Although it’s only six years old, Delphi, a provider of mobile electronics and transportation components and systems technology, has nearly a century of history behind it. The organization was part of automobile manufacturer General Motors until it was spun off into a separate business in 1999 with the slogan “Driving automotive technology where it’s never been before.” Since then, Delphi has utilized its formidable knowledge base to expand into areas that the founders of its parent company probably never envisioned.
“Basically, we’re taking the technology that we’ve learned to use in automotive to other markets: aerospace, consumer electronics, medical devices and others,” said Ron Tullis, Delphi’s manager of organization and employee development. “In that regard, education and training is very important to us because we do view ourselves more as a technology company in the future than as the parts manufacturer that we were in the past.”
As part of the corporate strategic talent management staff, Tullis’ responsibilities cut across all of Delphi’s domestic divisions and global locations: no small task, given that the company has about 184,000 employees—33,000 of which are salaried—in 40 countries. To move so many workers into a new organization, Tullis and other Delphi leaders put together an enterprise-spanning learning program to help facilitate the change. “As we were preparing to become our own company, we recognized that there was going to be significant change for employees and the transition might not be all that easy,” he said. “We needed a way to prepare to help them with the transition, so we came up with this strategy that we labeled Team Delphi. We have run six sessions of Team Delphi since 1996. The first one was preparing people for the eventual spin-off. Those programs have helped people understand what Delphi’s mission, objectives and strategies are.”
This program, which employs company executives as instructors, involves bringing global teams to corporate headquarters in Troy, Mich., for the class. After completion, they return to their respective regions and disseminate what they’ve learned to their employees. Tullis and his colleagues have made e-learning versions of those after the live run, so that employees who come to Delphi later on can catch up. These events have helped wean Delphi off of the business it derives from GM, Tullis said. GM initially accounted for more than 90 percent of Delphi’s revenue and now comprises around half of its earnings.
Another of Delphi’s successes has been its partnership with the University of Dayton, which is in its seventh year of existence and fifth group of students. It is not a typical tuition assistance program, Tullis said. In this arrangement, Delphi employees utilize products from companies like RWD Technologies and Interwise to work remotely toward graduate degrees in engineering. Tullis cited this program as his company’s most effective use of advanced technology in learning development initiatives.
Apart from the typical methods of study and examination, one of the main requirements for obtaining a graduate degree in the University of Dayton program is the successful completion of a capstone project. Interestingly, this project is far from an abstract exercise. Delphi expects participants to produce a result that will have a bottom-line impact for the company, and they are seldom disappointed. “We have documented—with the concurrence of Delphi’s finance activity—$100 million in savings,” Tullis said. “Those results come out of projects that the students complete based on the education that they’ve received. A lot of it has been in either product improvement or process improvement through some of the operations research tools.”
–Brian Summerfield, firstname.lastname@example.org
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