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Teaming Up to Better Train

May 20, 2009
Related Topics: Behavioral Training, Career Development, Basic Skills Training, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
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Managers at The Decc Co., a small industrial coating applicator based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were ready to move beyond the company’s paper tracking system. But when officials started training workers in late 2008 on the new computerized system, they quickly recognized that some weren’t even comfortable manipulating the mouse.

For some workers, the very basics had to be taught, says Kim Kooy, Decc’s human resources coordinator. “How to turn the computer on, how to log in, what a hyperlink is and how to point and click,” she says, ticking off examples.

So officials enrolled 15 to 20 of the facility’s workers in basic computer training at The SOURCE (Southwest Organizations Unifying Resources for Community & Employees), a nonprofit organization that emerged from local manufacturers’ desire to centralize training and other human resources functions. Decc is one of 17 manufacturing companies and paying members who together employ more than 4,000 people.

Meeting the needs of Spanish-speaking employees has become a key component of the organization’s work, says Andrew Brower, executive director of The SOURCE. Five out of the seven staff members are bilingual. The Decc computer-training classes were provided in both English and Spanish. At that point, roughly one-third of the facility’s workers were primarily Spanish speaking, Kooy says.

The SOURCE provides computer terminals where employees can learn the basics, in their own language, without the pressure of a supervisor standing over their shoulder, Brower says. Companies also can tailor the training to their manufacturing needs.

Providing basic computer training for employees—Spanish-speaking or otherwise—is particularly important as health insurance and other employee benefits are increasingly handled online, says Bob Garcia, a consultant with employee engagement firm Gagen MacDonald who specializes in multicultural training. But the upfront investment won’t necessarily stick if the employee doesn’t have regular access to a computer outside of work, he says.

A Pew Hispanic Center analysis found that English-speaking proficiency made a significant difference in Internet usage among Hispanics. Three-fourths of Hispanics who were either English-dominant or bilingual reported that they use the Internet, compared with one-third of Spanish-dominant adults, according to the 2006 survey involving more than 6,000 Hispanic adults. A lower percentage of Hispanics who reported using the Internet had a connection at home—79 percent compared with 92 percent among Anglo respondents.

At Decc, officials are still addressing some kinks in the computerized tracking software itself, Kooy says. But the facility’s workers who are involved are better prepared to point and click—once it’s operational. That’s confidence that Kooy hopes will streamline the transition later this year.

Workforce Management, May 18, 2009, p. 28 -- Subscribe Now!

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