Lockheed Martin: A Small Investment Yields Big Gains
Employer Case Study: Retention strategies help Lockheed Martin keep a valued employee.
A Lockheed Martin manager took to a common-sense approach to retain a valued employee who thought he would need to retire as his disability progressed.
The manager’s quick action and advocacy on behalf of the employee for assistive technology and adaptive equipment resulted in the employee choosing to remain on the job and continue to perform at a high level. It was a win-win for the employee and Lockheed Martin.
The employee was named Frank Lombardi, and there was a time he thought his career at Lockheed Martin Corporation was over. A progressively debilitating neurological condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) was starting to negatively affect his ability to perform certain physical tasks. Frank was diagnosed with CMT in 1996, not long after the birth of his daughter, Elena. The condition is most often diagnosed in adolescence, but the appearance of symptoms is frequently delayed until adulthood.
While doctors told Frank that his condition could eventually take away his ability to walk, that knowledge only encouraged him to do more and encourage others to do the same. “I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me,” he said. “Having a chronic, progressive illness like CMT makes every minute of every day a challenge. However, in order to survive it, I have reconditioned myself to deal with my progressive loss of ability by celebrating my remaining abilities.”
After leaving his job as a senior-level security professional after 13 years for a less strenuous personnel security job, Frank eventually made his way to the Regional Recruiting Center (RRC) for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. In this role he interviewed candidates for security clearance eligibility. As his condition progressed, Lombardi began to experience severe levels of pain and fatigue that affected his ability to remain on his feet for extended periods of time. After considering his options, he decided early retirement was his only choice. But the RRC Operations Manager at the time had other ideas.
“When I went to my manager and said, ‘I think I’m going to have to retire,’ he said ‘What would it take to keep you here?’ Those were some of the best words I had ever heard.”
The RRC Operations Manager worked with his chain of command to purchase a scooter so Frank could stay off of his feet while he continued to work. “Frank’s dedication and technical expertise are unmatched. He has a great sense of humor and is an inspiration to his coworkers because of the dignity and professionalism with which he performs his duties,” said Frank's Operations Manager. “The ‘fix’ to enable Frank to remain a productive employee was easy, and to me, didn’t really amount to any specific accommodation—just the right, common sense thing to do.“ Frank points to his conversation with the Operations Manager as a major turning point in his life, both professionally and personally.
“Providing a scooter for Frank was not only the right thing to do, but also gave the RRC the ability to accommodate, if needed, others that are similarly situated,” said the Director of Staffing Operations. “It was a win-win for Frank and Lockheed Martin.” However, a scooter was not the only accommodation that Lockheed Martin provided to ensure that Frank could continue to be a productive employee. They also provided him with a special mouse for his desktop, reconfigured his desk to ensure he could park his scooter at the table where he does interviews, and gave him a headset to help conduct telephone interviews. These accommodations assist Frank daily and he appreciates the company’s ability to accommodate him.
Lockheed Martin's corporate policy requires managers to provide reasonable accommodations or workplace modifications to employees who need assistance due to a disability or health condition. Lombardi believes the policy simply formalizes and reinforces an attitude that many Lockheed Martin leaders and employees already hold.
“The fact that they provided me with that kind of support—they encouraged me, believed in me and trusted me—really turned things around for me,” Lombardi said. “The support added new energy to my life.”
The Operations Manager's actions not only made a difference for Frank, but also for his family, friends and coworkers.
Outside of work, music is an important part of Frank’s life. He plays the drums and provides vocals for a classic rock band called Mid-Life Crisis, which frequently plays fundraisers for charitable events, including a concert that raised $12,000 to support local military veterans returning home from the Middle East. “I think it’s so important that people live outside themselves, that they take a look at their communities and get involved if they’re not doing so already,” Frank says. “It is often said that it only takes one person to make a difference.”