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How Our Workers Dramatically Improved Their Skills in 11 Months

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In the past we’ve struggled with how to best assess our new hires to make sure they have the skills needed to be immediately successful. In 2011, a job skills assessment system called Work Keys transformed our process. I’ll tell you how it helped our workforce drastically improve their knowledge and skills in less than a year, directly benefitting our company.

Work Keys Tests Applicants & Employees for Skills

Work Keys helped us select, hire, train, develop and retain a high-performance workforce. A part of ACT, the same company that performs admissions testing for colleges and universities, Work Keys has three basic steps:

  • Job profiling for occupational qualifications for specific jobs
  • Employee and new hire assessments
  • Training and development of employees to meet occupational requirements

Three main areas of testing are:

  • Applied Math
  • Reading for Information
  • Locating Information

Based on scores for each of the three areas, employees or applicants are awarded certifications of bronze, silver, gold or platinum. Most of Our Workforce in August 2011 “Did Not Qualify.” After having profiles conducted for our machine operator, maintenance, lead person, and supervisor positions in 2011, we tested all of our employees to see how well our workforce was prepared to succeed.

Employee CRC Ratings

We were surprised to see that 48 percent of our workforce did not qualify (DNQ) for the minimum scores needed to receive a bronze CRC rating. In most cases applied math scores were the main cause of the low rating, but we also saw some employees who needed help with reading and locating information.

We Educated & Trained

We launched a major employee education and training initiative to develop our workforce with the help of Richmond Community College . Through a combination of grants and company funding, we developed an individualized training plan for our employees to help them improve in the critical skills areas.

Game-Changing Results

In July 2012 we retested our employees with these remarkable results:

2012 Employee CRC

Using the objective Work Keys/CRC assessment as the basis for our hiring, pay scale, and job placement has changed our company culture into one that fosters and encourages employees to improve, even beyond the basic requirements, for their position.

Direct Company Benefits

Direct company benefits gained from this program are:

  • Decrease in training time for new employees – many of our new hires hold silver or gold certificates, and these employees typically perform at a high level during the first week of employment…a 75 percent reduction in the previous 4-week typical training period required for pre Work Keys/CRC hires.
  • Increased employee participation in continuous improvement and efficiency efforts – the focus on critical thinking has led to more participation across all levels of the company, with engagement of machine operators and lead people as champions of change.
  • Improved morale and culture – using objective criteria for job placement and advancement creates a culture of fairness and limits subjective favoritism.

Salary Incentives for Test Scores

With incentive pay increases based on the Work Keys test, every employee has the ability to receive higher wages through score improvement, and as the chart above indicates, the employee response has been overwhelmingly positive.

This is what we are doing to build and develop our work force, and this approach can work for any business looking to increase employee involvement and improvement.  What do you do to hire, train, and develop a high performance work team? 

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