Title Image


Phototype: A Case Study in Excellence

From humble beginnings almost 100 years ago in 1919, Phototype has provided innovative and superior graphic solutions for clients ranging from Kimberly-Clark to Procter & Gamble to Hershey’s, offering robust solutions in design, production, and management that ensures brand appearance at shelf. However, just because they work with some of the biggest names in the business doesn’t mean that they have corporate roots themselves. As a fourth-generation, family-owned business, Phototype prides itself on its highly innovative spirit and “celebrate(s) the joy of…empower(ing) clients to reach their goals.” Plus, Phototype has repeatedly shown that they aren’t just client-focused; the pillars of their business – “honesty, respect, and fairness” – also translate to how they treat their own employees, and they have invested in employee development through multi-rater feedback and accountability to continuously improve.


The majority of 360 processes utilized in organizations have been for development only, and not tied to performance appraisals. Historically, performance appraisals have been a top-down exercise, gathering the opinion of only the Direct Manager, which is tied to specific metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This approach can limit the perspective, not taking into account an employee’s entire repertoire of behaviors and skills. Gallup research indicates that more than half of employees believe their performance reviews are inaccurate.




Direct Managers tend to focus on the results – WHAT has been accomplished. However, organizations are seeing the benefit of gathering information from more than only the direct manager. Those who work closely with the employee day-to-day offer a valuable perspective about HOW these results are accomplished and whether the employee is demonstrating the organization’s core values while achieving the results. Both the WHAT and the HOW are important for sustained, successful employee engagement and success.


In order to initially engage in a formal performance management process that included feedback from peers, Phototype had one key hurdle to clear: employee skepticism. As Heather Smith, Director of Human Resources at Phototype, notes, “Employees are very skeptical about the confidentiality [of the assessment process]. The only way for employees to provide valuable, candid feedback was to use a third party partner.” That’s where Assessment+ came in. Using an external firm provided Phototype with the unbiased experience they needed; plus, Assessment+ understands that the data provided is personal and highly confidential in nature, and therefore goes to great lengths to ensure its protection. Personal information and data responses collected are housed on a secure server, and are guaranteed to be protected from unauthorized or accidental disclosure.


“Upon our research, Assessment+ had all of the technology we needed, plus the customer service that made us feel like we were a #1 client,” said Heather. In their first year partnering with Assessment+, Phototype quickly realized that the multi-rater approach to a performance appraisal was something that offered tremendous value. An assessment process such as the one Phototype implemented helps employees determine their strengths, as well as areas that might need improvement, thus providing this same information at a higher level: the collective strengths and development areas of departments and the organization as a whole. This type of data benefits the leadership team as they can see themes at a higher organizational level, while also benefitting the individual employees and providing the information they need to leverage their own strengths and further develop in areas they need to improve.


“The employee input about this assessment process in 2014 was very positive. They appreciated the time and effort that was put forth. Many employees had not received this type of feedback in years, if at all.” Now, Phototype has made a commitment to surveying employees at the same time each year, holding managers accountable to the calendar dates set forth. This will enable Phototype to gauge their improvement year-to-year as an organization, while also holding individuals accountable for improving.


The company’s improvements from the feedback process were palpable in analyzing their data from 2014 to 2015, with statistically significant improvement in numerous areas, including “Consistently treating coworkers, vendors and customers with respect and dignity,” “Fostering teamwork,” and “Being open and receptive to constructive feedback and/or ideas.” In fact, every single category showed improvement (see graph below), while absolutely no items showed statistically significant decline. The lowest-rated items showed progress, and the highest-rated items soared even higher!




Heather confirmed the noticeable improvement, giving life to the data: “The process has given us a better understanding of what is important to [employees] as individuals. At the company level, the cumulative reports have provided us with a thousand-foot view of where departments stand as a whole.” She notes that the most obvious improvement has been seen in Managers’ and Supervisors’ leadership skills; by incorporating quarterly meetings with subordinates, rather than their previous annual reviews, team members have been able to forge better interpersonal relationships and there is higher incentive to work smarter.


In fact, Phototype found such tremendous value in the feedback process that they went a step “higher.” After seeing the Assessment+ reports from 2014, Phototype’s two CEOs immediately requested 360 degree feedback on themselves! By asking their Directors, VPs, and SVPs to provide feedback and making the results readily open and available, Phototype set a further precedence of having a growth mindset throughout all levels of the company – from the CEO to the staff.


Furthermore, the improvement highlighted in Phototype’s 360 results year-to-year was matched in their annual Employee Engagement Survey, a powerful linkage for further cementing their growth and development across the organization. Each and every item measured on their Engagement Survey showed improvement from 2014 to 2015, averaging an increase of 18% collectively, with areas relating to the development and growth of employees increasing by 25%. The most improved area, Communication, also corresponded with improvement on their performance appraisals.


Now, Phototype hopes to continue developing through the feedback they receive through the Assessment+ organizational development processes. Like most successful companies, Phototype isn’t satisfied with the status quo, but understands the importance of continuous improvement. And, with every additional year, the data at their disposal grows and becomes a goldmine of information, just waiting to be unearthed, analyzed and used to provide powerful insights into the success of Phototype. This information can lead to a stronger performing company year after year.