Recruiting, Hiring and Employment Development Process White Paper

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1 Recruiting, Hiring and Employment Development Process White Paper By Kenneth Barton, Frederick Cardin & Garrye Hepburn Overview VCC was formed to promote the financial well being and economic independence of US Service veterans, primarily those with physically debilitating injuries, and to utilize the leadership, discipline and skills instilled by their training and experience. This White Paper describes the process VCC uses to identify, recruit, train and develop veterans to assume responsible and rewarding positions as call center managers and agents. VCC is both a Service Disabled Veteran Enterprise and a Minority Business Enterprise. The Need for Veteran Employment The United States of America has been involved in two major conflicts abroad in the fight against terror for almost a decade. Our Armed Forces are facing numerous perils in the fight to keep America safe. We are seeing a high number of our disabled young veterans come home to a diminished economy with fewer job prospects. In such a competitive job market, these men and women are often being overlooked due to their disabilities, when they should instead be rewarded for their service and sacrifice, as they bring with them an abundance of skills and experience that is transferable to the private sector. Many held good jobs prior to their enlisting or being called to active duty from the Reserves or National Guard. The Department of Defense reported that, since the advent of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through March 2010, there have been over 97,000 American men and women wounded, injured, and ill from the wars. The Department of Veterans Affairs reported 565,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran patients treated at VA medical facilities. When returning from service the burden of caring for these vets falls on their parents, spouses, and other family members. Although many of them qualify for disability benefits, the amount of the payments received is barely sufficient for survival. In many cases veterans are forced into foreclosure of their homes and applying for social services support. VCC is committed to helping veterans establish a solid foundation in civilian life through the hiring of service disabled veterans and their primary care givers. Employment Attitudes & Practices Impacting Veterans A recent study from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that veterans face two major hurdles when finding civilian employment: translating their military experience into civilian skills; and hiring managers' lack of knowledge about policies designed to help veterans get employment. 1

2 The SHRM study titled, "Employing Military Personnel and Recruiting Veterans-Attitudes and Practices," randomly polled 429 employers. The survey found that 60 percent of hiring professionals said that many veterans report having difficulty writing resumes, interviewing, and adapting to workplace culture, in addition to not being able to explain their military skills to employers effectively. "The high unemployment rate of military veterans is startling," said Laurence G. O'Neil, president and CEO of SHRM, in a company-issued statement. According to the study, when asked what tools and resources "would help a lot" with the military-to-civilian workforce transition, 39 percent of employers responded with programs to train veterans on additional skills for the workplace; 36 percent said programs to help veterans translate military experience into civilian skills sets; and 32 percent said programs and initiatives to help find and reach out to qualified veterans to fill open positions. VCC is providing precisely the tools and resources identified by the SHRM study as particularly needed in facilitating the transition to civilian employment, as this white paper will describe. VCC has developed a Systematic Transition Process for the identification of qualified veterans, translation of military skills to attractive civilian positions, and the provision of additional skills training. Military to Civilian Transitioning - Positive Psychology for Civilian Adjustment VCC understands and has embraced the VA s use of Positive Psychology for Civilian Adjustment in our hiring and training processes. This process is an approach to behavior and cognition that defines and solves problems primarily through methods of enhancing individuals productivity and personal satisfaction. Our hiring process includes evaluating the veteran s pre-disposition psychological condition relevant to the job demands. Arguably, the military is an institution of positive psychology because it works towards making service members people of greater character who fulfill higher callings, and are satisfied with their work and commitments. The Army slogan, Be All You Can Be, communicates a positive psychology. The positive psychology message in the military is aligned with a tiered system of opportunities, so as to attract a broad range of people with various potential and backgrounds. The intent of the military is to maximize the potential in each service member, while preparing them for their military mission. VCC takes a similar approach in helping our veterans transition to civilian employment. Positive psychology is an important framework for thinking about the continuum of experiences that affect the veteran lifecycle. From basic civilian adjustment after discharge, to the rehabilitation process after injuries, to career engagement and development, the psychology of the individual will affect long-term outcomes in their lives. 2

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5 The VCC Veteran Hiring Process VA Identifies Potential Employment Candidates To hire eligible veteran workers, and specifically disabled veterans, VCC has established relationships with relevant organizations 1, including the US Department of Veterans Affairs Compensated Work Therapy Program providing support for veterans and their families. VCC has provided Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists (VA Representatives) and Nonprofit Representatives with information detailing the criteria for a successful veteran call center associate/manager. Job descriptions as well as physical visits to the VCC facilities have provided an initial understanding for the Representatives as to contact center position descriptions and requirements. VA Administers VCC Aptitude Test 1 Affiliated Organizations: VCC works with non-profit organizations that support Veteran job placement and transitions in a similar capacity as in its relationship with the US Department of Veterans Affairs. 5

6 The VA Representatives have provided VCC with a job readiness assessment test to be administered to all VCC veteran employment candidates. Candidate Applies for Employment Upon satisfactorily completing the pre-hiring assessment, the veteran seeking a new career is encouraged to complete an application for employment. VA Supplies Letter Certifying Veteran s Status It is at this time, and upon the request of the Veteran applicant, that the affiliated VA office provides a letter on their stationary attesting to the fact that the individual is indeed classified as a veteran or disabled veteran possibly suited for a career in contact center services. Unsuitable candidates receive continued services Formal Interview at VCC Facilities Our typical job interview has a single candidate meeting with between one and three representatives of VCC; a potential manager of the employee is usually involved in the interview process. The goal of the interview is to determine the following: 1. Secure a sense as to candidate s qualifications 2. Determine the level of interest 3. See if the candidate is a cultural fit 4. Test candidate s communication skills Unsuitable post-interview candidates receive continuing counseling from the VA (VCC feedback is provided subject to liability constraints). Background Check Performed by VCC VCC conducts background checks on all candidates before offering employment. Successful Candidates Complete a 35 Hour Paid Introductory VCC Training and Evaluation Process Once accepted as a VCC associate, the veteran employee receives over 35 hours of initial training (paid); during which they are versed on VCC culture, its polices and processes, as well as contact center terminology and best practices. The initial education for the VCC associates is held in the VCC Learning Center. This dedicated area allows for certified educators to explain the philosophies of the company as 6

7 well as the basic information as it relates to benefits, vacations, schedules, and of course when and how they get paid. Here they receive their first introduction to the contact center environment, and meet the people who will play a role in their work life. They initially meet with Human Relations people who will create their work schedules, and interview them several times in the first weeks of their employment to make sure they are doing well. They will be introduced to the regulations governing the contact center industry, by our in-house legal expert who will further explain the consequences of not following those regulations. In addition to introductions to the other senior people, they begin the real learning process of the position they have been assigned. Candidates are tested daily, and are evaluated twice the first week by the learning Center Administrator. The test results are recorded in their file, and can be made available to the VA representatives upon their visits. The test results and evaluations provide great insight on the fit of the veteran for the contact center environment and the VCC culture. Through observation and testing results, individuals are matched to particular contact center program accounts, providing them with the best chance for success. VCC managers will meet with the employee s VA Representative to explain the rational for the assignment, and secure the advocates approval and support. Unsuitable introductory process candidates receive a VCC exit interview at the end of week and continued counseling from the VA. Successful Candidates become VCC Associates and are Directed to Formal Training for a VCC Client Program Based on Their Evaluation and the Demands of the Program After successful completion of the introductory training week, the veteran associate is assigned to a client program which best matches their interest, temperament and experience. Training then begins on the specific client program in the VCC Learning Center. Specific program training, length, and intensity are program/client dependant. The VCC Learning Center is complete with certified instructors, surround sound, and teaching videos created by the center s graphics department, providing a visual, audio, and interactive environment for learning. Daily tests are administered to assure program understanding. Associates are trained in small groups with excellent manager to associate ratios. Associates actively participate on the phones, providing first-hand experience regarding the types of calls generated and how they should be handled. Continuing VA Support 7

8 To assure a successful transition to the VCC environment, the veterans meet with their VA Representative on site as often as needed. We have made special arrangements for the advocates to observe within the contact center, if necessary or in conference rooms for privacy. Evaluation of Premium Associate Agent and Management Capabilities Veterans and disabled veterans can continue as Customer Service Associates (CSR) or train as USA agents or for manager positions through the Management Trainee Program. USA agents are associates who have achieved advanced certifications through program and process education. Managers oversee and further educate and mentor associates in the VCC centers. The intention of VCC is to hire disabled veterans at the highest entry level possible, while providing them with the best opportunity for success. Some will have the predisposition and the desire to lead through management positions, and they will immediately be placed at the Management Trainee level. Others who may not wish to commit to that position will have the opportunity to develop into USA agent positions. Enhanced Agent Training to become USA Agents Veterans choosing the USA agents career path receive advanced training in systems, customer service, and relevant telecommunications and call center technology. We have created the USA agent position to further support our veterans and disabled veterans by providing even more flexibility to their schedule than regular associates. The VCC USA agent has the ability to receive additional certified training, relating not only to present program knowledge, but also to gain exposure to other areas in the contact center. In addition, they will be the first chosen to represent the team in focus groups assembled when clients are visiting. Because of their advanced education/training they are provided the opportunities to mentor other associates, to see if they are qualified and desire to progress to a managerial role. Become a Management Trainee An associate who becomes a Management Trainee trains for three to nine months to prepare for assuming leadership responsibilities as a manager. VCC focuses primarily on training disabled veterans for manager positions. Other VCC personnel, including veterans and non-veterans, can become managers, but disabled veterans will fill the majority of these positions. Once the qualified disabled veteran associate has been successfully educated as an associate, he or she is then certified as a 8

9 Management Trainee. It is within this time frame they are assigned to assist a manager supervising a team. The Management Trainees are uniformed for differentiation, participate in daily meetings, are asked for their ideas, and on a weekly basis meet with other department heads. They are also exposed to outside speakers to further their education and skill set. Each manager must graduate from a specially developed management trainee program aimed at providing the necessary management and system skills. The training program provides each Management Trainee with the opportunity to learn all facets of the organization by completing a rotation in mission critical departments such as IT, Client Services, Credit Analysis and Review, Quality Assurance and Human Resources. While working along side experienced staff in these areas, the Management Trainee will gain important insight into VCC s methods and procedures. This insight will enable them to better understand the company s functions and to make educated and informed decisions consistent with VCC s mission and values. Management Trainees attend weekly seminars designed to improve their knowledge of the organization and key programs, as well as to enhance their communication skills and their understanding of employment related issues, State and Federal telemarketing laws, management and leadership techniques, progressive discipline strategies, as well as methods of motivation and coaching and many other topics. Once they meet all mandated requirements, they graduate from the program and are assigned their own team. In keeping with their new responsibilities, they are provided manager uniforms, new responsibilities and leadership opportunities befitting their abilities. Further Advancements to More Demanding Client Programs and Increased Responsibilities Are Possible Based on Performance and Additional Training Each member of the VCC contact center staff participates in a career progression plan. Our Human Resource staff meets periodically with every veteran in order to discuss their personal employment goals. Through this program employees gain an understanding of the opportunities for career advancement and receive support in meeting the progression goals they set for themselves. Executive Promotions Are Possible Based on Performance As VCC continues to grow more senior level positions will become available. Promoting from within is always the first choice, utilizing an interview process with an Executive Board. VCC looks to promote to an individual s highest potential and offers education and mentoring to middle managers who will be the future of our organization, 9

10 and who are grounded in our core values. Once identified, these individuals will meet with current executives who will work with them to set development and career goals. VCC executives will mentor our veteran employees and share company staff studies and afteraction reviews of major assignments. In this manner, when positions become available we will have already identified the best matches from our internal talent. Continued Monitoring, Review and Evaluation of Our Veteran Career Development Processes VCC will monitor and review its employment and advancement of disabled veterans. VCC will assess on a continuing basis if there are any barriers that need to be removed to improve the employment and retention of disabled veterans. VCC will monitor, review and evaluate its efforts to promote employment and advancement opportunities for qualified veterans, through reviewing and analyzing the hiring, retention, and promotion rates of our veteran employees based on statistical data reports. Mission critical reports, such as the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Plan and MD-715, will be analyzed to determine trends in recruitment, placement and promotion of disabled veterans. A review of the progress in implementing this plan will be conducted by VCC at the end of each fiscal year. This review will include, but is not limited to, a review of the number of veterans and disabled veterans employed by VCC s sub-departments annually. Conclusion Our process provides veterans higher paying jobs, rather than traditional contact center entrylevel positions, by creating real career opportunities for our veterans. We support our mission by teaming with strategic partners that have the mutual goal of supporting, protecting and benefiting our veterans. This can be done while offering first class service and running a profitable, sustainable business. At VCC we look for experienced, talented and dedicated people of character to lead our teams. Veterans have these qualities, which is why they are a good fit to provide excellent service to our clients. VCC will engage only US based employees. serviced by US based agents exclusively. All call center activities are managed and By engaging VCC, it becomes more cost effective for organizations to hire veterans, as it is not necessary to make changes to the client s facility to accommodate an individual with a disability in order to offer them a job opportunity. Obviously, VCC cannot hire all of the veterans who live with disabilities, but it can set an example for others to follow in utilizing a human resource that is significantly unnoticed and under-appreciated. 10

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