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Finding Inspiration in Customer Success Stories

It’s easy for an executive to get lost in the demanding, broad responsibilities of the work and lose touch with the impact that your products actually have on the ground level, with the customers who use them. I had an experience last week that brought this point to light.

I went to Missouri to meet with some of our ACT WorkKeys clients. WorkKeys, for those who aren’t aware, is a program designed to measure workplace skills. There are more than 5,000 employers across the state of Missouri that use WorkKeys in hiring and employee advancement.

I have, of course, detailed knowledge about our ACT WorkKeys system, how it works, who it’s for, and what it’s designed to do. I wholeheartedly believe in the program and its ability to help those who use it. That was not in question.

But that’s the big picture. And, as important as the big picture is for an executive to keep in mind, it’s not enough. Last week, in my visit to Missouri, I heard stories about individual people and employers who have benefited from our program, and I was reminded of how important that is to hear.

For example, I heard about a manufacturer that for years based its employee promotions primarily on seniority. This made it difficult for younger workers to advance, and morale suffered as a result. But then, the company began using WorkKeys, and with the information gathered from our program, it began to promote workers based on their actual skills and readiness, not simply how long they had worked there. The results were amazing. One company leader called it a win-win situation; morale improved among employees, and overall production increased.

I heard the story of a young man who was working at a low-skill, repetitive, entry-level manufacturing job with little hope of advancement because he lacked a high school diploma. This young man took our WorkKeys assessments and, to everyone’s amazement, scored at the highest possible level—the platinum level. In fact, he scored even higher than the company’s CEO had on the tests. This opened a lot of eyes; his achievement put the young man on the fast track for job skills education, leadership development, and promotion within that company. Without our assessment results, no one would have known his potential.

I also heard about a woman who was a top performer in her position for a manufacturing company but hadn’t scored well on the company’s own math exams. She took the WorkKeys assessments and scored better in math, but very poorly in reading. When her supervisor asked her about her higher math scores, she said it was because the questions were easier to read. Her problem, they determined, wasn’t with her math skills, but with her reading ability. They had no idea that she had reading issues. So, she went through the WorkKeys curriculum, designed to improve workplace skills, and enrolled in reading remediation courses at a local community college. The company found a top performer within their own ranks—someone who wanted to move up and directly benefited from the work skills assessment.

Listening to these stories, I felt a new sense of motivation and urgency and definitely a new level of pride. Our WorkKeys program creates opportunities for people who might not have otherwise had them. It helps identify high-performing workers within a company’s existing workforce, so it can promote from within. It contributes to individuals’ social mobility, particularly for those who don’t have a college degree, and reinforces the fact that you don’t need to have a college degree to be successful.

In short, our program can really change people’s lives. I left Missouri truly inspired!

It was a strong reminder for me not to get so caught up with the big picture that I lose touch with what’s happening in the lives of our individual customers. A good reminder for us all.

Resources for the Workplace

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ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.