Game Changers

Brought to you by Pinnacle

Do you want to ensure your cherished memories survive for generations? Get them in print. That’s the advice Lifetouch Plant Manager, Brian Klassen, gave when meeting with Rhae Redekop, Executive Recruitment Consultant at Pinnacle.

We’re talking about the Game Changers that are leading initiatives to evolve 160 years of technology to meet the demand of 8 million photos per year for what is traditionally known as “Picture Day.”

“I think one of the difficulties in our industry is what I would call the Digital Dark Age. Your cell phone has a wonderful camera. But you’re not going to get as good an image, background choices or professional lighting as we provide. Where we add value is in quality and convenience. 97% of our photos ship within five days.”

Maureen Drummond, Director of HR Canada adds, “Since our merger with Shutterfly, we can now put those memories on a whole host of other things like pillows, ornaments, calendars and memory books.”

RR: To start, I would love to hear how each of you would describe Lifetouch.
BK: We’re primarily a professional photography provider for schools. We photograph approximately 4 million images in the fall and another 3.5 million in spring every year. Out of this facility we produce all the images and DVDs from across Canada; Vancouver Island to Newfoundland as well as up North.

Our team will go from 40 or 50 in low season to 260 at our busy time. Including managers and supervisors, we’ll move up to 275 in this building in two shifts. There’s a lot that happens in a short period of time from September 5 to December 1.

MD: What I love about our company is that we are creating smiles and memories for people’s milestones such as annual school pictures or graduations.

RR: From an organizational perspective, how do you put smiles on faces?
MD: We have a well-rounded, state-of-the-art training program for our photographers, because they are the ambassadors on the front lines for our company. So, we work hard to go above and beyond to recognize them. Little things like showing up at a school with coffee and doughnuts if we know they have a hard day ahead of them and bigger initiatives like the Chairman’s Award where the photographers can submit their best pictures of the year. They’re then judged by a group of professional photographers and can win a substantial monetary prize.

We’re very fortunate that we have a lot of returning photographers, but we also have quite a few new staff. People that are graduating from photography or right out of high school. We focus on looking for the customer service traits. Can you work with kids, can you interact with students, etc? Our training programs can take care of the rest.

RR: What about on the back end?
BK: We’re going through a conversion away from silver halide portraits. Like you’d see in movies where they dip the image in chemicals and hang them on a line in a darkroom. We’re moving away from that technology to ink on paper and then we laminate it. So, we’re changing 160 years of technology going into the next stage of production. That’s where the goals are for our coming years. Some of our most recent recruits through Pinnacle are working on big changes for our industry.

We have a good mix of people that have been here 20, 30 and 40 years who understand photography. And now we’re adding people that have a deep understanding of print, manufacturing and Lean. They’re combining all these tools and looking at things in a completely different way. And they’re moving through different areas of the business and providing a different flavor to challenges and solutions.

RR: The focus for the series that we’ve been doing is on Game Changers; the people or events that have shaped the way that that you look at or do things. What or who is your Game Changer?
MD: We stopped doing traditional recruitment. We just weren’t getting people in the door, and I wanted to create some excitement around Lifetouch and a connection to the community.

I changed our orientation and onboarding after I heard Wade Miller speak at one of Pinnacle’s breakfast sessions. I came back from hearing what he said and we put together a list called Ideas from A to Z. Three categories – No Cost, Low Cost and Sunk Cost and we came up with 100 items in each on what we could do every day, once a week, once a month, etc., to keep people engaged. We did a ton of research and then put these toolkits together for our territory managers in the field. And then we incorporated those ideas at the plants and our offices. It’s helped us move away from the standard onboarding of, here’s a stack of forms to fill out, here’s your standard employee package, next. It’s engagement and conversation about what we expect from you and here’s what you can expect from us. At end of season reviews, we now consistently score high on people feeling connected and appreciated.

Some of our initiatives include new employees sitting down with Brian over snacks and talking about anything they want. We have Spirit Weeks and Crazy Sock competitions to connect our photographers who are never in the same location. And we have a Caught in the Act board where you can be nominated when you’re caught going above and beyond and getting your name in for a monthly draw and gift card.

BK: We’ve had good success hiring recent immigrants. When we have a job fair, we’ll have 100 people lined up within the first hour. And I would say, 90% are visible minorities.

For senior positions, we would continue to rely on Pinnacle. Otherwise it can be a very painful process. We’re good at hiring seasonal people; we can train all our jobs within a week. But at the senior level, I don’t think I’m a great hiring person. That’s why you get a good team together that can bring different perspectives and a more well-rounded picture.

For example, I had completely missed someone. I had been looking for specifics in a resume and personality type and someone said, hey, I think I know a little bit about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to do. I think this person would be good for you. And it’s worked out really well.

RR: Where do you see Lifetouch in the next 3-5 years?
BK: Our mission is to build strong relationships with our clients. To take care of the schools, Mom, Dad, the grandparents and to continue to make it easy for people to work with us.

Employees are the base of our success. We’ve got some long-tenured staff, and some 1-2, to 10-year people. Our goal is to keep everyone learning and developing.

About Pinnacle
Pinnacle is Winnipeg’s leading local recruitment firm with 25 industry-specialized recruiters in two areas: Executive & Professional Search, and Staffing & Recruiting. Learn more at