Productivity and Retention
Key to growth: Helping workers help themselves
We were having difficulty finding enough highly skilled people to work in our plants.
Without these people, our operation couldn't grow. So we came to a conclusion: Since we didn't have the people we needed coming to us, we'd help people we had on staff become who we wanted them to be.
To do that, we decided to create a company culture emphasizing education and self-improvement. Here are some of the things we did:
Set up apprenticeships
Since people with the skills we needed were so hard to find, we decided to set up an apprenticeship program to teach current employees the more advanced skills we needed.
The program takes five years to complete. But at the end of it, the apprentice receives a certificate, certain financial bonuses and a tool allowance. Of course, they gain a marketable technical skill, so the effort is a "win-win."
Added in-house education
The apprenticeships helped solve the problem, but we wanted to make sure all the good people stayed with us - not just those we'd trained.
So we added an educational allowance that let all our workers take college classes. The program was set up to pay for important technical and business-related subjects.
To serve those who couldn't get to college, we set up a company library stocked with self-study materials. The library included books, magazines and videos on financial, technical and business topics.
To take the idea further we conducted our own "night school" in house, covering company-specific subjects. These classes were open to anyone and completely free. We knew our ideas were working - the classes were packed.
The culture of learning and openness we'd established even modified departmental staff meetings.
I'd meet with all the department four times a year to talk about things like our financials, where the industry was going, whether or not we had big orders on the way, etc.
Then we'd hold a series of short question and answer sessions. To encourage people to open up, we'd meet in smaller groups.
In these meetings and one-on-one we made sure our employees understood they'd profit if the company profited, through a series of bonus and incentive plans.
We now have a company of high quality employees who are dedicated to the firm. Turnover is much lower.
Bonus: Since we began this effort, our stock value has ballooned and sales have doubled.
(Richard Cannon, CFO, CAO, Pacific
Corp., Covina, CA.
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