Temple-Inland Builds on Century-Long Learning Culture with WorkKeys®

The Company:

Temple-Inland

The Challenge:

Recruit, select and promote skilled workers as maintenance technicians in its building products business to keep essential production equipment operational at sixteen building products locations across eight states

The Solution:

WorkKeys job profiling and skills assessments

The Results:

  • Improving the quality of newly hired technicians, particularly in assessing the candidates' abilities to learn and adapt in a dynamic technical environment
  • Acquiring a valuable tool for identifying training and development opportunities with the existing maintenance workforce
  • Supporting the company's commitment to becoming a learning organization and encouraging the pursuit of personal mastery of essential skills

Temple-Inland has a 100-year history producing high quality building materials. Today its building products division supplies the commercial and residential building industry with lumber, gypsum wallboard and wood siding. This division also produces particleboard and fiberboard for manufacturers of furniture, flooring, cabinets, and more. Together with the corrugated packaging division—the third largest in North America—Temple-Inland posted 2007 revenues of nearly $4 billion and net income of $1.3 billion.

As Temple-Inland grew, the need to attract and promote qualified maintenance technicians grew with it. Equipment became more sophisticated, and downtime led to production backlogs that could delay time-sensitive shipments to builders and manufacturers. Mechanical technicians are responsible for preventive maintenance checks, predictive maintenance, essential lubrication, and repair. Electrical technicians are responsible for electrical wiring, programming, and troubleshooting. Temple-Inland recognized the need to ensure that hiring and promotion practices accurately identified candidates with the essential foundational skills to be successful, as well as the ability to learn new information as changes occur.

Beginning in the early 1990s, Temple-Inland began working with area community colleges to complete intensive job profiles for mechanical and electrical maintenance technicians, analyzing the essential tasks and skill levels they needed to succeed. Once profiles were completed, job applicants and candidates for promotion were required to complete four WorkKeys assessmentsApplied Mathematics, Reading for Information, Locating Information, and Applied Technology—to confirm their skill levels or to identify any skill gaps. Community colleges provided testing sites for some of the company's facilities; testing is done on-site at other plants.

Jim Cumbie, director of human resources for Panel Products at Temple-Inland, was part of the team that selected WorkKeys assessments nearly a decade ago. He remembers some initial trepidation on the part of both job applicants and the incumbent techs, given that many had not taken a test of this sort in many years. Once the reasons and benefits were clearly communicated, employees were increasingly receptive. Today, applicants and employees understand how management uses test results, along with performance data and other qualifications, to improve personnel decisions. They also recognize the company's willingness to assist in helping them improve their test scores to reach individual goals.

The results are significant for Temple-Inland. Cumbie reports that the quality of newly hired and promoted employees has improved and attributes the improvement to the implementation of a structured, highly objective selection process built around ACT-powered WorkKeys skills assessments. Hiring managers now have access to objective data that provide valuable information describing each candidate's ability to learn and adapt in a dynamic technical environment.

The benefits extend to existing maintenance staff as well. WorkKeys score reports help to identify specific training and development opportunities, and contribute to company objectives that promote higher skill levels across all manufacturing plants.

Finally, the emphasis placed on WorkKeys and lifelong learning in general reinforces the corporate goal to become a learning organization that supports employees in their pursuit of personal mastery. Part of the company's mission statement encourages managers to " . . . build the best team—and give them the right tools, environment and opportunities to thrive." WorkKeys supports that mission, given the vital role maintenance technicians play in keeping essential production equipment operational to meet production demands for Temple-Inland customers.

Based on many years of experience with WorkKeys, Cumbie offers this advice to others: "Use the scores as a tool, not as a hammer. Assessment results should never be viewed as a pass/fail measure for an individual's future. The scores are most valuable when used as one of several components in a hiring or promotion decision. Also, the real key is communications—tell your employees why you are using the assessments, how the results will be used, what the benefits are to them as individuals and to the company, and reassure them that identifying any skill gaps will be helpful to everyone."

He summarizes by saying, "I have no doubt that our use of WorkKeys assessments has improved our ability to make good hiring and promotion decisions at Temple-Inland."