PGT Industries Reduces Turnover and Hiring Costs with WorkKeys

The Company:

PGT Industries

The Challenge:

Reduce turnover among newly hired employees

The Solution:

WorkKeys system for job profiling, skills assessments, and training

The Results

A streamlined hiring system that has led to drastic reductions in costs related to hiring and training

PGT Industries is the nation's leading manufacturer and supplier of residential impact-resistant windows and doors. The company pioneered the development of impact-resistant windows and doors in the U.S. following the devastating impact of Hurricane Andrew in south Florida in 1992. In addition to its WinGuard line of impact-resistant products, PGT offers a complete range of aluminum and vinyl windows and doors for residential and commercial markets. An additional product line focuses on sliding panels for porch enclosures. Founded in 1980, PGT employs approximately 1,500 workers and owns manufacturing and distribution plants in Venice, Florida, and Salisbury, North Carolina. Its products are marketed through independent distributors in the eastern U.S., the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and other select international markets.

As PGT grew and hiring challenges became a high priority, management found that turnover among new hires was high. During 2006, PGT experienced 38 percent turnover among their hourly workers. The revolving door was spinning fast, and the company needed a better approach to ensuring that applicants had sufficient foundational skill levels to achieve success in formal training classes and on-the-job training. New hires who struggled to perform their tasks either left the company due to frustration or were unable to complete the 90-day introductory period. The technical nuances of PGT manufacturing processes and quality criteria require a particular level of information locating, observation, reading, and mathematics skills.

Beginning in June 2006, PGT partnered with the North Carolina Community College System to implement ACT's WorkKeys skill assessment system at its Salisbury plant, which employs about 350. The first step was to profile selected PGT positions and establish specific metrics related to skill levels required for sixteen positions. Once the minimum WorkKeys skill levels were established, applicants for positions at the company's North Carolina location began taking WorkKeys assessments at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury. All PGT applicants and incumbent employees seeking promotion to a higher-level position take the WorkKeys assessments required for the desired position. PGT believes in paying for skills, so the more employees learn, the more they may earn.

The most common assessments for PGT positions are Locating Information, Observation, Reading for Information, and Applied Mathematics. Leadership positions require the Business Writing assessment, and Applied Technology is used for certain positions requiring technical skills. PGT employs an ACT-trained job profiler to keep all job profiles current and create new profiles as needed.

Applicants and current employees who do not achieve required skill levels on one or more assessments are offered KeyTrain and/or WIN remediation training, one-on-one tutoring, and instructor-led classes coordinated with the local community college. These educational opportunities for skill development are offered by PGT University. Training options include web-based programs and traditional classroom learning offered on-site or at area educational institutions. Topics include WorkKeys skills development, safety, tape measure skills, manufacturing concepts and processes, leadership training, GED completion programs, and English as a Second Language. A wide variety of opportunities are available in this true corporate learning environment.

As job seekers submit application forms and required WorkKeys assessments scores, they are entered into a database at PGT. When openings occur, human resources personnel search the database for those applicants with the required skill levels and begin inviting eligible applicants to interview. The average number of applicants in the database is about 500, providing a prequalified pool of skilled personnel eager to seek employment at PGT. The company believes the caliber of their applicants has gone up significantly as a result of this rigorous application and assessment process.

The Salisbury plant began using the WorkKeys system in March 2007 and experienced a remarkable 30 percent drop in new hire turnover during the first ten months. As a result of this measurable success, the Venice plant began using WorkKeys in the fall of 2008. The Florida facility employs approximately 1,200 people and will use WorkKeys testing and training as a criterion for promotion. Additionally, new applicants for manufacturing, glass processing, and logistics-related positions are required to meet the specific score requirements to be considered.

Stacy Smith Burns, a training generalist at PGT, participated in the implementation process from the beginning. As the company's authorized job profiler, she is highly aware of the improvements WorkKeys has brought to PGT. "Everyone can benefit from the WorkKeys assessments," Smith Burns reports. "That's what is so great about the system. WorkKeys creates a more objective way to measure performance and basic skills so that you can help an individual grow to the next level. WorkKeys does exactly what it is supposed to do." Kim Bartleson in PGT's human resources department adds, "People coming on board are more easily trained because they already have the basic skills we require. In fact, we've seen cases where a new hire earns a promotion within ninety days on the job. That's pretty awesome. People are more able to reach their potential. WorkKeys seems to inspire them to reach higher professionally, and it carries over to their personal lives, as well."

"WorkKeys has been good for our business, but it's been phenomenal for our employees," reports Liz Evers, PGT manager of training and development. "They have gained a strong sense of personal satisfaction as they've grown and developed their professional skills. As we roll out WorkKeys in our Florida plant, people are excited about demonstrating their skill levels and the possibility of learning more to earn more. We find that our employees are talking about WorkKeys in the community, and we believe the system has helped elevate PGT as an employer of choice."


  • Performance-related turnover for new hires dropped by 30 percent in the first ten months.
  • Hiring process is streamlined and recruiting costs are lower; PGT now has a database of hundreds of prequalified applicants with documented skill levels.
  • Training costs reduced by 50 percent due to a greatly diminished need to train basic skills before training job-specific skills.
  • Performance to full competence level reduced from six months to three months.
  • Career ladders have been created linking performance to pay.
  • Improved perception of PGT as a desirable employer.