Processes naturally degrade over time. The key to avoiding a degradation crisis is to focus on proactive problem resolution, which is vital to continuous process improvement. One aspect of process improvement at STIHL Inc. is training. Training not only prepares employees for their current jobs but for future jobs and for overall company improvement.
To achieve this, STIHL offers a variety of learning and development programs for its employees across the country from new employee orientation to technical training to business administration and leadership education. Employees can take advantage of blended learning opportunities through online educational courses and webinars, as well as on-site training programs and coordinating off-site seminars.
Learning about STIHL Inc. starts on day one with information about the company, products, job responsibilities, and safety. As careers at STIHL advance, employees require more knowledge, and business professionals are offered opportunities to enhance their skills. Pam Michaels, corporate training specialist for STIHL Inc., manages the new employee orientation, software, and business administration training for STIHL employees. Software training, including office automation and engineering applications, is available for employees to gain the skills necessary to increase productivity. Specific software training needs depend on department operations. Utilizing local and national training companies, Michaels recruits instructors to come to STIHL for on-site training to keep content fresh and relevant. She uses a “training brokerage firm” that gives STIHL access to trainers from across the country.
JR Gambill is the training and improvement specialist at STIHL Inc. and serves as a site administrator for an online technical training program called Tooling U, which offers STIHL employees a full range of content to educate machine operators, assemblers, inspectors, and employees in all areas of operations. These are general technical courses but could be custom designed for STIHL if the need arises. Tooling U has more than 400 seats reserved for STIHL employees, who sign up for interactive classes simply by logging on at home.
As the site administrator, Gambill tracks their courses and minutes they’ve used. The 45 to 60-minute interactive courses can help prepare employees for job opportunities within STIHL, where they might not have qualified before.
Gambill also leads the Mechatronics training program. Mechatronics is a combination of electrician, electronic, and mechanical skills, so maintenance technicians or process engineers can go to a particular jobsite on the factory floor and assess and problem-solve immediately.
Gambill says robotics curriculum begins with the basics, teaching employees how to move the robot around. The next level is an advanced level programming class geared toward technicians. Electrical and mechanical maintenance are two other robotic courses within the series.
The core leadership programs have been designed and fine tuned over the years to provide the most appropriate and timely information to all who attend. From learning how to serve in a supervisory role at STIHL to finding the best methods of communicating, time management, team building, and delegating, STIHL employees gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and lead.
Simon Nance, manager of learning and development, says when developing internal training programs you have to take shifting priorities into account, “You need to adjust to the participant’s available time and attention span. If you can build a rhythm of training that is flexible, your programs become stronger.”
Nance recently conducted the STIHL Supervisor Advancement Workshop (SSAW), which is one of the leadership training tracks offered at STIHL Inc. Held twice a year, SSAW is a hands-on workshop for employees in current supervisory roles to teach STIHL procedures and policy. Attendees apply the tools in a lifecycle of an employee, from hiring to training to retirement or termination.
STIHL offers more than 100 in-house classes year-round, including grammar, business writing, Mechatronics, and robotics classes, in addition to webinars and Tooling U. STIHL also offers these courses to outside companies as space permits.
STIHL Inc. encourages all employees to continuously improve, and the tuition reimbursement program, language education options, apprenticeship programs, and industry certifications are additional opportunities employees have for personal growth and success. Ultimately, the more investment made in employees, the more invested they become in the company’s success and the better equipped they are to contribute to process improvement and provide effective solutions to the challenges that face the company.
By fostering a culture of learning in its employees, STIHL not only enhances its productivity and efficiency but positively impacts employee morale. Andy Findlay, test cell supervisor, a 4-month employee at STIHL Inc. and a recent SSAW workshop participant comments, “It is great to see the passion STIHL has for developing the team and culture. This commitment makes me proud to be part of a great culture throughout the company and excited to contribute more.” ■
For More Information:
STIHL is the number one selling brand of cut-off machines and chain saws in the world. STIHL products are sold through servicing power equipment retailers from coast to coast—not mass merchants. For more information or for the name of a local STIHL retailer, call 800.GO.STIHL (800.467.8445), visit, or text your zip code to 78445.
Modern Contractor Solutions, February 2013
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