Helping You Navigate the Global Supply Chain Effects

Photo by Barrett Ward on Unsplash

In recent months, we’ve heard several pervading questions from our clients…

1. Who is to blame for production delays?

A recent surge in order volume is creating fresh challenges for suppliers after a year of intense disruption. Across the U.S., employers are currently challenged to find qualified workers who are able, and willing, to fill open positions. The lack of candidates, plus unexpected closures when COVID outbreaks occur, combine to create unpredictable production schedules.

We can help by recommending reliable alternatives to meet your deadline.

2. What is the reason for recent price increases?

There are four major factors affecting the current price of promotional products. The cost of shipping goods across the ocean has increased by 293% year-over-year. In the apparel sector, the cost of cotton has increased 31% and polyester has increased 29%. The U.S. dollar has weakened against many global currencies, and there is no way of knowing when previous tariff exemptions might be renewed.

We can help by utilizing our suppliers offering USA-made products, as well as those with deep inventory purchased before costs were affected.

3. Why is inventory disappearing?

There are unprecedented delays within shipping ports, which are affecting manufacturing on a large scale. The problem goes deeper than just a shortage of ready-made products: world-wide makers of everything from buckles and bottles to semi-conductor chips and cardboard boxes have containers waiting to be unloaded into clogged California ports. In many cases, the supplier has the product but they might be waiting on the parts to finish or package it. These factors compound problems for suppliers already bogged down with pandemic-related challenges.

We can help by accessing real-time inventory data and advising you on products we know are in-stock today.

4. When will everything return to normal?

While “normal” is a debatable term these days, experts anticipate the supply chain will begin to see some relief in June of 2021; however, the trickle-down is likely to last for some time. You can feel secure, knowing our associations and elite supplier partnerships provide us with up-to-date reports on the industry.

We’re your full-time branding partner and ready to steer your project to completion!

Think it’s not important to Recognize and Appreciate Employees? Think again.

Inc. Magazine’s MARCEL SCHWANTES@MARCELSCHWANTES reports:

A global crisis at the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of work. As employees’ needs have changed, many organizations have not followed suit with their policies, perks, and culture.

This misalignment may be why 52 percent of employees are planning to look for a new job this year — a concerning 43 percent increase from 2020 and 2019.

That’s according to Achievers’ fourth annual Employee Engagement and Retention Report, which uncovers what it will take to retain and attract employees in 2021. The report surveyed 2,000 employed adults across the U.S. and Canada, to discover what employees are really looking for in an organization, and what is bringing them to this breaking point.

With a post-pandemic world on the horizon, and the job market predicted to make a major rebound by the end of the year, what areas should employers consider when revamping retention strategies?

Act on feedback

Feedback from employees is crucial for companies to understand when rebuilding policies and strategies, especially during a time as tumultuous as the pandemic. Three in five employees (60 percent) surveyed reported their organization has sought feedback on at least one of the following key issues:

  • How to improve the employee experience (60 percent)
  • How to improve company culture throughout the pandemic (54 percent)
  • Remote/hybrid work preferences after the pandemic (52 percent)
  • How to improve diversity and inclusion (48 percent)
  • How to get involved with racial and social justice matters that are important to employees (44 percent)

However, many employees also report little to no action based on the feedback they provide. Nearly one in five (19 percent) say their company is horrible at acting on feedback and they never do anything with it. If employers do not make an effort to dissect the feedback they receive and make changes to cater to employee needs, they’ll risk losing employees for good.

Foster a culture of recognition

Achievers’ research found 71 percent more employees are disengaged in 2021 than they were at the beginning of 2020, and 66 percent of employees said they would be more engaged at work if their employer improved company culture. Nearly half (46 percent) of employees feel less connected to their company or colleagues since the start of the pandemic, and most employees blame a lack of communication (26 percent) or lack of effort to make remote employees feel connected (25 percent).

Creating a culture of recognition is also key for retention. Twenty percent of employees reported that feeling underappreciated for their contributions was hindering their engagement at work and 74 percent wish they received more recognition at work. More than three-quarters (80 percent) of employees also felt a strong recognition culture makes a company attractive to work for.

To drive company connection and culture moving forward, employers must consider creating more transparent and open communication, including increasing recognition, while also prioritizing connection for remote workers — especially if they plan to keep a portion of workers remote post-pandemic.

Weigh the realities of work-life balance versus productivity

“While many employees have gained significant flexibility during the pandemic as a result of working from home, that flexibility doesn’t mean they have a better work-life balance,” said Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers.

The report found one in four employees (25 percent) reported work-life balance as the reason they would search for a new job. Additionally, more than half (51 percent) of employees who are currently working remotely said they worried their manager doubts their productivity, causing nearly half (44 percent) to start work earlier or stay online later.

Employee concern over productivity, leading to early mornings and late nights, can eventually cause burnout, disengagement, and turnover. Baumgartner added, “Leadership and HR teams can help managers curb employee fears by providing training on results-oriented management that focuses more on the outcomes of employees’ work rather than the time spent in the home office. Additionally, managers should lead by example, shutting off their computer at night and making sure to both encourage vacation time and take it themselves.”

As we look ahead to the second half of 2021 and beyond, it will be critical that employers are working to take action from employee feedback, commit to building back culture, and help employees strike a better work-life balance if they hope to keep employees on board.

Specialty Incentives’ President Quoted on Vaccine Policy

With the numbers of vaccinated individuals climbing, an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a return to business as normal, may be at hand. These welcome developments have many companies, including those in the promotional products industry, mapping out how best to return to the office and what role, if any, vaccines will play in these decisions.

Working in the office is optional at some industry companies and for those employees who do come in, procedures and practices are in place to allow for social distancing and other safety measures. Drew Davis, MAS, president and owner of distributor Specialty Incentives in Denver, Colorado, says, “For several months now we have been following a schedule where salespeople are assigned specific days of the week where they can come into the office. We specifically looked at office locations within our space and divided days up so that there would be minimal headcount and physical space between those who might come on their specified days. We have relocated some workspaces within the building as well to ensure distance between people while working. People are not required to come into the office on their assigned days, but with our schedule, it establishes consistency and confidence of a safe work environment.”

Regarding vaccinations, Davis, adds, “We feel Colorado has done a very good job of communicating and executing its vaccine plan. I have confidence in our team to make the best vaccination decision for their individual well-being. Due to the continued uncertainty of whether an employer can require vaccination it is not yet something Specialty Incentives has made a decision on.”

Claudia St. John, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, president of Affinity HR Group, Inc., PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner, notes that should businesses decide to mandate that employees get vaccinated for COVID-19, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that it is within their right to do so. In December 2020, it issued guidance stating clearly that a COVID vaccine, administered by an employer or by a third-party administrator on behalf of an employer, is not a medical examination and is permissible. While the EEOC has deemed such a requirement permissible, it stated that employers should have a well-articulated business reason for requiring the vaccine, such as the need to protect the health of employees or clients, or the need to travel, work with vulnerable populations, or work in close quarters with others.

The EEOC also cautioned that employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” to employees who either are unable to receive a vaccine due to a medical condition or due to a “sincerely held religious belief.” A reasonable accommodation may include allowing an employee to work from home, isolate from other workers or significantly adjust work duties to provide protections from the general employee population. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers must allow reasonable accommodations such as these as long as providing the accommodation doesn’t cause “undue hardship” for the employer.

“Our advice for employers is to take steps toward encouraging vaccines before they decide to mandate them,” says St. John. “For a number of reasons, employees may be reluctant to get a vaccine—either because of legitimate health concerns or religious beliefs, or because of personal beliefs, privacy issues and/or political concerns. While mandating the vaccine may be ultimately appropriate, we advise employers to encourage vaccines as a first step.”

St. John suggests that business leaders can encourage vaccinations as part of a larger workplace wellness campaign, supported by goals and challenges and positive incentives; provide educational campaigns for employees to address their concerns, including inviting a medical professional to address employees’ confidential health concerns; give employees time off with pay to obtain the vaccine and, if necessary, to convalesce from the inoculation, and also to lead by example by taking the first vaccine and celebrating the first step toward beating the pandemic.

Courtesy of PPAI Media

Hanes Talks Cotton

Hanes printwear has launched a U.S.‐grown cotton initiative to raise awareness among printers and promotional products distributors of its importance to sustainability, apparel quality and jobs. As part of the launch, the printwear group also announced that its iconic Hanes Beefy‐T is now being manufactured from 100-percent U.S.‐grown cotton.

“Sustainability and responsible sourcing are important considerations for customers today,” says Michael Johnson, director of marketing for Hanes activewear. “We want printers and promotional products distributors to know they can trust what they are buying from Hanes, and we want them to be able to talk confidently about sustainability with their customers. We know it matters.”

Hanes notes that during the past four decades, U.S. farmers have utilized technology and other advancements to make significant strides in growing sustainable cotton crops. According to the National Cotton Council of America, this includes reducing the amount of land needed to produce cotton yields by almost 50 percent, diminishing soil erosion by 35 percent, decreasing water use by more than 50 percent, cutting energy use by more than 50 percent and lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.

Additionally, U.S. cotton production is regulated as a food crop because cottonseed is used in both human food products, such as cottonseed oil, and animal feed. And jobs in the country’s cotton industry are subject to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

“It’s a matter of visibility and trust to us,” says Chris Fox, chief sustainability officer for HanesBrands. “For decades, the U.S. cotton industry has supported our sustainability objectives, which is why we use U.S.‐grown cotton for most of the apparel we sell in our printwear channel. And because we own the majority of our manufacturing operations, our processes are tightly controlled and we have far closer oversight over the raw materials used to manufacture our apparel. We know where our U.S. cotton is sourced, spun and sewn—unique in our industry.”

Ask your sales associate to see samples of the famously reliable Beefy-T.

-courtesy of PPAI Media

10 Zoom Tips to Use Right Now

Whether you’ve been using Zoom for years or you’re a newbie, there are a number of helpful tricks and hidden features you can utilize to make your screen time more tolerable.
Here are 10 ways to become a Zoom master.

  1. Change your background.
    Virtually transport yourself to ‘The Simpson’s’ living room, a desk next Dwight in ‘The Office’ or anywhere else you can imagine by customizing your background. Go to Settings > Background & Filters and select or upload the image you want from there. Watch the how-to video here. Download these fun backgrounds to get started.
  2. Turn on gallery view.
    Want to see somebody other than that guy eating a bagel? Gallery view lets you see everyone in the meeting at once, instead of just the person speaking. Go to the top right corner and click the tab that says “Gallery view”. Change it back by clicking “Speaker view” in that same top right corner.
  3. Mute your audio and turn off your camera by default.
    Keep your coworkers from seeing your bedhead or hearing your dog bark by turning off your camera and mic by default. Go to Settings > Audio > Mute microphone when joining a meeting, and then Settings > Video > Turn off my video when joining a meeting.
  4. Mute and unmute with the space bar.
    When you’re called on to speak, stop scrambling to click the microphone button. Press and hold the spacebar to quickly mute and unmute your mic.
  5. Turn on the beauty filter.
    We can all use a “little extra” every now and then. Zoom’s “Touch Up My Appearance” feature smooths over your appearance, making you look fresh and well-rested. Click the up arrow next to “Start Video”. Click “Video Settings”, and under “My Video”, check the box for “Touch Up My Appearance”. Read detailed instructions here.
  6. Share your screen for a Zoom meeting (or to watch a movie or play a game!) with other participants by clicking the “Share Screen” icon on the toolbar at the bottom of the meeting screen. You’ll have the option to share your entire desktop, or just one of the windows you have open. Click the red “Stop Share” button at the top of the screen to go back to being a normal participant in the meeting.
  7. React with emojis on screen.
    Send a thumbs up or a clapping emoji without interrupting the meeting (customize the skin tone on the Zoom desktop app). To react during a meeting, click the “Reactions” tab at the bottom of the meeting screen (it’s in the same panel as mute audio and video, to the right) and choose the one you want. The emoji will disappear after five seconds.
  8. Learn handy keyboard shortcuts.
    Zoom has a ton of helpful keyboard shortcuts to help you navigate without using your mouse. Find commands to join a meeting, start or stop recording, enter full screen and share your screen. Check out Zoom’s full list of hot keys and keyboard shortcuts here.
  9. Hide nonvideo participants.
    On a larger call, it’s likely some participants won’t have their cameras on, which can be distracting. Hide the participants who aren’t using video by going to Settings > Video > Meetings, and check “Hide nonvideo participants”.
  10. Record the meeting to your computer.
    Both free and paid Zoom subscribers can record meetings to their computer using the desktop app. To enable local recording, go to Settings > Recording, and toggle it on. When you’re hosting a Zoom meeting, click the Record icon on the bottom toolbar.
Download some fun Zoom backgrounds to perk up those boring meetings.

Feeling Blue?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of Americans are suffering from “screen fatigue” due to prolonged use of digital devices emitting Blue Light. Are you and your team part of that growing number?

WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?
Natural Blue Light from the sun is all around us and it helps regulate our sleep cycles, keeps us alert and elevates our mood. Artificial Blue Light is found in computers, flat screen televisions, LED lights and energy-efficient light bulbs. Blue Light has a shorter wave length and higher energy, which is more difficult for our eyes to process. In higher doses it can cause blurred vision, dry eye, headaches and restlessness.

DO BLUE LIGHT GLASSES REALLY WORK?
Yes! Special lenses filter 20% – 50% of Blue Light, reducing overexposure and minimizing symptoms.

Open your eyes to a safer way of working. Protect your team with branded Blue Light glasses, shipped directly to their door!

Sources: Eyebobs, Lens Crafters, Photo by Curtis Potvin on Unsplash

Trick? or Treat?

Kids have had enough tricks in 2020 to last a lifetime. It’s high time we deliver the treats! If you’re one of the 63% of Americans who plan to give out candy this year, here are some safe solutions for keeping the fun safe during the pandemic.

Socially distanced Skull Slide? Genius!

courtesy of WickedMakers

Take a tip from Willy Wonka and ‘Candy Stick’ your lawn.

courtesy of Wendy Reeves Winter on Good Morning America

Try not to wake the dead in this delicious graveyard.

courtesy of Oriental Trading Co.

Are You Ready for Shipaggedon?

You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why…

FedEx and UPS — as well as our key suppliers — have warned us to brace for ‘shipaggedon’ as they reach capacity ahead of the holiday season. This year brings an unprecedented ‘peak season’ with limited staffing resources, and limited inventory, all combining with COVID restrictions to create the perfect storm.

Don’t be caught in the stress mess! We’re currently working with our clients to pull forward their holiday gifting plans, ensuring production and delivery expectations are met. Together, we’ll create a custom plan for your branded gifts, creative packaging, kitting and drop shipping. So go ahead; make your list and check it twice, but do it NOW.

Remote Workers Want ‘Cool’

A recent study revealed 91% of remote workers who received logoed merchandise upon being hired, felt great about how their employer brought them on board. The same survey noted they would love to receive “cool swag”, not just printed throwaways.* Great! But what defines “cool”?

Cool doesn’t follow the norm. It’s not showcasing your logo on disposable plastic bottles and outdated technology. You won’t see employees showing off mundane stress balls or cheap keychains in Zoom calls. Give your team something they actually want to use! Long-lasting products from established brands, synonymous with proven quality.

We turn toward our elite retail brands for the latest must-haves. Trending products like timeless bags from Herschel; performance jackets from Carhartt, Stormtech and The North Face; copper insulated tumblers and bottles from Igloo, Tervis, and Yeti; and pure sounds from JBL and Skullcandy are all safe bets.

Did you know your logo takes on greater perceived value when it’s associated with a premium brand? Yep. Your employees will feel warm-n-fuzzy every time they enjoy your thoughtfulness.

Ready to get your cool on? Contact your sales associate.

Specialty Incentives Retail Brands

*source Advertising Specialty Institute