For SMEs without dedicated HR teams, diversity and inclusion initiatives can sometimes feel like a daunting prospect. However, adopting a diverse workforce carries numerous benefits for an organisation, in terms of productivity, innovation, growth as well as talent attraction and retention, says Tanya Howe.

A traditionally male-dominated field, the print industry has in recent years, mainly due to the digitalisation of print, seen more women join the sector. Leaders are recognising a diverse team intrinsically carries with it a greater range of talents, experiences, and perspectives, which can lead to smarter decision-making and more innovative problem-solving.

So how can the print sector continue to grow and harness the power of diversity and inclusion within the workforce?

Communication is key

Whilst most large enterprises have large HR teams to run diversity and inclusion initiatives, for SME leaders it is a different story. You’re faced with a range of challenges from recruitment to the implementation of initiatives.

For some people, the terms diversity and inclusion in the workplace are signals to switch off, they see it as a box-ticking exercise which they do not fully understand.

Herein lies the challenge for leaders: how do you achieve buy-in from the workforce and take the conversation beyond that of corporate jargon?

This is where the use of real-life examples and human stories that your employees can relate to can prove so powerful. Context is everything and do not underestimate the power of employee buy-in when wanting to take your people on this journey with you. Directing effort and time into creating a diverse and welcoming work environment can be hugely beneficial for the business.

In Ricoh’s recent Print Podcast series, I spoke with Deborah Corn from Girls Who Print, on the role of women in the print industry. Touching on creating greater connections with the customer, Deborah highlighted that print customers are now made up of different ages, genders and backgrounds. A workforce that can mirror the diversity of customer teams are better equipped to use their unique experiences and perspectives to understand the needs of these customers and provide them with a better service.

To make inclusion a rooted part of a company’s objectives, regularly communicating with your team is vital. Listening and taking feedback on an ongoing basis will drive allyship and inspire change.


Cross-training is about looking at your existing workforce and giving them opportunities to learn and develop new skills, instead of always looking to recruit externally. This can be a powerful tool when it comes to improving talent within the workforce by tapping into the cognitive diversity which may already exist.

Recent research by Ricoh Europe revealed that the average cost of replacing an employee stands at an average of €10,600 across the EU. Unlocking and developing the skill set of existing talent is clearly more economical, but it also improves the overall proficiency of your workforce.

By investing in employee development, organisations can foster a positive work culture that promotes personal and professional growth. This can result in a higher-performing team and a better-performing business.


Unlocking the potential of existing employees can help move you in the right direction, but the future health of the print industry relies on a more diverse workforce.

If you need to hire new people, it could be beneficial to look past the conventional recruitment process. Seeking the ‘perfect’ candidate with the complete skill set is challenging and often unrealistic, particularly in today’s competitive job market.

Instead, organisations should consider hiring individuals with the right attitude and willingness to learn and grow within the role. Recruiting individuals with little to no experience in the industry doesn’t mean lack of talent or potential and can offer an opportunity for employees to grow with the company.

We work with a number of partners to help us on this journey, including Business in the Community and the Prince’s Trust. This way, businesses can develop versatile and adaptable teams that fit the specific needs of the organisation, and create culture that encourages learning, creativity, and innovation. Print service providers also have access to similar activities run by IPIA, the BPIF and other trade organisations.