Training and retention: two success stories.

Author:Raphael, Steve

Training: Horizon Technology LLC

When Taylor-based Horizon Technology LLC, primarily a manufacturer of automotive parts, decided it was the right time to retrain its workforce and upgrade its workers' skills, the first question was how.

The solution was a collaborative program between management and employees called Career Tracks that crosstrains about 175 Horizon workers to be jacks of all trades.

Since the program's inception five years ago, Horizon has seen profits increase and hourly employee turnover fall to 5 percent annually from 25 percent before the program began.

In many respects, the success of Career Tracks is based on the old carrot-and stick approach that links performance to a tangible reward. In Horizon's case, Career Tracks clearly linked training to increased productivity, and increased productivity to higher pay.

"There is no limit on how much (employees) could earn as long as they learn new skills," says Ron Palmer, the company's chairman.

Career Tracks has been so successful that Horizon is now preparing a similar program for its salaried employees.

Programs like Career Tracks can work at any company, as long as "employees and management decide they want it to work," says Katie Lennig, Horizon's human resources director. "The key factors are objectivity and trust. Measurable, objective performance reviews are important. But everyone, management and employees, must buy into the idea."

Horizon's experience with Career Tracks is a good example of how businesses can take creative steps to solve their own workforce-development issues. And the stakes couldn't be higher. As technological advances continue, employee re-training and upgrading is becoming vital for corporate survival.

Retention: United Parcel Service

Retention is a top priority at UPS, where package-handling jobs on the night shifts were going begging--partly because of the demanding nature of the work and partly because many Detroiters simply lacked transportation.

It took John Colone, the company's workforce planning supervisor, just one telephone call to start the process of improving employee retention at UPS offices in Livonia and Detroit.

Colone called Willie Walker, director of Detroit's Employment and Training Department, and outlined his problems.

Employment and Training has been operating for 30 years but Walker has been fine-tuning it the past six years to make it more effective for both employers and job seekers. Services include negotiating wages and...

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