Hiring Responsible Team Members

The Company:

Steelscape, Inc. – Kalama, WA; Richmond and Rancho Cucamonga, CA

The Challenge:

Hiring responsible, skilled employees for self-directed work teams

The Solution:

Using WorkKeys assessments in their pre-employment screening process

The Results:

A highly skilled workforce with a low turnover rate


Steelscape produces cold-rolled, metallic-coated and painted steel coils for the construction market in the United States and Canada. Its plants in Rancho Cucamonga, Richmond and Kalama together employ more than 530 people and produce 450,000 tons of coated steel per year. The company is known for its experienced and motivated team of employees. One of its key operating principles is "dynamic collaborative teaming," where employees are aligned, engaged and responsible to do necessary work on their own, forming groups as necessary to advance their success.


The company needed a rigorous hiring process for its manufacturing associates, who perform the daily plant operations. The position requires responsible and skilled employees who are able to work with little or no supervision in self-directed work teams.

"Other companies talk about having self-directed work teams, but we live it," says Bill Freemel, Steelscape's vice president of human resources, organizational development and public relations. "At night, manufacturing associates are running the plant. There's not a supervisor or manager in sight.

"We can do this because we select for a higher skill level than most companies. People we hire are very responsible, and that's why we're successful."


Steelscape representatives started working with Lower Columbia College (LCC) in Longview, WA to create a pre-employment test. LCC's Testing Office suggested the use of the WorkKeys system because it is a tool that has been validated for thousands of jobs.

The manufacturing associate position was profiled. It was decided that the WorkKeys assessments most relevant to the pre-employment screening were Applied Mathematics, Applied Technology, Observation, and Teamwork. Prior to submitting an application to the company, applicants must first complete and pass all four assessments at the levels indicated. The tests are administered at LCC.

Steelscape also decided to use WorkKeys as an internal selection tool for its Maintenance Apprenticeship Program.


  • Reduced turnover – The use of WorkKeys as a screening tool, along with a top-flight training package and supportive work environment, has contributed to a very low company-wide turnover rate. For employees who have been with the company for more than six months, the turnover rate is an impressive 1.6 percent. The overall turnover rate is below 4 percent.
  • A tool for community-wide skill enhancement – Bill Freemel has become an advocate of the WorkKeys system and the development of a strong community workforce. He has spoken with community and educational leaders in Richmond, Rancho Cucamonga, and Kalama about raising the skill levels of local employees. "If we can raise the skill levels in our communities, it just helps everybody," he says. "That's why I'm such an advocate for trying to get as many people to use WorkKeys as we can. If we 'skill-up' the workforce, we are going to create a better candidate pool for jobs, and we're going to attract more employers."
  • An award-winning hiring method - In October 2004, Steelscape received a "Best Practice" award from the American Psychological Association for its hiring practices, including its WorkKeys use.


"We like the tool. We keep promoting the tool. It works for us. I think that we are part of a community and if we raise the skill levels in the community we're in—it's going to be positive for everybody." Bill Freemel, vice president of human resources, organizational development and public relations, Steelscape, Inc.
"Completion of WorkKeys allows us to select the best of the best. The employees we select using WorkKeys are superstars, and we're very satisfied with their performance and interpersonal skills." Kim Cheatley, human resources manager