young adults. This, along with promoting industry learning opportunities, will establish interest in the printing industry with the younger generation.
The FTA Emerging Leaders Committee brings together young flexographers to participate in problem-solving work groups, tackle unique projects on an as-needed basis, network with peers, gain an inside look into FTA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity in the near future. To join, contact FTA Director of Content & Digital Strategy Brad Pareso.