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First Person: How Whirlpool is Training and Retaining Skilled Workers at Its Cleveland, Tennessee Plant

The editor of Area Development recently discussed employment recruitment and retention issues with Amy Killam, human resources director at Whirlpool Corporation’s facility in Cleveland, Tennessee. The plant, which opened in the spring of 2012, employs approximately 1,700 people.

Directory 2013
With the unemployment rate still high in many areas of the nation, does Whirlpool still have problems recruiting qualified workers?

We face similar challenges as any local employers, namely all of us are challenged with continuing to develop skilled trades through apprenticeship programs and other training programs. Overall, however, there are a number of qualified applicants out there, and we continue to have many great applicants for our positions.

How has business development at your current location affected your recruitment and retention efforts?

We have a strong number of brands, an investment in a state-of-the-art premium cooking facility, and award-winning products — three major elements that help us attract great employees.

What steps has Whirlpool put into place to keep the qualified workers it has?

We are focused on providing our team members with key training and providing new opportunities to learn and develop.

Is compensation the most important factor in retaining qualified employees?

I think pay is always an element…but it is only that. Retention is more about work environment, the culture, and the leadership and teams that support each other.

What role do benefits play? Other factors?

Benefits are another key aspect to retention. We work hard to provide the best possible benefits to employees…providing all the tools and support to ensure our employees are healthy, manage their total financial health, and have a healthy work/life balance. It’s about truly creating a culture of health within this company.

You make reference to Whirlpool’s employee “culture.” Can you explain that term?

Culture is all about the environment that every employee creates — the unspoken rules that guide our thoughts, actions, and behaviors every day.

How does Whirlpool let its employees know about their contributions to productivity and the company’s bottom line?

We have plant-wide metrics that are communicated via our biweekly newsletter, through monthly birthday talks, and quarterly all-employee meetings. In addition to that, each area has daily startup meetings where they review their individual area metrics.

Are there specific training efforts in place at the firm to make sure employees keep up with advances in technology?

We have an apprenticeship program for maintenance and our tool and die areas — it is critical for us to build cutting-edge skills within our work force. In addition, we have a strong education reimbursement program for those who wish to complete their degrees.

How does Whirlpool keep its employees loyal?

It’s a full effort by the entire work force. We have a strong leadership team that makes the right decisions for the business and for the employees, and we have great employees who create a culture that is a close-knit family in many cases. Lastly, we have great products and brands that our team members are proud to be a part of.

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