Upskilling Your Workforce

Intek Plastics Retain Their Employees with Career Pathing Program

Company Size
Manufacturing – Plastic, Packaging, and Containers
Use Cases
Compliance, Onboarding, Leadership Development
  1. Who Is Intek Plastics?
    As a premiere custom plastic extruder, Intek Plastics specializes in providing high quality, precisely engineered, customer-specific plastic extrusion products for a variety of different markets.
  2. Primary Challenge
    Create a series of learning programs that grow their people and retain strong talent in their organization.
  3. Results
    Up to 10 promotions in a given month based on skill proficiencies.

The Freedom to Fail  

Failure is scary. We all experience it, but it doesn’t stop all the feelings that arise when you do. We’re certain that we can all think back to our first job (or even 10th!) and the stress that can come from messing up. You’re disappointed in yourself, and your brain is thinking about the worst-case scenario. But being bold and trying something new sometimes results in failure, but it’s how we handle that failure that defines us.  

We put an emphasis on the freedom to fail at BizLibrary because it’s one of our core values, but we also love to tell the stories of our clients who exemplify it too.  

So, now you can probably see where we are headed with this inspirational intro. Meet Chris VonHelmst and Nate Becker, Training and Development Specialists at Intek Plastics. These two trainers began their careers in production and then made a shift to training and development with ZERO background in building a learning program.  

They realized there was something special about helping people be successful in their roles, even if they come in on day one not knowing all the ins and outs of their jobs. And with this mindset, they embraced the concept that it’s okay to fail and be scared because everyone must start somewhere and began their journey to create a culture of continuous development at Intek. 

Teaming up to create an unstoppable training duo, these two develop programs that address the needs of their organization in multiple different areas. And while Chris and Nate have different programs they focus on, they share the same foundation: “To give employees the opportunity to make something out of their life.”  

Teaching You How to Teach Others  

Hearing them talk about their curriculum and their passion for training and development gives us at BizLibrary all the feels. 

When Chris and Nate began mapping out what their various programs would look like they knew leveraging BizLibrary’s ability to reach each of their learners through BizLMS would be key to their success. Additionally, they could lean on certifications, group learning initiatives and assign out various topics, the capability to upload custom content, and a robust library that enables learners to take their development into their own hands.  

Their training programs address their three main business challenges:  

  1. Compliance and Risk Mitigation  
  2. Upskilling and Reskilling  
  3. Leadership Development 

The programs are innately different, but their main goal is when an employee finishes a training course, they feel capable and knowledgeable enough in this subject that they could teach the next employee hired the skills they just learned.  

Jumping into compliance and risk mitigation, they address this topic with a couple of different programs.  

DEI and Workplace Equity

The training team fully believes that when you educate employees on treating others with respect, you’re putting good in, which leads to getting good out. The program is delivered in a fun and creative way partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and coupling that with a BizLibrary playlist.  

OSHA Mandated Training and Cultural Onboarding 

Culture and ethics are important topics to Intek Plastics, and ensuring that everyone practices what is preached is a top priority. Nate and Chris pair content they film themselves and upload to BizLMS with off-the-shelf content from BizLibrary, so they ensure everyone has access to their training content all in one place.

Furthermore, on day one, new hires attend cultural onboarding which is the first touchpoint where they begin to learn the values of the organization. A big part of this is sharing the various career paths an employee can explore for furthering their career because Intek is a huge advocate for growing and retaining their talent. Knowing what opportunities are available to employees increases tenure because they are able to see a future within one company without feeling a need to go elsewhere for growth and development.  

Upskilling and Reskilling

Employees are encouraged to level up in their careers through Intek’s career pathing model. The training team, HR, and Operations partnered with their local Union to implement a progressive system that allows employees to take control of their growth within the company. It was important to the team to create a program that showed what advancement could look like in their organization because they recognized that the generation entering the workforce today values development.  

The level system works like this:  

  1. After two to three months on the job, an employee is eligible to submit for a skills assessment to determine if they can move to the next level. 
  2. Once the paperwork is submitted, a time is scheduled for the employee to demonstrate the skill to their supervisor.  
  3. If they are proficient in that skill, they advance to the next level and earn a 4% increase in their salary – how amazing is that?!  

And because they can upload specific training videos while leveraging manufacturing content from BizLibrary, in BizLMS, accessing the training necessary to learn how to perform a specific skill has never been easier. With this program, they try to average six level-ups a month, but as of lately, they are seeing anywhere from 7-10!  

Leadership Development

Wrapping up their program overview, we’ll highlight their innovative emerging leaders’ program. This program was started because the current leaders and training team at Intek Plastics realized it is extremely difficult to buy talent and current staff had clear gaps moving from an individual contributor to a leader in a servant leadership culture.

Not only does it cost organizations money to promote the role on job posting sites, but it also costs human capital to train a brand-new employee on the ins and outs. Knowing this, they determined there was a need for a program that would grow their own talent because they have so many bright young minds.  

In this 12-month program, learners are educated on different topics through breakout sessions, games, and activities led by a different leadership team member (for example, their CEO just did a session on servant leadership). Before meeting in their cohort, they are sent an email with the details on the topic(s) in their training, their assigned BizLibrary content, and supporting articles. Throughout the program, learners also complete individual and team projects and work towards completing their final project before the final session, which is graduation.  

During their cohort sessions, the main topic is presented with a focus on the broader picture, so that learners can better understand how to think strategically and at an organizational level when they are in certain situations and not default to their own lens.

Leaders also share their own past scenarios that relate to the topic to give real-life perspectives to a challenge they may face. These shared scenarios could be good, bad, or anything in between, but it’s all about providing context so that learners can feel confident when they meet that same challenge.  

The Numbers Impact  

The standing ovation worthiness of their programs doesn’t stop at the overviews. Chris and Nate track incredible success metrics within BizLMS to show the ROI.  

  1. Their emerging leaders program has 100% participation in pre-work assignments and cohort attendance.  
  2. They see on average 126 completions out of 154 launches on their learning initiatives created for their union workers.  
  3. For all their programs, they average an 86% completion rate.  

Furthermore, because they partner with BizLibrary as their online training solution they save $60,000 by allowing employees to fit training into their shift rather than paying for them to come in at a later time and pay overtime – AMAZING!  

Finally, because training is so easily accessible, and employees are able to stay up-to-date on all safety and compliance training, they have seen impeccable results.  

  1. Intek Plastics achieves a 100% safety scorecard year after year.  
  2. For the past several years, they have maintained less than 1,000 DPPM (defective parts per million), which makes them a world-class production organization.  
  3. They save over $800,000 each year by not paying fines when it comes time for audits because they are able to train employees to be experts in Quality Control.  

The People Impact  

But, the train is not stopping anytime soon when it comes to sharing all of the successes that Intek Plastics sees as a result of its training programs.

The culture has improved into one that is collaborative, where employees actively look for ways to share their knowledge to help their co-workers.

There came a mindset shift that the more experience and training the individuals within the organization can gain, the more successful the company can be.  

This change is not only recognized within Intek Plastics but outside of it too. They were recently named Business of the Year by the Hastings Chamber of Commerce, Star Tribune listed them as a top 100 Best Places to Work in Minnesota, and finally, they were just awarded the 2023 SME award for Excellence in Manufacturing Training. 


Good Things Take Time  

Okay, our hands hurt from clapping so much at all the success Intek Plastics has accomplished. But, we know that getting to this point takes time because resistance and failure do happen. And when it inevitably comes, going to bat for the betterment of your people and learning and growing from your mistakes is always worth it.