JCI Emphasizes Employee Development to Foster New Business

Having been in business for 126 years, there has to be some trick for Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc.‘s (JCI) longevity and success. 

Despite enjoying a growth rate between 10 to 15 percent, JCI Director of Security and Fire Operations for North America Mike Umbriaco says the continued success hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. A dearth of new construction in key markets niches JCI focuses on has made winning new business especially challenging.

“There are certain verticals that we play where business is down, commercial real estate being the largest,” Umbriaco says. “There’s not a lot of new construction going on outside of universities and hospitals. However, although the construction market with K-12 schools is down, we’ve managed to capture more market share in that vertical.”

To help attract new clientele during these lean economic times, JCI advertises in publications that play to its horizontal lines of business, such as engineering and architecture.

“You’ll also see us advertising in journals read by building owners and operators,” Umbriaco says. “We also focus on corporate level executives, and we market in security, fire and HVAC magazines. We try to cover the whole gambit of horizontal and vertical businesses.”

The company also relies on standardized educational and training offerings to hone the skills of its more than 144,000 employees who are staffed in 120 locations. For example, all new employees, no matter their experience level, must attend courses to learn the ins and outs of the company. Importantly, Umbriaco notes, each course focuses on the individual’s specialized needs.

“Each employee has a development plan that is tied into their goal setting and performance review, based upon their position,” he says. “For example, if we hire an electrical engineer who is going to sell in the security field, we put him or her through a six-month rigorous training program.”

Recognition also plays a big role in helping employees progress in their development plans. The company has various programs to honor workers for their hard work. Additionally, the company sends out surveys to its employees to see how the company can improve business.

Umbriaco notes that JCI will continue to do its best to put customers’ needs first. “If a customer has a problem, we do whatever we can to fix it. I don’t care if it’s 4:30 on Friday and I’m packing up my computer. If my customer’s in a pinch, I want to do all I can to help.”

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