Best Business Neighbor Award Winner 2010 - Navistar

The Story

While the sluggish economy continues to spawn employee layoffs, Navistar has launched a program that gives employees a chance to work in the community instead of a pink slip.

Navistar's Employee to Volunteer plan, devised by Chuck Sibley, the plant manger of Navistar Diesel of Alabama, has kept nearly 50 plant employees on the payroll — people who would have otherwise been sent to the unemployment line — by assigning them to volunteer work in the Huntsville, Ala., community.

Working with three service organizations, Navistar piloted a three-month retention program that uses employee talents to help local nonprofit groups provide valuable services and programs within the greater Huntsville community. Instead of assembling diesel engines, these Navistar employees refurbished homes with Habitat for Humanity, created dozens of wheelchair ramps with CASA (Care Assurance Systems for the Aging and Homebound), and sorted inventory with the Salvation Army.

"This program is good for everyone — employees continue to receive their paychecks with full benefits, local residents are receiving needed assistance, and Navistar is able to give back to the community while retaining valuable talent," said Sibley, a 10-year veteran of Navistar.

"We've invested a great deal in training these employees and based on their performance, we wanted to retain them," said David LaPalomento, vice president of Global Integration for Navistar's Engine Group. "This program allows us to hold onto these employees and keeps the workforce together, minimizing the need to recruit and re-train employees when business picks up."

Business Strategy

Navistar is a world leader in diesel engine manufacturing. The two Huntsville assembly plants employ 300 employees building V6, V8 and big bore diesel engines under the MaxxForce® brand.

Faced with the prospect of laying off, and possibly losing a significant number of highly skilled employees, this program allowed the organization to retain these employees, eliminating the cost of hiring and training replacements. In addition,the program has provided a way for Navistar to give back to the Huntsville community at a time when help was needed most.

The program is a win-win-win situation. Shareholders benefit by having retained employees with the expertise to insure a smooth launch of the 2010 new generation of diesel engines. Employees who would have been laid off and lost benefits remained on the payroll. Customers benefit from the skills and commitment that NDA employees returning to work, bring back to their jobs.

Evaluation and Impact

Navistar employees were able to build new homes and renovate existing structures for Habitat for Humanity.

Navistar employees cleared a two year backlog of requests by constructing residential wheelchair ramps for Care Assurance System for the Aging and Homebound (CASA). Here is a summary of program stats: 43 Volunteers, 25,800 volunteer hours of community service, CASA - 7, 200 hours (79 wheelchair ramps); Habitat - 12,600 hours (2 new houses built, 2 new houses in progress, 7 houses renovated, walls for four houses built), and; Salvation Army - 6,000 hours (Tons of clothes and misc. items sorted and merchandized)

The Employee to Volunteer pilot program has garnered rave reviews from management, employees, volunteer groups and aid recipients. "Habitat for Humanity is really proud to have Navistar partnering with us. We are always in need of volunteers. And, right now, it's even more important to have more hands as we have a lot more work to be done," said Sandra Edwards with Habitat for Humanity of Madison County (Alabama).

CASA aid recipient Margaret Jones said she was grateful to the Navistar workers for helping equip her home with a wheelchair ramp. "I needed this ramp so that I could more easily get out of my house and help other people," she said.

Congressman Parker Griffith, who represents Huntsville in the U.S. House of Representatives, got to witness firsthand Navistar employees at work at one of the Habitat for Humanity homes when he visited in January. "To have management say, 'Let's put them to work in the community, let's avoid layoffs, let's do everything we can to make this recession as painless as we can make it,' I think it's just wonderful," said Congressman Griffith.

"I was obviously thankful that I wasn't laid off, but I have discovered a whole new wonderful side of myself by providing clothes to the needy at the Salvation Army store," said Roxanne Lee, a Navistar employee who now volunteers with the Salvation Army.