Volume 10, Issue 5 - May/June 2009

protect the view

Grow People
Essential Advice to Ensure Longevity
by Mike Burk

There is a Chinese proverb that says: “If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you are planning for 20 years, grow trees. If you are planning for centuries, grow people.”

It may be difficult for us to think about planning for centuries when we are concerned about our business surviving through the end of the month or the end of the year. But we know that the door and window industry will turn around. It always has been cyclical and most likely always will be. We know that the industry will recover and we need to be prepared when it does. Will you and your company be ready?

Think of Staff as an Investment
As companies cut back to reduce costs, we hear of downsizing, plant closures and staff reductions. Associates with 10, 15, 20 or more years experience are being forced away from our industry. In some cases this may be the only way to cut costs. But are you sure you have considered all options? Do you truly understand the investment that you are allowing to walk out the door? When the turnaround arrives, will you have the trained staff you require?

In the past, one of the most common excuses given for not training employees was “we’re too busy to do any training right now” or “we’re shorthanded and can’t spare the people.” Given the climate of the fenestration industry today, that excuse holds less water than a failed IG unit. Now, we are not too busy. Now, we can spare the people. It is time to take advantage of the training programs and funding that are available. It is an ideal time to grow people.

Many employees were never able to complete career programs or college degrees due to excess travel or growing families. Could your company provide these associates with a leave of absence to complete a degree or vocational program? Is it possible to continue health care coverage during this leave of absence? During this slower business period, is it possible to allow associates to take courses that are only offered during normal business hours? Have you considered all options to maintain your company’s training budget and tuition reimbursement program?

Variety of Sources Can Help
Have you taken advantage of training opportunities provided by your suppliers? Most fenestration equipment and component suppliers offer customer training, often at no charge. This training includes fully equipped training facilities, onsite workshops at your facility, regional presentations, web-based training programs and equipment and procedure manuals. Consult your suppliers and ask about their training options.

In addition to incentives for homeowners to purchase energy-efficient windows, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Stimulus Act) contains many funding programs for employee training. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) estimates that the legislation will provide more than $5 billion in training for a variety of programs. The ASTD web page (www.astd.org) has information on “what you can do to help your organization take advantage of these opportunities.” The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was enacted to induce businesses to participate in the local delivery of Federal Workforce Development Services. Local Workforce Investment Boards are chaired by private members of the local community with a majority of the board members from business interests. Information on the service provided by these boards and other job training opportunities are available from your local state employment or job services website.

Employers need to investigate these and the many other available programs. Wise employers will do every thing possible to retain their experienced, highly qualified staff. They will take this opportunity to grow people who will be even more skillful, more quality-conscious and more efficient. In turn, they will be ready to meet the expected increased demand for quality windows that protect the view. 

Mike Burk serves as technical service manager for Edgetech I.G. He may be reached at mike.burk@edgetechig.com. Mr. Burk’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.l

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