Journey to a Culture of Learning

MasTec’s Utility Services Group embarks on an endeavor to create programs that not only promote the safety and competence of employees, but also tie learning to career progression and pay-rate increases.

When MasTec North America, Inc.’s Utility Services Group came under new leadership just over a year ago, it identified an opportunity to focus on employee development almost immediately. The competition within the utility construction industry is fierce, so whatever MasTec could do to recruit, develop, and retain the best employees would prove to be a competitive advantage.

A training professional with experience designing, developing, and implementing training and development programs at companies such as Accenture and Best Buy, I was the new leadership’s first hire. As director of Employee Development, I was challenged to transform MasTec’s Utility Services Group into one with a culture of learning and to create programs that would not only promote the safety and competence of employees, but also tie learning to career progression and pay-rate increases. Throughout this year, I’ll be documenting MasTec’s journey with an exclusive case study highlighting the latest progress and lessons learned in each issue of Training magazine.

GETTING STARTED
MasTec’s leadership laid the foundation for the changes that would lie ahead. They created buy-in and support with operations teams and supplied the funds and budget to ensure that overarching employee development initiatives would be set up for success. Once a path was cleared, the strategy was to “get out of the way and let the Employee Development Team do what they do best.”

My first course of action was to get know the employees and get a feel for the work they do every day. I’m new to the utility construction industry and figured the best orientation would be to put on some steel-toed boots, a vest, safety glasses, and a hard hat and join the men and women working in the field. After all, how could I help the organization train and develop our employees without a full understanding and appreciation of what they do? It turns out rolling up my sleeves and getting a little dirty went a long way toward establishing respect and credibility with the employees, too.

After spending time with dozens of crews in the field and meeting with the Utility Services Group Operations managers and Safety professionals, the Employee Development Team presented a preliminary plan to Utility Services Group senior executives. Although the team also is destined to create recruiting and retention programs going forward, the initial focus is on three primary training and development objectives:

  1. Create a consistent New Hire Orientation curriculum
  2. Implement an online learning management system (LMS)
  3. Launch a new Lineman Apprenticeship Program

NEW HIRE ORIENTATION
Although each MasTec Utility Services Group division and office was doing a great job of onboarding its new employees, each was doing so a little differently. Supervisors and managers had established their own “training kits” from which they facilitated safety training and a general orientation for new employees. The first deliverable the Employee Development Team will set out to create is a New Hire Orientation curriculum that will ensure that each new employee receives a consistent, high-quality introduction to key organization and safety concepts. The Employee Development Team partnered with the Utility Services Group’s Safety Team to identify the 16 most important skills and concepts a new employee needs to understand and perform before stepping into the field. These modules will serve as a prerequisite for receiving a hard hat.

Each module will be created as a video that enables leadership to provide a vision of good safety habits to all new employees. The instruction will be presented in both English and Spanish to ensure that Spanish-speaking employees have equal access to the content. The instructional videos will be filmed in a variety of field settings to ensure all employees, regardless of their job title or specific role, can relate. The objective is to provide consistent, world-class onboarding instruction to every new hire joining the organization.

LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
An online LMS will serve as a foundation for the training and development initiatives MasTec’s Utility Services Group has planned. Up until now, the great majority of the training has been instructor-led. Even when technology was utilized, it required a supervisor or instructor to proctor a DVD viewing session. Tracking participation and completion was even less efficient. Course completions were tracked via sign-in roster sheets that had to be photocopied and placed into each employee’s file. All that is about to change as the organization prepares for one of its largest change initiatives to date: the selection and implementation of an online LMS.

The goals for the LMS were clear:

  • Increase accessibility of training content
  • Provide flexibility and variety in how training is conducted and completed
  • Improve the process of registering and approving employees for training
  • Create reporting tools that give visibility to training requirements, participation, and completion

Because there is a strong need for hands-on training in the utility construction industry, e-learning is never going to completely replace instructor-led training sessions at MasTec. But even the instructor-led courses will benefit from the LMS due to the improved scheduling capabilities and reporting functionality. It’s all about modality options and an enhanced ability to track training.

LINEMAN APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM
It is imperative that future training programs be tied to professional and financial opportunities and incentives. Organizational leaders know that effective training will help ensure the safety and well-being of all MasTec Utility Services Group employees and customers, but many employees often wonder, “What’s in it for me?” 

An apprenticeship program accredited and recognized by the United States Department of Labor gives employees a clear career roadmap. The program will provide structure that incorporates career progression and pay-rate increases tied to training and job performance accomplishments. Whether an employee is an overhead or underground lineman, he or she can participate in the apprenticeship program, which provides additional hours of training in exchange for the extra commitment from the employee.

Upon completion of the program, the employee will earn “Journeyman” status and will receive official certificates from both MasTec and the U.S. Department of Labor. The skills built, training received, financial incentives, and recognition from the company and U.S. Department of Labor all contribute to an increased sense of pride and connection to the organization. This helps answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”

There’s no doubt that MasTec’s Utility Services Group has its work cut out for it as the team scopes, builds, and implements each of these initiatives. But they’re excited and confident that they’re heading in the right direction, and Training magazine will be there to track their progress every step of the way. We’ll follow the steps forward that the team has made in transforming their organization, as they share their victories and lessons learned along the way. It promises to be an extraordinary journey.

QUICK TIPS TO GET STARTED

  • Roll up your sleeves and jump into the field to best get to know your end customers.
  • Set long-term, “big-picture” goals, then dive into short-term objectives to start bringing the larger plan to life.
  • Remember that with the right buy-in and motivation, it’s never too late to reinvent your organization and create a “culture of learning.”

John Congemi is director of Employee Development, Utility Services Group, MasTec North America, Inc.

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