Written by: Connie Huber PHR SHRM-CP
“Do the best you can, with what you can, while you can and success is inevitable.”
Dr. Steve Maraboli
Advancing Your Career with a BEST Company
As job seekers, many of us target those companies we want to work for. Our lists most often include those companies that have won prestigious awards for being the best. Career Connectors’ partner BestCompaniesAZ’s mission is to recognize and elevate the best companies shaping Arizona’s workplaces and economy. One way they do this is through their 15th Anniversary 100 Best Arizona Companies. The 100 Best are chosen by invitation only based on sustained high levels of workplace performance in the following areas:
• Workplace culture and business awards
• Veteran friendly culture
• Strong corporate & employer brand
• Innovative thought leaders willing to share knowledge
• Well positioned to retain and recruiter talent.
Today’s presentation was comprised by 7 award winning employers. These companies offered us an inside look at what it takes to ‘get hired by the best.’
PANEL 1: CAREER ADVANCEMENT IN THE CULTURE OF CALL CENTERS
FREEDOM FINANCIAL NETWORK: Linda Luman, VP HR
STATE FARM: David Freedline, HR Recruiter
DIRECT ENERGY: Andrew Vess, Talent Acquisition Manager
PROGREXION: Heather Milton, Manager of Talent Acquisition & Sourcing
QUESTION: Please share a 2-minute overview of your company and what you like best about its culture.
FREEDOM FINANCIAL, Linda: Freedom helps people during a very difficult time in their lives. These individuals are struggling with financial debt. Freedom works with them to arrange a plan to be debt free in 2-4 years. Freedom has a great team! Employees are passionate about serving our customers.
STATE FARM, David: State Farm will be celebrating being in business for 95 years next month. Headquarters is in Bloomington, IL. Employee population at State Farm is 70,000. The new Tempe location will eventually have an employee population of 7,000. As State Farm continues to grow, its culture does also. The Tempe facility is one of a kind. It is a great place to work. Employees are given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Many have held different positions. Some current opportunities are not traditional insurance positions but are in banking and mortgage.
DIRECT ENERGY, Andrew: Direct Energy is a global organization. It has been in the US for only 10 years. Direct Energy is a London based energy company. It is the largest energy organization in the US. Many states are unregulated and need to buy energy from companies such as Direct Energy. Andrew likes the fun they have at work and encourages others to join Direct Energy.
PROGREXION, Heather: Progrexion is the biggest little company. The organization helps clients access credit reports. Employees are passion driven. The employee population is comprised mostly by Sales Agents. Progrexion‘s focus is helping people change their credit report to a more positive one. The company is highly committed to having an impact on the community. Heather likes how Progrexion changes people lives.
QUESTION: What advice would you give to prospective employees?
PROGREXION, Heather: Progrexion serves its clients and the community. Employees need to have a desire to help people. Your resume should not have any errors. Candidates need to speak about any employment gaps. Progrexion looks for employees that have grit and tenacity.
DIRECT ENERGY, Andrew: One of the questions recruiters will ask is “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Candidates need to have a clear understanding of their career goals. Andrew reminded the group that applicants avoid any negative comments, especially about former employers.
FREEDOM FINANCIAL, Linda: Interested candidates should ask their network for Freedom employee referrals. 80% of people hired are referrals. Successful candidates know their skills and what they want professionally. Prior to the interview, candidates should review the job posting they applied for, their past experience and how the two match up.
QUESTION: Heather, we have heard from many employers that they are looking for grit from potential employees. What is grit?
PROGREXION, Heather: Grit is having tenacity in getting things done. Employees need to know there will be times when things get hard. In response to the challenge, they need to come up with resolutions and not go down the negative rabbit hole.
QUESTION: What assumptions did you have about call centers that were shattered once your joined a call center environment?
STATE FARM, David: The assumption that call center jobs were dead end. These positions are often stepping-stones to something else. 10,000 employees at Rio Salado. Percentage of calls are inbound; 50-60% of calls are insurance related, not call center ones. Entry-level positions are insurance.
DIRECT ENERGY, Andrew: When I first came to Phoenix it felt as though there was a call center on every corner. The perception was call centers were dark and dreary environments. Direct Energy embraces a fun workplace. Agents have the ability to upsell. There are 253 agents in Tempe making $80-100K per year. Opportunities for growth are available.
FREEDOM FINANCIAL, Linda: Call center employees have the opportunity to work a flexible schedule. Each day the workplace is filled with fun and vibrant work with customers. Internal mobility is available; 40% of promotions are filled internally. Incentives and recognition are provided to employees.
QUESTION: Do you have established career paths/how do employees move through the organization?
PROGREXION, Heather: Agents on phone can move into management. There is a management-in-training program for those employees in operations
STATE FARM, David: State Farm does not have defined career roles. David ‘s wife has been with State Farm for 18 years. She currently is a manager with the company and had different roles over time.
FREEDOM FINANCIAL, Linda: Freedom is passionate about learning and offers multiple avenues for learning. Training can be accomplished independently by the employee or through a group setting. Employees do have opportunities for advancement. Freedom invests in its employees.
QUESTION: What do you see in the future with the current administration’s encouragement to bring more jobs back to the USA- will this be a factor in call centers in Phoenix?
PROGREXION, Heather: Growth is a priority for Progrexion. The sheer number of clients is bringing more jobs back to US. There is more opportunity today.
FREEDOM FINANCIAL, Linda: The Phoenix area is growing! The state of Arizona is investing in technology and wooing tech firms to the area. Companies are seeing Phoenix as a viable location for their organizations. The city is easy to get around and the weather is great.
QUESTION: What do you enjoy and find exciting about a Contact Center?
PROGREXION, Heather: The friendly competition.
QUESTION: Tell us some hot jobs you have available today.
FREEDOM FINANCIAL, Linda: There are approximately 80 open positions for negotiators, IT, corporate trainers and engineers. Looking for candidates who are passionate, have great skills and not afraid to roll up their sleeves. Success is rewarded to employees. Freedom is moving to a new facility and the employee population will grow to 3,000 employees.
STATE FARM, David: Strong communication and computer skills are desired. Positions are available in customer service, cloud management and IT. There are 100’s of jobs available. David encouraged us not to apply until the week of May 8 since the web page will be going down on May 5th for ATS system changes. In the meantime, David encouraged interested candidates to research State Farm and available positions. The Tempe Lakes building has completed construction. Different business will be housed in the facility. The campus is open to the public. State Farm has 12 different employee groups within the organization. Employees are encouraged to get involved in the community. College courses are available on site. Childcare, restaurants and fitness centers are also provided.
DIRECT ENERGY, Andrew: There is an emphasis on soft skills. We seek candidates that can connect well with others and are motivated. Successful employees like to help others. Diversity and inclusion are part of Direct Energy’s corporate objectives. The company is a very involved with Children’s Hospital as a philanthropist. Interested applicants should review Direct Energy’s company values. There are opportunities beyond the Contact Center. Direct Energy is located at 52nd and 143.
QUESTION: What are your favorite things about your company?
STATE FARM, David: The culture and the beautiful new campus. Employees are engaged and enjoy helping customers.
FREEDOM FINANCIAL, Linda: The people, leadership and Freedom’s mission of assisting people eliminate their debt.
DIRECT ENERGY, Andrew: Managers lead with their feet. Meaning they are actively involved with employees in their daily efforts. Employee development, continuous coaching and active leaders supporting team members are part of Direct Energy’s daily efforts.
PROGREXION, Heather: Enjoys the heart of the organization where Progrexion is an advocate of its employees and customers.
PANEL 2: NEVER EXPECTED TO BE WHERE I AM TODAY
QUESTION: 2-minute overview of your company and what you like best about your company.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: Erika has been with Schwab for 15 years. She originally wanted to be a lawyer and found the diverse career offerings to be appealing. Schwab has a wide variety of products. The culture is family oriented. Managers are invested in employees.
USAA, Gay: USAA offers a full array of services. There are 4500 employees in Phoenix. It serves 12 million members. USAA’s mission is to serve military members and spouses. Employee benefits are robust and unique. There is an onsite day care, fitness center and recently has offered a parental leave program for both fathers and mothers.
VANGUARD, Taysir: Has been with Vanguard for 21 years. Vanguard is the largest global investment company. There are 2500 employees in Phoenix; 15000 employees globally. Available positions include advisory, financial planners, and customer service. Candidates need to focus on the client. The opinion of employees is valued along with employee growth and opportunity.
QUESTION: What do you think are the skills that help you land a job with your company?
USAA, Gay: How you come to work and show up each day is important for employee success. 85% of open jobs are entry level. Extensive 8 week training is provided for entry-level positions.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: Customer service skills are important. Most positions focus in satisfying the client. During interviews, recruiters look for motivation and communication skills.
VANGUARD, Taysir: Candidates need to have a passion to help clients. There is training available for technical positions.
QUESTION: What advice would you give to prospective employees?
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: Candidates need to review their prior successes and experience; and how it relates to the job he/she is applying for. Applicants need to be confident; speak to his/her skills; able to align their experience & to desired positions. Candidates need to network with Schwab employees.
USAA, Gay: Don’t give up. USAA is hiring 800 employees this year in Phoenix. Apply again if you don’t hear back on a submitted application.
VANGUARD, Taysir: Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Apply to current and future jobs.
QUESTION: What is the best advice for interviewing with a millennial hiring manager when you are “well-experienced” and had longevity in a past role?
USSA, Gay: Don’t share everything with the interviewer. Highlight parts of your resume that are applicable to the job you are interviewing for. You do not need to share what you have been doing for the past 30 years.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: Indicate you are eager to learn. Be selective what you say during the interview. Never say you will take a job to get your foot in the door.
VANGUARD, Taysir: Indicate you are open to change. Highlight your experience to the job you are applying for.
QUESTION: How do I get my foot in the door if I’m transitioning into this type of career and do not have a lot of experience?
VANGUARD, Taysir: Indicate you are willing to participate in cross training and comfortable moving from department to department.
USAA, Gay: Share a willingness to learn and open to training.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: Erika started with Schwab as a contractor. Her goal was to be a lawyer. She went back and got her associate and bachelor degrees while working at Schwab. Schwab paid for both her degrees. Candidates need to be open to opportunity.
QUESTION: How has continuing education helped you in your current role?
VANGUARD, Taysir: Taysir got his bachelor and master degrees while at Vanguard. His education has encouraged him to be aware of global and environment changes; and to keep current professionally and personally.
USAA, Gay: USAA offers education assistance and is available on Day 1 of employment. Employees can pursue whatever degree he/she wants to obtain. 20% of USAA employees are taking advantage of tuition reimbursement.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: When employees go to school, they demonstrate motivation and determination; and it says a lot about an employee.
QUESTION: What is the most insightful question you heard from a candidate/prospective employee?
VANGUARD, Taysir: Question on relationships. What is done to encourage employees to collaborate with one another or how does Vanguard encourage employees.
USAA, Gay: USAA hires 30% former military employees or their spouses. Need to express service and leadership skills; and servant leadership.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: Likes it when candidates ask questions that are not related to the desired role. She enjoys it when a candidate will stump her. Candidate answers need to show he/she wants to learn.
QUESTION: What do you make sure to share with others looking for a career about your job/career path?
USAA, Gay: Career paths should be viewed as lattices not paths. Gay made lateral moves to move up at USAA.
VANGUARD, Taysir: Candidates need to build skills to grow professionally. They need to be open to any role and maintain business acumen at the same time.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: Went from operations role into human resources. Rather than going up the rungs on the ladder employees need to be open to different roles. They also need to develop a business acumen so they will have a broader perspective on things.
QUESTION: How have you helped an employee grow in the company?
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: There was an employee that wanted to be a manager. Helped her put together a development plan that drove her to success. Ask other managers for their successes and failures.
USAA, Gay: There was an employee that was hired 3 years ago and was transitioning from the military to civilian life. His job was a claim representative. One day when there was a celebration, she noted how this employee knew so many people and the impressive number of connections. USAA moved the employee from his current job into a military connection role that would utilize his skills better.
QUESTION: Tell us some hot jobs you have today.
VANGUARD, Taysir: Those jobs are customer service, financial advisors, contact supervisor, manager implementation jobs, and an internal sales position. There is an emphasis on the client. Employees need to provide solutions; have a passion and desire to succeed.
USAA, Gay: USAA has similar opportunities as State Farm. There will be 5,000 open positions this year. Phoenix has a focused growth plan. Some opportunities include customer service, banking, mortgage writers, and adjusters. USAA contact center has employees sitting by a window with sun exposure.
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: There are 100 open positions, entry to mid-level. Associate financial managers and financial advisors go through 12-18 month training. Candidates need to have motivation and desire; have a fire in their belly and want to learn.
QUESTION: What is the timing that a candidate goes through from recruiting to placement in a position? What are some of the awards your company has received?
CHARLES SCHWAB, Erika: It takes about 1 month. Schwab has been awarded Fortune Top 50 Worlds Most Admired Companies, Best Company, LBGT and Military Awards.
USAA, GAY: The recruiting cycle takes about 30 days and is dependent on the completion of a background check. 2016 awards include Fortune 500, Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For and World’s most Admired Companies; Best Places to Work in IT, Top 100 Military–Friendly Employers and “Best for Vets” Employer, and healthiest employer.
VANGUARD, Taysir: 30 days dependent on background checks and screening. Vanguard’s training and development efforts have won accolades from ATD.
New Horizons Learning Center
Joe Rostowsky, Director of Site Operations
New Horizons has provided world-class training for over 30 years and over 30 million students. New Horizons recognizes that there are several learning styles and offers traditional, instructor led classroom training; online LIVE learning and online anytime learning. Learning tools are varied to meet the needs of students including hands-on labs, reference materials, practice exams, learning guides, coursework and exam preparation.
The Phoenix location is a new state-of-the-art training facility. Information Technology programs, Office Management and/or Healthcare Records Management programs, and Project/Production Management programs represent education offerings. Some of the items included in tuition are books & supplies, labs, on-going career services and 6-month re-sit option. New Horizons does provide Job Placement Assistance. The school offers top IT Certifications approved by the GI Bill. Additional funding sources are available up to $4K through the WIOA Program. New Horizons has free classes in Microsoft Office, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. Visit New Horizons online.
Jessica Pierce, Executive Director, Career Connectors, closed the meeting by thanking North Phoenix Baptist Church and the volunteers. The next Career Connectors meeting will be in Scottsdale on Thursday, May 11, 2017 and features Andy Gray as speaker for the topic “Overcoming Job Search Anxiety”. For additional information on this event and future events, please visit the Event Schedule.