Global flooring company Pergo Inc. has one particular goal when it comes to educating its employees: to help them increase their overall business acumen by engaging them in projects and teams outside the role for which they were actually hired.
“We don’t pigeonhole people,” said Lori Bassett, vice president of human resources. “The foundation of a person’s training and development can begin with their current job, but it expands based on their demonstrated initiative and their willingness to learn and do more. It expands depending on what the employee really wants to do and how they want to impact the organization and the business.”
Although the company does have set curricula, much of Pergo’s learning is customized, specifically tailored to address individuals’ skill or competency needs or organizational demands.
For example, a few years ago, Bassett said the organization was “having meetings to plan the next meeting.” After several group training sessions taught by a West Coast training vendor, Pergo built and implemented standard operating meeting procedures. As a result of that training, Bassett said the number of meetings has decreased, and the meetings that are held are more productive.
“Employees know what to expect when they walk into a room,” Bassett explained. “They know to walk out of the room if the topic is not related to them, or if the presenter or the coordinator of the meeting is not prepared. They have the right to stand up and say, ‘When we’re ready to meet about this, when there’s an agenda, when we know what our goal and purpose is, when we know what we’re trying to achieve in this two hours together, we’ll come back.’”
Pergo’s learning and development strategy to build offerings based on identified needs also came into play in regard to its four-generation workforce.
“We have all four generations, and it’s quite fun to watch sometimes,” Bassett said. “After training from Loyalty Factor, it’s easy to identify what generation someone comes from. It boils down to listening to that internal customer’s needs and thinking about how or what has impacted their thought process to get them to this point in time. Then flex your style or share your experiences.
“We respect each other’s differences, not just from diversity standpoint but from what makes people who they are. There is a willingness to listen to the other person’s viewpoint in order to come to consensus on what’s the best thing for the business. Training has enhanced our ability to make decisions faster, be more productive and have a better work environment. It’s actually impacted the culture of the organization.”
In one multigenerational training exercise, participants respond to a scenario put up on a board, and they break into generational groups to discuss how each generation views and reacts to that particular scenario.
“The nexters are laughing at the baby boomers because the reaction is so different, and you would never have thought about this in such a way until there was some kind of miscommunication,” Bassett said. “The classes open the door for better listening and being more objective and open to other viewpoints regardless of just generational differences.”
To ensure learning efforts are having an impact on the bottom line, Pergo employs many business-related metrics such as the number of safety incidents, plant effectiveness and downtime and operator error.
“We measure our organization, and we think this is very reflective of the training programs that we have in place,” Bassett said. “We measure through our sales because our sales are a direct reflection of our customer relationships and the customer relationship training that we’ve conducted. We measure through order accuracy because that is also customer relationships, and it’s engaging people, getting their participation in the company. By gaining that sense of ownership with the employee, they work harder to do a better job.”
As a result of targeted learning initiatives, Bassett said Pergo has seen an increase in order accuracy, and order shipments and product launches are delivered on time. If they’re not, employees are better prepared to evaluate why and then follow up with a plan to ensure the same situation doesn’t happen again.
“We really use business metrics to look at the effectiveness of our training programs,” Bassett said. “If you don’t link it back, it’s the first thing to be cut out of a budget when you’re cutting fixed costs. Fortunately for Pergo, the senior management team is very aware of the linkage between performance of the business and training.”
– Kellye Whitney, firstname.lastname@example.org
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