Kelly Engineering Resources partnered with a large customer to implement a successful recruiting, training, and retention program for employees

Kelly Engineering Resources (KER®) collaborated with a leading customer in the petrochemical industry to jointly develop and implement a robust employee recruiting, training, and retention program within operations at the customer’s design center. Results included successful knowledge transfer, significantly improved employee performance, and enhanced employee job satisfaction.

The challenge

A large petrochemical product manufacturer was finding it difficult to attract and retain the quality of talent and volume of specialty designers required to effectively support project demands within its design center. A number of factors conspired to limit the candidate pool for these positions, including a tight, competitive labor market as well as the customer’s need for seasoned designers across a range of highly specialized skill sets.

Faced with the prospect of outsourcing the work to costly external project firms, the customer looked for an alternative solution through its longstanding staffing partnership with KER. The customer’s internal management team first collaborated with KER account representatives to analyze and identify the root cause of the issues at hand.

The solution

A Six Sigma® team comprising key customer and KER leadership was formed to address the challenge. The team first implemented a design trainee program that targeted a specific candidate population. The program would enable less experienced candidates to be fully trained in the specific skill sets needed for open positions, taking advantage of the knowledge and experience shared by the customer’s senior engineers—who would serve as coaches/mentors.

With an eye on feedback and information gleaned from a previous customer-run program, the team next followed Six Sigma guidelines to improve the plan for candidate sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, and on-boarding. Detailed plans were also developed and documented to standardize the selection of mentors, technical curriculum, and how on-the-job training would be delivered. A compensation program developed for mentors and trainees featured quarterly reviews, performance and milestone increases, plus the transition to a design project once training was complete.

The team established a timeline based on the current recruiting environment. KER onsite recruiters began sourcing and recruiting candidates while a contingent staff of coaches/mentors was selected from the customer’s pool of existing senior engineers. Once selected, the coaches/mentors completed a train-the-trainer session regarding specifics of the program, timelines, and expected outcomes. Finally, KER presented its top candidates to the customer team, which in turn selected trainees to participate in the program.

The result

Feedback throughout the program was very positive. Trainees indicated that the program was educational and appropriate for the projects to which they were eventually assigned. The program mentors, who shared their expansive on-the-job knowledge and expertise as senior employees, were impressed with the learning capacity of trainees and were convinced that, once fully trained, they would be assets to their upcoming projects. Seventy-five percent of the first training class was retained, exceeding the expected fifty percent.

Based on headcount and department attrition, the trainees have filled project slots that would have otherwise been left vacant or required outsourcing to high-priced external firms. Each employee has since received a 90-day review, resulting in a wage increase and additional responsibility as appropriate.

The program was viewed as very successful, and additional programs targeted to other design departments have since been implemented by the customer. The practice of knowledge transfer from senior employees (mentors) to newly hired employees was well-received and has proven to be a very effective model.