As the world’s economy becomes more global in scope, more and more companies are rethinking the way they do business – everything from redesigning websites to attract a global audience to investing in overseas manufacturing and distribution facilities. At JLG Industries Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation company and leading manufacturer of aerial work platforms and telescopic material handlers, efforts to embrace a global economy also include an internship program that moves beyond job training to teach cultural nuances and encourage community outreach. This past summer, the JLG Class of 2012 interns piloted an online cross-cultural training program that teaches cultural sensitivity and awareness, while enhancing cross-cultural business skills.
According to Michael Kannisto, Ph.D., director of talent management and talent acquisition at JLG, “The students entering our internship program are wired to be global. Many of them grew up in multi-cultural families, played in multi-cultural groups and are accustomed to working in teams, often with multi-cultural members. What’s more, they’re communicating with tools that provide instant connections to the world around them. At JLG, we acknowledge their global roots, and we have created an internship that builds upon and enhances their global experiences. Using this summer’s class of interns to pilot the CultureWizard program seemed to make perfect sense, given their backgrounds, their experiences and their interests.”
CultureWizard is an online training program that is designed to create awareness of the impact culture has on people’s values, beliefs and behaviors. “We see it as a way to help employees better understand cultures around the world, including social and business practices, so they can work together more effectively to serve our customers,” says Kannisto.
Intern Stephanie Song agrees, adding, “The program also helps you learn about yourself, your personality and your own culture – why you do the things you do and how that knowledge can improve both your personal and your professional relationships with individuals from other countries.”
As a native of China, Song is especially interested in the program. A graduate of the master’s program in human resources management (HR) at Rutgers University, Song joined the JLG internship program after meeting Kannisto at an HR conference. She was interviewed several months later in China, and offered an internship in the U.S.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to begin my career in HR,” she recalls. “The best part was they asked me to actually work on the internship program, helping to set up the program and coordinate intern activities with colleagues in JLG facilities around the United States.”
Her responsibilities also included rolling out the CultureWizard program to her fellow interns. “I was particularly interested in the program’s culture calculator, which helps you identify your personal preferences – what you value in your life and your work and how that compares to others in your home country as well as more than 125 other cultures. In my case, it helped me recognize the differences between the Chinese and American cultures, including business protocols and behaviors, and adjust some of my behaviors so I can work more effectively with Americans.”
Another of JLG’s 42 summer interns, Michael Dziados, also participated in the CultureWizard program and appreciated learning about cultures around the world. But the emphasis JLG places on community outreach equally impressed him. JLG offered its interns the opportunity to participate in a Habitat for Humanity project in Hagerstown, MD.
“We’re really trying to demonstrate a continued and interested presence in the communities where we do business,” adds Kannisto. “From a recruiting perspective, we try to identify local workers for jobs in our facilities. But we also work hard to be a good corporate citizen, supporting local events and a variety of community service projects. Exposing our interns to these experiences is another important way to teach them about JLG and the work we do.”
As interns learned, their work was also evaluated, using the performance management system that is applied to all full-time JLG employees. This new addition to the internship program helped interns establish meaningful, smart goals with specific objectives, check progress toward these goals, and provided them with performance assessments at the end of the program.
According to Song, setting goals at the beginning of the internship program was important to understanding where she was headed and what she should be doing. “The performance management program is definitely a good tool for our interns,” says Kannisto. “But, it also helps us as we consider interns for full-time positions with JLG.”
So did the JLG Intern Expo, which provided opportunities for interns to showcase their work at the conclusion of their internships. The day-long event was attended by supervisors, managers and the company’s executive team, who engaged interns in conversation as they reviewed their work.
Both Song and Dziados were among the fortunate interns who recently received job offers from JLG. Song is working out of the company’s Hagerstown, MD, office as a human resources representative, specializing in compensation and compliance issues. Dziados, a recent graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in safety sciences, spent this past summer working in the JLG safety department, conducting audits at a number of JLG facilities to prepare them for a corporate audit of the company’s safety management system. At the conclusion of the internship, he used the company’s Talent Acquisition Management System (TAMS) to find the safety position he currently holds – senior safety coordinator at the company’s Shippensburg facility.
“I would encourage anyone to go through a JLG internship,” says Dziados. But he cautioned potential interns to begin the process early. “My school encouraged students to look for internships up to two semesters prior to the start of a program. I actually interviewed with JLG during a career fair in the fall of 2011.”
Kannisto agrees. "We’re already participating in career fairs and recruiting students for next summer’s internship program. It’s a competitive process, because so many schools require their students to participate in internships. So it’s never too early for students to be looking at and applying to programs that interest them."
JLG structured its internship program to provide students with job skills they can take with them as they continue their careers. In addition, all interns graduate from the program with Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification. They also met with a protocol expert from Washington, D.C., who provided training on business and dining etiquette.
“The internship exceeded my expectations,” says Dziados. “Many of the students I talked to who participated in other internships said they basically made coffee, ran errands and performed other unimportant tasks. They didn’t really get involved with what they hoped to do in a job. I had a completely different experience. As interns, we came to this program, set goals and acquired important real-world experience that will definitely help in our careers and make us better, more involved members of the communities where we work.”