For semiconductor manufacturers such as Intel and Texas Instruments, building the wafers, or the matrix of information computer chips that make up a large part of their business, brings a high potential for error. KLA-Tencor builds process-control solutions to correct these errors with inspections at each phase of productivity that can maximize yield and identify flaws, saving millions of dollars in wasted product.
At KLA-Tencor, learning creates a culture that is very process-oriented and focused on the product life cycle. “Product life cycle enables us to take new ideas and bring them through the conception phase to production to the customer more quickly,” said Lynne Stasi, chief learning officer, KLA-Tencor. “We’re involved with every process that the company rolls out corporate-wide. We would like to build the strongest and best-informed workforce in our industry. To that end, we have gone down the competency path and are in the process of making sure we have the most current learning for each of the competencies.”
For instance, in the optical engineering area, KLA-Tencor employs some people with degrees in optical engineering who have never actually handled optics. To prevent employees from accidentally breaking a million-dollar optic, KLA-Tencor implemented an optical engineering certification program.
KLA-Tencor invests a lot of its learning dollars in leadership development, which helps in retention of its 4,000 to 6,000 employees, a number that varies due to the cyclical nature of the industry. “We prefer to develop from within, and we need to make sure that people have well-rounded, broad-based knowledge of the company,” Stasi said. “So while we have several different divisions and make many different types of products, we rotate or educate our leaders so that they are fully cognizant of what’s happening throughout the different product lines.”
Headquartered in California, KLA-Tencor has a significant global presence in Asia-Pacific and Europe. To accommodate long distances, learning is rolled out regionally as well as directly from the California office using technology-based and instructor-led delivery methods. “One of the technology solutions that we’ve deployed internally over the past two years is streaming-media infrastructure,” said Margaret Greenleaf, director of e-learning and technology, KLA-Tencor. “We’ve put in 18 cache servers at our larger offices all over the world. They hold really rich content at the site locally so that it doesn’t impact the network negatively, and we can distribute content that includes video. People in the global regions are getting the exact same training that we’re getting here at headquarters. We’ve also made sure to integrate all of these technology tools into our learning management system so that everything is consistent around the world.”
“Another important aspect of our learning approach is that we stay tightly connected to the business of the corporation, specifically every year when we set our strategic goals,” Stasi said. “Those goals are supported via learning throughout the world, and the cache ability greatly has enhanced our ability to communicate and get feedback on how well we’ve been able to cascade those goals.”
Cost control is a constant concern for KLA-Tencor, which it has addressed through custom e-learning. Careful evaluation cut 110 to 130 hours of creation time down to 30 to 40 hours per e-learning module. “That’s huge cost savings and ultimately resource savings as well, and I think that’s indicative of the same kinds of approaches we take throughout the learning organization,” Greenleaf said. “We’re very, very conscious of our budget and how we’re spending the organization’s resources.”
“We consider ourselves a business within a business,” Stasi said. “We bill back to the organization for our services, and should they not want to use our services, they can go outside. We’re constantly in competition with any other provider, and we make sure that we come in under the market with higher quality.”
KLA-Tencor uses Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation as well as its own capability maturity model in order to measure the success of its learning initiatives. “We’re going for a certification called the capability maturity model level 5, and right now we’re at level 3,” Stasi said. “Our processes, cost and impact to the organization are audited outside of our own department. That’s one of our metrics that we are providing the services at the level and at the cost-effectiveness that the company needs.”
“We also try to identify specific initiatives that are rolling out where we can partner with divisions and measure actual ROI,” Greenleaf said. “It involves some pretty extensive metrics because we do some benchmarking prior to the rollout, and then we’ll go back and do a measurement at the end to see how much was cycle time reduced in terms of the product they’re creating or the process that they’re doing.”
Next, KLA-Tencor will work on deploying an enterprise-wide learning management system to integrate all of its HR processes with corporate and technical learning and development, creating a seamless experience for the end user. Additionally, action learning will play a greater role in the executive development program. Using leaders and teachers, real-time problems will replace case studies and get project attention and learning support so learners can implement solutions that are necessary and beneficial to the company. “We see the learning becoming more integrated into the actual action of the company, rather than being separate from the business processes,” Stasi said.
Kellye Whitney is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.