Electronic Design

Wellness, Education, And Community Take Priority At Applied Materials

Imagine a company with a 31% increase in sales and a 55% increase in new orders in 2006. Also imagine that this company saw a 40% increase in operating profit. Cynical observers would say that such success comes from pushing employees to the breaking point and driving for that bottom line. Those observers would be wrong.

Applied Materials Inc., which provides nanomanufacturing technology solutions, racked up these figures and more while maintaining a corporate culture that serves the needs of its employees as well as the needs of its ledger books. And when those employees include 14,000 people across 16 nations -- including 3300 engineers and engineering managers -- that can be a very demanding task.

The concept of "sound body, sound mind" is more than a cliché at the company's offices. Its comprehensive Applied Wellness program supports the improvement and maintenance of good health, which has a direct effect on employee performance. On-site cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure and other screenings are available so employees don't have to wait to see their doctor for checkups. About 56% of the company's Santa Clara, Calif., offices and 59% of its Austin, Texas, offices participate.

"By providing a variety of programs, tools, and resources, Applied Wellness seeks to enable employees to take charge of their health and develop their own personal lifestyle program," says Amaya Wiegert, a spokesperson with the company. "Work and life management is of utmost importance because the company's continued success depends on helping each person achieve better work/life balance."

Health education plays a large role, with lunchtime classes on topics like nutrition and weight management and an online library and fitness-tracking tool. Employees can take part in yoga, step, and even ballroom dancing classes onsite to get the blood going. An activity network connects people with similar recreational interests. Onsite massage therapy is available too. And, there's even an online program for employees who want to quit smoking.

In addition to wellness, professional education plays a key role, as Applied Materials challenges its employees to expand their knowledge and know-how through its Applied Global University (AGU) program. AGU offers more than 1600 learning programs each year, with topics that include professional skills development, engineering and technology, leadership and management, health and wellness, cross-cultural awareness, environmental health and safety, and finance management.

"With a mission to develop the most knowledgeable, versatile, and innovative workforce in the industry, AGU uses a mix of traditional and alternative delivery methods to reach employees all across the country through multiple training centers and innovative distance and learning systems," Wiegert says. "Courses and programs cover basic training through graduate education."

These programs are offered via distance learning and Web sessions as well as classroom curricula. They also have earned industry recognition. AGU has received Training Magazine's Top 100 Award three years in a row. Its Global English Program won the Brandon Hall Gold Award of Excellence. And, it took the Silver Horizon Interactive Media Award for Respect for the Individual WebClass.

"AGU contracts with some of the leading research scientists in the world," Wiegert says. "In \[fiscal year\] 2006, we had over 300 hours of seminar training relating to flash memory process flow, high k, metal gate, strain engineering, plasma etch, DRAM, etc." AGU also has created two new certifications in 12 different areas on process integration. It additionally offers more than 500 hours of Web-based training on nanomanufacturing.

Participants in the program are very happy with the results, as the company reports 95% course satisfaction from the engineering community. Also, 93% of engineers and technologists agreed that AGU's involvement in training and learning was a "valuable" or "highly valuable" component in improving their job performance.

Then there's the next generation of engineers. Applied Materials' Graduate Fellowship Program provides an allowance and stipend of $28,500 as well as entry into the Applied Materials Fellows Technical Symposium, with renewal up to three years. Internships and co-op positions are available in a variety of technical positions as well. The College to Corporate Development Program (CCDP) offers full-time employment to recent college graduates, training them in a variety of disciplines.

CCDP preparation includes technical skills as well as corporate necessities like networking, leadership, and team building. Participants are matched with the company division that best suits their background and current company needs. Available technical positions include electrical engineers, engineering technicians, field process support, hardware engineers, information systems engineers, quality engineers, software engineers, and test engineers.

With thousands of employees around the world, diversity is a cornerstone of the Applied Materials philosophy too. Its U.S. offices are allied with organizations like the Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and the Society of Mexican Engineers and Scientists. Employees also are free to participate in affinity groups, which are voluntary, employee-driven groups organized around a shared interest.

Applied Materials offices are involved in community outreach programs as well. For example, the WPDN affinity group raises funds to support the Girlstart summer camp. The LEAD group works with Habitat for Humanity. Overall, the company runs one of the largest corporate holiday food drives, collecting about 4 million pounds of food each year to benefit food banks in more than 12 cities all year long.

Thanks to programs like these, Business Ethics named Applied Materials among its 100 Best Corporate Citizens and Fortune named the company among America's Most Admired Companies, both in 2006. And according to the San Francisco Business Times, it was among the top 50 giving organizations for 2006.

"While programs differ based on local customs and needs, employees take pride in working for a company that is actively engaged in their community and working to address relevant issues," Wiegert says.

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