Several employees of Edmond-based Pelco Products Inc., North America's largest traffic signal hardware manufacturer, once struggled with their work. One warehouse order filler, for example, consistently would pull the wrong parts and the incorrect number of parts, and take way too long doing it.
Then, managers had workers take multiple-choice tests — in math, reading and locating information — and quickly learned why some underperformed.
“We were asking people to do things they had no way of doing,” operations manager Mark Nash said. “It really showed us what skills employees have and what skills they need for certain jobs.”
Called WorkKeys, the 55-minute online interactive assessments are designed by ACT, best known for its college entrance exams, and rate test takers on a six-point scale with a “3” level being entry-level and “6” being advanced.
After testing, Pelco managers promptly moved the warehouse order filler, who lacked entry-level ratings for the job she was doing, to a position in manufacturing where she pulls only a single part every time.
“Her quality of work has gone through the roof and speed more than doubled,” Nash said. “She's more satisfied and not as frustrated with her job and her co-workers love her.”
In the two years since Pelco embraced WorkKeys for new hires and most of its existing staff, turnover has dropped from 30 percent to 10 percent and production is up 25 percent, said Jeff Parduhn, co-owner and controller. The 26-year-old family-owned company employs 150 and has $25 million in annual revenues.
“We're hiring the right people, and getting our employees up to speed where they should be,” Parduhn said.
The manufacturer plans to conduct its own testing on site — previously, administrators from Francis Tuttle Technology came to the plant to oversee it — and use KeyTrain software, the training complement to WorkKeys assessment software, to develop employees.
For Pelco team leaders Jeny Rogers and Earnest Brumley, training needs lie in reading and math, respectively.
“I did OK on math, but need to improve in communicating, or explaining and showing my different team members what their job is or how the work table flows,” Rogers, 35, said. A native of the Philippines, Rogers didn't learn to read and write English until she moved to the United States and went to high school in Enid.
Any Oklahoma business now can have free access to KeyTrain interactive online reading and math skills software training programs, along with Career Ready 101 curriculum for customer service and other soft skills. Making the software available is part of an effort led by the Governor's Council for Workforce and Economic Development to build the skills, credentials and competitiveness of Oklahoma workers and businesses. For a free site license, visit OKCareerPlanner.com/KeyTrain.