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In-House Management Training:
Vern Kelley keeps pace with Intersil's growth

(April 1, 2008)  "We moved from Florida to Silicon Valley five years ago, and had to establish our brand here," says Vern Kelley, winner of last year's award for HR Excellence at the annual HR Symposium. "At the same time, we were transforming our company as we entered the analog market. We quickly became a premier player." As a result, Intersil, where Kelley is VP for Human Resources, was identified in 2007 by Forbes as one of the 200 best small companies, and by Electronic Design magazine as one of the top 100 employers in the field. Intersil is an $800 million semiconductor company with 1,500 employees worldwide.

Kelley doesn't point to any one achievement as the reason for receiving the award. He aims to maximize the company's rapid growth, which has made it an exciting place for electronic engineers to work. Recruiting, retaining, and training top leaders are his first priorities in reaching his vision of making Intersil an "employer of choice". As the company was entering a new market through acquisitions of other companies, he was focused on retaining and integrating the talent of those companies in a fast-changing and fast-growing organization.

His training program for management combines a curriculum designed in-house with elements provided by outside firms. "Business Leader Training" at Intersil is aimed at presenting them with challenges that cross their lines of responsibility, and introducing managers to the range of issues that the company faces. The course lasts eight days of formal events which are spread over a 12-18 month period, not including the "homework". About 25 managers are broken up into teams of 5 or 6 which then are presented with cases to tackle. The cases are actual business challenges currently faced by the company. The assignment is to prepare a proposal to be presented to the CEO and other top managers. The teams include managers from throughout the units and geographic locations of the company from Florida to Japan. To help the participants prepare their presentations, a vendor provides a "power speaking" course and another presents a program in strategic planning. "Some of the recommendations that the groups present offer a very different approach to the company's challenges than had been considered before by the top management," says Kelley. "Sometimes they are implemented, sometimes not, but in any case, the participants get a sense of the way the company functions as a whole."

At the same time, Kelley put together a "Dual Career Path" program for the technical staff of the company, in order to retain skilled workers and provide a "ladder" for them to climb in the company without having to transition them into management.

This year's HR Symposium will be held on May 14 at the Santa Clara (CA) Convention Center.

. - Jim Burklo - .

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