Analog Devices Inc. manufactures high-performance integrated circuits that are used in analog and digital signaling processing applications. With more than 8,500 employees located in Massachusetts, California, North Carolina, Ireland and the Philippines, Analog has a multicultural workforce, and its learning initiatives must take that fact into account.
According to Lucy Strandberg, a training manager for Analog, the company has specific goals for different groups of employees, but one overarching goal is to target training toward improvements in quality and yield. In the past, training was not structured at Analog, Strandberg added. “We did most of the training based on experience rather than having a system on how to train,” she said. “Now that we have a system, it’s a little easier because everybody’s learning in the same manner.”
At the California location, where Strandberg manages training for more than 200 employees, language and cultural issues present unique learning challenges. “We have a real diverse group here,” Strandberg said. “The dynamics are different than if you were just talking to one culture all the time. We have to overcome a lot of language barriers.” For many of the California workers, English is a second language. Analog addressed that by offering ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and providing written material that targets specific groups of workers.
Strandberg said that Analog Devices relied on Effective Training Solutions to bring in a methodology that delivers 100 percent proficiency for employees. “It helps in teaching people how to learn—not just giving them instructions and going away,” she said. “First, give them the tools and the understanding of how to use those tools, so they have to have full understanding before they actually are on their own. It walks the trainee, or the operator, through the learning process.”
According to Ingrid Gudenas, CEO of Effective Training Solutions, the 100 percent proficiency system is tied tightly to business metrics at Analog Devices. Any time the system is implemented for a new training program, the expected financial return is calculated in advance. “We do a root-cause analysis, we look at the business metrics, and we identify which business metrics could be improved with 100 percent proficiency,” Gudenas said. “Then we target what that improvement is going to be, and from that we target what the financial return is going to be.”
For example, when Analog discovered that one piece of equipment was operational only 58 percent of the time, it turned to Effective Training Solutions to target training to get the equipment running 80 percent of the time, with periodic breaks for maintenance and other needs. “After training, they achieved 82 percent,” Gudenas said. “The ROI on that was 471 percent because of the capital savings and labor cost savings.
Standardizing a system for learning at Analog has improved the quality of learning as well as the products employees work on. In addition, Strandberg said that morale has improved. “The focus was on bringing this for them, as opposed to bringing new equipment or improving the processes,” she said. “This was strictly for the people and improving their learning and improving their skills. It was centered on them.”
By learning to learn, employees at Analog have also developed better communication skills and the knowledge that it’s OK to ask questions. “They don’t know everything,” Strandberg said. “Sometimes they need to ask questions, and the training opened up a line of communication.”