Amid Recession, Faith Technologies Invests in Long-Term
Company Hires New Chief Learning Officer to Move Lean Initiatives to the Construction Site
Menasha, Wis. (June 8 , 2009) – While the recession has many businesses slashing expenses to improve their bottom lines, Faith Technologies is making a big investment in change management now to cut costs and spur growth down the road.
In 2009, Faith Technologies, a full-service electrical and specialty systems contractor with more than 1,500 employees at 15 divisions in six states, created a newfound role and department by establishing a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) who manages a six-member team overseeing the company’s learning and development initiatives.
“The most striking thing is that Faith Technologies is choosing to invest in learning and development right now,” says Faith Technologies’ CLO Terri Luebke. “It seems counterintuitive. But, this is actually the perfect time for companies to be doing this work, when business is slower.”
The Learning and Development (L&D) Department, found at many established Fortune 1000 companies, is an isolated investment in the construction industry. Luebke believes she is up to the challenge after spending three years with Faith Technologies as a consultant and several years running her own firm.
CLOs have been steadily joining the payrolls of established U.S. companies over the last several years. Although the exact number of CLOs is unclear, at least 30 percent of large-sized businesses report having one, including GE, Wal-Mart, IBM, MetLife, Delta Airlines and Caterpillar.
Faith Technologies’ L&D Department is working on a variety of near- and long-term programs for corporate management and field employees, focusing on leadership, employee development, trade, business development, high potential employees, wellness, safety and computer training.
Luebke and her team – a Director of Instructional Development, an Instructional Designer, two Learning Consultants, a Technical Training Consultant and a Learning Coordinator – are also instrumental in the development and implementation of the company’s Faith Performance Advantage initiative. Rooted in Lean philosophies, the program will work to bring those same principles from at-the-office to at-the-jobsite.
“Construction sites are not consistent, controlled workplaces where most traditional manufacturing-based Lean practices can be effective,” says Luebke. “How do you Lean a job site where a worker is here today and somewhere else next week? It’s an inconsistent work environment compared to the other industries that have Leaned their processes.”
Currently in development, the Faith Performance Advantage will work to adapt Lean manufacturing principles and processes to the end-to-end design and construction process.
Wiring a Lean Workforce
Lean aims to reduce waste by continuously improving any process. Many of the movement’s key principles were pioneered by Henry Ford when he developed his mass assembly manufacturing system at the turn of the 20th century. Following World War II, Toyota adapted Ford’s ideas into what is now known as Lean. Lean construction is a relative newcomer to the movement, dating back to the 1990s.
Faith Technologies’ at-the-office Lean initiatives work to eliminate eight types of waste including overproduction, excess processing, defects and under-utilized workers. The company’s Lean efforts began in the 1990s when a cross-functional team mapped out each step of a single process then identified problems of waste to create a limited series of actions to achieve results.
The Faith Performance Advantage takes Lean one step further by applying it to the field.
“Everything we do, every decision we make, we are piloting,” says Luebke. “We haven’t found an existing model that could be successfully implemented to a construction site.”
The strategies Luebke and her team are developing take into account gender and generational diversity, as well as the diversity of temperament, thoughts and behaviors. Those differences can create barriers to learning.
Luebke and her team intend to break through those barriers with one-on-one, classroom and multi-media training for 12 division managers, seven group managers, 56 project managers and 112 field leaders in six states.
“The way project managers lead can be completely different based on their experience, their age or generation, their region of the country and the type of work they do,” said Luebke. “Our goal is to realize the importance of having a standard set of leadership values and behaviors, while at the same time keeping an entrepreneurial spirit alive.”