The coronavirus pandemic may still be in full force and its effects felt all over the world in the form of a vast employment downturn - but for certain industries, business is booming. Those in healthcare, assisted living, food delivery, groceries, and other essentials are seeing a surge in demand, and are hiring to meet the rising need for frontline hourly workers.
In this Workstream webinar, we hear all about what it's like to be on the ground and dealing with the impact of the pandemic, business challenges, and keeping employees engaged, straight from Envoy America CEO, K.C. Kanaan, and connectRN's Senior Manager of People & Talent, Allison Sproul.
Lydia: Hey everyone, welcome to the Workstream live Q&A. Today we are joined by K.C. Kanaan and Allison Sproul. I’d love to just kick off by having you guys introduce yourselves and tell us about where you're based and also how many cities you serve.
K.C.: Sure. Thank you Lydia for the opportunity to do this. My name is K.C. Kanaan, I am the co-founder and CEO of Envoy America. We are based and I am based in Phoenix, Arizona. Today we serve approximately 22 or 23 different states and about 300 cities.
Allison: Wow, that's so many more than us. Thank you, Lydia, for inviting me to participate in today's webinar as well. I am the Senior Manager of People & Talent over at connectRN and I don't know how many cities necessarily we service, however we are currently in ten states and the majority of the facilities that we partner with are in the metropolitan areas of those states. At the moment, those are primarily concentrated on the East Coast and also somewhat in the Midwest, but hoping to get out west sooner rather than later.
Growing your Business
(01:22 - 05:55)
Lydia: So let's just jump right in. You know when we talk about the number of cities and states that you guys are in, what I'm curious about is before all this happened, how did you guys think about growth? K.C., where did you start from and then how did you expand city by city, or state by state?
K.C.: Sure. We started in Phoenix five years ago with the intent of serving the senior population that lived at home. We were very fortunate that a newspaper did a story on us, which led to different corporate clients like the American Cancer Society and the Jewish Federation, and different senior living communities reading about us, reaching out to us to see if we can be of service to them. Started working with them in the Phoenix area and our team did a great job serving them that these corporate clients asked us if we were willing to expand and serve them in other locations. So we went from Phoenix to Tucson, Arizona to serve the American Cancer Society and their patients, and again the team did a great job in serving them that the American Cancer Society asked us to expand from Phoenix and Tucson, to Seattle Tacoma Olympia, and then they requested that we expand to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. And that's how we've been able to expand: recruiting the right people, training them, keeping them motivated that they took great care of our clients, corporate clients and then these corporate clients asking us to expand to different cities and different geographies.
Lydia: And Allison, how about your team, when we first started chatting you guys were in eight states and now you are in ten. What is leading to the growth and how do you guys decide where to expand?
Allison: Yeah originally we started in Massachusetts, that is where headquarters are based. Our co-founder Mike was already local to Massachusetts, but Idriz is actually Mike's brother-in-law, so he was relocating to be a little bit closer to family and had to then renew his nursing licensure in the US, but wasn't able to do so at the time so he had to go back to school. When supporting his family, he was reaching out to staffing agencies and looking to pick up shifts in his area, but wasn't necessarily able to do so, and the idea kind of came to him at the dinner table and chatting with Mike, “Wouldn't it be really cool if there was an app that just showed me all the shifts that were available to work in my area?” So starting locally in Massachusetts from his own need was where our initial focus was, and since 2016 or 2017, our start date is a little almost questionable just because our app didn't actually launch until 2017 but the idea was conceptualized before that. We've really grown out kind of like a cinnamon roll if you will, so starting in Massachusetts and then trying to work our way out because we serve our clients best with the health care facilities if we have enough supply of our clinical population to meet their demand. So naturally we will continue to thrive in more densely populated metropolitan areas. So Massachusetts and especially the Boston area has been a really big one for us going down to Rhode Island and now, as recently as of today, in Hampshire. But then also we started to break out down in the mid-Atlantic area, so really in Maryland and now Virginia as of recently, Pennsylvania with Philadelphia and kind of working our way out from there. And then also, I believe our kind of center point in the Midwest right now is Columbus. The strategy has shifted a little bit admittedly in the pandemic, so I hope you'll forgive me if I'm not speaking entirely correctly of what today's go-to-market strategy is.
Lydia: It changes every day right now and I think one of the things that businesses have to do is just adjust to it by having Response Teams. Allison, in our prep call you mentioned just how you guys sort of structured your Covid Response Team. I would love for you to go into that and also just talk about who's on this team like who makes up the Covid Response Team.
COVID Response Team
(05:56 - 11:02)
Allison: Sure. So in the Covid Response Team we have a few more senior members of our Customer Success Team. Our Customer Success Team for reference is typically dealing with a very high volume of calls from our clinical population, who we definitely want to support and then also our director of operations who doubles as our head of clinician experience, myself in HR, and our Chief Product Officer. So we're all kind of working together, making sure first and foremost that we had set up a time to create a protocol for what happens if a facility: a) tells us they have someone diagnosed as Covid positive and then b), what happens if one of our clinical staff members is diagnosed with Covid. So we set it up such that for any time a nurse or clinician is scheduled for a shift within the following 24 hours, they're sent a survey in a push notification where they have to respond a simple yes or no, have you traveled to any of the countries on the CDC watch list in the past 14 days, have you experienced any symptoms of Covid-19 such as coughing runny nose etc fever if so what are they, and then number three being have you been diagnosed positive for having Covid-19 or taking care of a Covid positive patient. Now I did make the suggestion that we delineate that last question since as we've gone now through this pandemic for a little over two months or three months, time is always questionable right now. The vast majority of course have now taken care of Covid positive patients at this point, given how vulnerable the long-term care industry is with that population, but making sure that if the nurses or clinicians themselves had been diagnosed positive that we were helping them to submit workers compensation claims for example where I might get tagged in. With that survey though, if they submit it yes, it will automatically page in a line of priority for a certain member of our Covid Response Team. And so that gets escalated if someone misses the page for example, that way we're making sure that we're getting back to every single clinician who highlights an issue related to Covid-19 to us.
Lydia: Yeah I mean that's just incredible that they're able to get such a fast turnaround and response time. You know K.C. ,when we chatted you mentioned that there are some communities, correct me on this but they call themselves communities, I almost said facilities, that there are some communities that you know were really more proactive about it in terms of their Covid Response Teams, what are you seeing with those communities? What has been sort of like the best setup for them in order to you know be able to communicate with service providers such as yourself?
K.C.: It's similar to what Allison has described. The community's leadership team got together early on, and came up with protocols on how to react to this situation that we're in. And they communicated together frequently as often as twice a day, morning and night, to keep a handle on this situation because there is no playbook for how to deal with this situation. So the ones that have been successful at managing this crisis or during this crisis were the ones that communicated often, communicated honestly and openly with their team members, with the families that they serve, with their providers people like us, and stayed calm and helped keep everybody calm. We are dealing sith a situation where no one has been exposed to it. These are uncertain times, people are panicking. From people that live at these communities, to the family members that can’t see their family, their parents or their elderly family members, to providers that can't go in to do assessments or provide service. So the ones that communicated with us and looked at us as part of their team and an extension of their team, and they shared with us what they were going through and looked for us for providing input, are the ones that seemed to navigate through these uncertain times better than anybody else.
Communication During a Pandemic
(11:03 - 13:19)
Lydia: What has been the communication with those groups? Is it phone calls, text message, email. How are you staying in touch with all the different organizations you work with?
K.C.: All of the above, there is no one method. So one of our clients that is focused on serving kidney dialysis patients, if you're familiar with kidney dialysis it's three times a week going in at some point during the day, and four and a half hours coming back. They include us in all their communication, as in their team daily team meetings, so we were reacting to the situation together. Some of their patients went from being healthy not tested positive for the virus, to being exposed or diagnosed or tested positive and we work together on how we can serve this population. If they don't go to their life-sustaining medical appointments, it can have a major impact on their life. So with a client like this we were on daily calls with them, we were an extension of their team, and we work with them as if we’re their partner - and we are. The ones that needed somebody less frequently as in delivering medication or taking somebody to their medical appointment, the communication happened on an as-needed basis. Primarily phone calls emails text messages, whatever is the most convenient way for the client. So it's all over the place the communication and we've done a lot of Zoom calls for planning and strategizing with our business partners, and even with candidates that we've interviewed, we switched from doing in-person interviews to doing everything virtually now.
Shifting to Video Interviews
(13:20 - 14:51)
Lydia: By the way how is that going? I know on Workstream we've been trying to do more and more with the video interviewing and some people are even submitting their like 30-second intro videos before they get a scheduled time. How has it been interviewing through Zoom and are there any things that you have changed with your interview process as you switch to video?
Allison: So we haven't implemented the video interviewing for our clinical population, but we have for our corporate team. I think that the switch to video interviewing was a pretty seamless one for us. Our Customer Success Team is already fully remotely distributed and so that wasn't any change of process, we always do a phone screen and then our final interview on Zoom. So it was just a matter of me going into our applicant tracking system and changing our final interview template to say like, click this Zoom link to join, instead of you know, expect to be at this address for our office and here is how you can navigate there XYZ. I don't think it has really made any dramatic difference on the number of hires or the quality of hires by any means. I will say that I have hired 34 percent of our corporate team in the past three months, which is pretty hefty, so the majority of those didn't take place on Zoom.
(14:52 - 16:56)
Lydia: Separate from Zoom video interviewing, K.C. I'm curious about the questions you ask in interviews. I remember you said that you start all of your interviews with a really great question. I'd love for you to share it if you don't mind.
K.C.: Sure. The clients that we serve are the elderly and people that are going through medical appointments or have a medical need, and this population they need more than just a ride. They need somebody to provide more than just pick them up, drop them off in front of the building, and they're all on their own. So we always and have been from day one, we always lead with one question which is “What prompted you to apply?” So that's the question that we always ask, and we close our mouth and we listen to their response and depending on how they answer it, if it's all about the money and I need to make money and this is why I'm applying, chances are they're not the right candidate to be working for us because we look for somebody that wants to do this as a calling before it's a job. Don't get me wrong, we pay and we pay well but the candidate, if they're looking at this as just a way to make a living, they're not the right person for us.
Allison: All the praise hands for that K.C. I can't endorse that any more. It's really the same way for both connectRN and also my previous employer too. We actually have a disqualifier in our applicant tracking system about what are their motives usually relating to that and not actually caring about the mission, so I'm really happy that you mentioned that.
Q&A: Job Application with connectRN
(16:57 - 19:15)
Lydia: Speaking of applying we had a question come in. Somebody wants to know Allison, how can nurses join the connectRN family right now, are there openings?
Allison: Oh yeah we are 100% hiring. We're hiring for clinical roles as well as for our corporate team. For our clinical roles, if you just go to connectRN.com and then click under the clinicians kind of button at the top, there's a very accessible button that says sign up right at the top. So it's definitely the best way to go for that and then for our corporate positions it's just connectRN.com/careers/
Lydia: Okay great, and I believe when we chatted you said you went from hiring like 20 people a month to like a hundred people a hundred nurses per month is that right?
Allison: Yeah all within the span of a quarter. It was crazy.
Lydia: How did you scale up the corporate team in order to handle such an amount of growth?
Allison: Yeah, I mean it's been a wild ride. I am constantly talking to potential clinical recruiters for a nurse acquisition onboarding team and I think that the conversations that I've had have been really eye-opening. I've also found that sometimes just having healthcare experience isn't necessarily going to be the best fit for us, because we are a startup going through what may or may not be defined as hyper growth right, so I know that in some more traditional healthcare companies that wouldn't necessarily be accustomed to growing that quickly, they might not necessarily jive with that volume and adaptability and being able to just kind of go go go. So we've also found that sometimes more of like a business development representative might be a better fit for our clinical recruiting team than say somebody who's been a more traditional talent acquisition partner for a b2b SaaS company for example.
Useful Productivity Tools
(19:16 - 21:31)
Lydia: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. So another question came in is about the key technology tools that have been game-changing and crucial for your business, be it software or hardware. Obviously we don't want to make this just all about Workstream, but I'm curious Allison, what productivity tools are you using, like how do you guys communicate. Do you use Slack, just how do you share information across your team?
Allison: Sure, so we do utilize Slack for all of our internal communications as well as email. We also utilize Salesforce as our CRM system and the entire company is within Salesforce, because we need to make sure that not only our customers on the facility side being taken care of with the same level of care as our nurses are. It's just one cohesive space for us to be able to tag people, and it's just going 24 hours a day honestly in there. But as far as the higher volume and kind of game-changing experiences kind of like you were just mentioning with our nurse acquisition strategy, we do use Fountain as our applicant tracking system which is really designed for the gig economy. So that really helped to take off our recruiting efforts late in 2019 when we switched off of Breezy HR.
Lydia: Okay great yeah, and K.C. how about you guys, how are you guys communicating internally? Are there any productivity tools that you guys use?
K.C.: We use several different tools from our dispatch software, Fastrak, to the Microsoft Office for messaging. And we use Google for a lot of different things, but most everybody is based here in Phoenix so there is communication in the office. We're starting to come back into the office and just the basic tools from Microsoft to our dispatch software which is how we communicate with each other.
Onboarding Employees Faster
(21:32 - 23:30)
Lydia: Yeah and when we talk about productivity, I know one of the hard things just from your use of Workstream to actually working with the individual groups is the amount of paperwork. Do you have any advice for the communities you work with in order or you know with also the sort of transportation communities or services you work with that could help onboard your people faster?
K.C.: Yeah the more you can automate, the more efficient you're going to be. So if you can leverage a tool like Workstream or you could have your candidates sign the offer letters, they can sign documents related to the service agreement with you, the more efficient it's going to be for you. In the past, the way we used to do it is to get candidates to sign a hard copy and then scan it and upload it to the system. Luckily today Workstream can allow me to do that, so you don't have to kill a thousand trees to do the job and get it done. Unfortunately for our business, we still serve agencies that require a lot of papers to be signed from “I’m not going to drive and smoke”, “I’m not I can I have the physical ability to do the job”, these are roughly 30 forms, 25 to 30, that every candidate has to sign, not because we require them to do it but our client requires us to do it, and now it can be done chronically through Workstream.
Expanding into Different States
(23:31 - 24:33)
Lydia: You guys are in so many states, which states in general seem to have the most hurdles to jump through versus like the easier states to get into?
K.C.: It all depends on the state, some of them it's a nightmare to navigate their processes, and other states like Arizona or California where you would think California is difficult, it's not. So in general without naming states, the closer you are to the East coast where they have been established, the Northeast the more challenging it is to navigate the systems. The closer you are to the West coast, at least in our experience it's been easier for us to navigate through the licensing and getting qualified to do business.
Lydia: Well that's great news for Allison, because it sounds like you're in the heart of the hardest area to navigate.
Allison: Yeah, going West is going to be a cakewalk.
Challenges Faced in the Business
(24:34 - 34:41)
Lydia: Oh my gosh. Hope so, right? Yeah you know right now like in general we're all in this mode of either reacting and putting out dumpster fires, or people have more time to reflect and think about the business and why they originally joined. In the case with both of you, what have been some of the biggest hurdles right now and also what have been some of the learnings that have come out of this time?
K.C.: Allison please.
Allison: Sure. As far as biggest hurdles, I mean just the sheer volume of inquiries from our clinical population over the past few months with the pandemic have been crazy. For example, and I might be misrepresenting these numbers slightly, but I looked at a report from our Customer Success Team late last week, and our call volume for that team, which is if I were to take an educated guess probably about 75 or 80 percent on the clinical side to 20 percent on the facility side, increased from maybe like a few hundred cases per month maybe 400, all the way up to 3,000 in March. So naturally we had to scale that Customer Success team very, very quickly just to deal with that volume. And I'm currently the only one that actually does HR for connectorRN, so I'm acting as HR business partner not only to our corporate team but also to all of our clinical population. The amount of pings that I received has also been pretty astronomical, since I always ask them to make sure that I'm in the know if they have a medical reason to be out so we need to implement FMLA etc, and I'm able to do so or file for workers compensation just the sheer volume at the start of the pandemic. No one predicted the pandemic so that's been a hurdle in itself, to be 100 percent there for our clinical population and corporate team at the same time. Well, probably prioritizing our clinical team a little bit more if I'm being honest during this time and then the other one was the biggest opportunity?
Lydia: Or really just sort of what have you known in this time of introspection, what are you thinking about as far as sort of the business and you know long-term vision what drew you to it in the first place, just what are your thoughts on this?
Allison: I think coming into connectRN, I didn't know a ton about the nursing population, I didn't know really anything about the long-term care industry. My own grandmother was in a nursing facility and I didn't really know a ton about the operations behind it, and she was also down in Florida while I was in Massachusetts so I was a little bit removed from the process. Now hearing what these clinicians and nurses work with in terms of maybe with patient ratios on a day-to-day basis, my heart really goes out to them especially during these pandemic times where the ratio isn’t always in their favor. So I think that has been a little bit surprising to me, but what really drew me in in addition to the fact that I was able to continue into a business line that was a double-sided marketplace which is a business perspective that really interested me, was the opportunity to provide flexible working options to so many Americans, because we were founded on creating that flexibility rather for clinicians across the country. It makes me think about the ripple effects that I can have because I can recruit so many people, I can play HR business partner to so many people, but if the company that I work for tells me, hey you know we just got a message from nurse Sandra in Maryland saying that she was finally able to get all of her kids Christmas gifts that they wanted this year because of connectRN or so, and so was able to pay their rent on time because they were able to pick up enough shifts to make ends meet, it's like a game changer for me it's no question. Why would I go to another employer when I can so clearly see the impact that we're making? It's everything.
Lydia: Yeah the mission is really just so critical here. K.C. of dumpster fires and visions, what are your thoughts?
K.C.: The challenge for us was how do you figure out what to do without having any experience in a situation like this. Just like any other business, we had our contingency planning, we thought about what do we do if this happens or that happens, and planned for whatever scenario we can think of. We didn't plan for this. So as the CEO of this company how do you keep everybody at ease, how do you reassure the team that we're going to prevail? Yeah we are going through uncertain times, things are tough, no one knows how long it's going to take or what's going to happen but having faith that we will prevail at the end of the day, that was just calming everybody down while we're going through it. We had no idea what's going to happen to the business, how our clients are going to react to it, if we're going even stay in business because of this and that was the biggest challenge. Luckily we were able to navigate through this and put our heads together with the rest of the team, communicate with everybody telling them what we know, and if we didn't know anything we were just as honest as anybody can be and realize that there's no playbook for this. And by putting my head with the leadership team and everybody in the organization, together we will figure out what we need to do and prevail at the end. So that was the biggest challenge. It's like driving on the Mass turnpike going to New York or Highway 80 going to Sacramento at 80 miles per hour and trying to change a flat tire as you're driving right. You don't know how to do it and you need to figure out a way to do it. So that was the biggest challenge. You know for us, it's reflecting back on our business. It became clear to us when we went back and thought of that so how did we go from being in Phoenix, one client to serving you know multi-billion dollar companies and being in all these states, what made us who we are and what led to this growth and this expansion and it became very clear it was who we hired: what we looked for, how we trained them, and how we kept them motivated to take care of our clients. At the end of the day, the people who take care of our clients are our drivers. It's not me, it's not anybody who works in our office, it's not anybody who works in our headquarters. It's the drivers who are in the geography that do a phenomenal job taking care of the elderly and the patients, and if it wasn't for them, this business would not exist. So just reflecting back on what led to our growth, and it was good to just realize it again, I've known this that hiring the right people, having the right people on the bus and the right seats in is the right thing to do, but going through this time where things are uncertain, it reinforced what I knew and it reiterated to us what we need to continue to do in the future. Because without our drivers, without having the right people taking care of our clients, and communicating with them and keeping motivated, no business would exist including us.
Lydia: You know, what you say reminds me of Richard Branson’s quote where he says you know don't put employees sorry don't put customers first put your employees first and they'll take care of your customers.
K.C.: Absolutely yeah if you look at some of the successful companies from Starbucks to Southwest Airlines to Costco or Walmart, they put their people first they pay them more, they offered them employee stock ownership plan even for part-time employees. In the case of Starbucks and look at Starbucks now, I don't know what their revenue is at, I think the last time I looked was close to fifty billion because they put people first, and same with Southwest Airlines and for us we did it intuitively but now we're putting more behind it.
Q&A: Retaining Employees
(34:42 - 44:09)
Lydia: The question came in for K.C.: I noticed that you hire a ton of drivers. So this person's a delivery company facing issues with high turnover of drivers because of Amazon DSPs springing up left and right, would love to know how do you retain your drivers.
K.C.: That's a great question. There's no one method but there's a few different things. It starts with treating the driver or the person the way you want to be treated, having an open-door policy, recognizing them when they do something well as in they take care of the client, you know when we get a call or an email or a message from a client saying Allison in Phoenix did a great job taking care of my mom, or Linda in Texas. Pick up the phone and call them and say, “Hey just want to let you know we got a call from Mrs. Smith and I just want to thank you just want to thank you for what you did.” So it's the communication, it's recognizing them, it's explaining the why behind what we do, it starts with hiring the right people like I mentioned early by asking them why they want to be part of this team but that's not where it ends. It's communicating the why behind what we do, why it's critical when you serve an elderly person to speak slowly because sometimes they're hard of hearing, or why do you want to make it all about the elderly person sometimes they're lonely and you're probably the only person that they've talked to. Think about your grandparents, think about your elderly neighbors. They're lonely and if you take that an extra minute to just talk to them and look at them as a walking talking encyclopedia, because they are, and learn from them, they can feel good about themselves but you can also learn something from them. It’s explaining the why behind what the company does to the people that work for the company and our part of the company, it helps the drivers, in the case of the gentleman who asked the question, stay with the company. If they share the same view of how you treat people and you treat them well and you listen to them and you recognize them when they do something good and you take the time to do it, not because it's the right thing to do. Yeah I can tell you with our company, and we have hundreds if not thousands of drivers, every morning the first thing I do is when it's somebody's birthday, I send an email. It's coming from me, I don't have an admin, I don't have somebody, it's not an automated system, it's just to say to the person happy birthday, hope you have a great day. And pick up the phone and call four or five people a week. Drivers that's what I do, not just to talk to them but to ask what else can we do as a company to make you happy and be the employer of choice, and again I used it before - listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, to listen and listen to what they say and see if it makes sense to change and if it doesn’t, explain to them why it doesn't make sense to change. It all starts and ends with communication with the right people. That's a long way to answer the question but that's it.
Lydia: No, it was very insightful. I think just the tidbits of wisdom there, from paying attention to the people's birthdays to really just making sure they understand the vision they’re connected to and what makes their job unique, it's just so important. Allison, I want to shift to you just a little bit on the same topic, you obviously have nurses going into facilities and there's sometimes a bit of a division in terms of how the communities treat their full-time staff versus what they consider sort of their agency nurses. How do you guys go above and beyond to protect your staff and what have you done with the communities to push for more on behalf of your workers?
Allison: 100 percent. So kind of similarly to what you and K.C. have echoed. I mean everything with employee retention goes back to caring first and foremost about your employees. I think that our CFO connectorRN says it best: our nurses don't work for us, we work for nurses. So ultimately when we get reports of a nurse that may have been accused for clocking in late or not providing the most exemplary care, we're not just going to necessarily default to what the facility is telling us. Every single time I'm reaching out to that nurse or clinician, I'm saying, "Hey how can I best advocate for you? Let me know what happened from your perspective," and whether or not that determination is that you know maybe they made an oops, or hey they actually didn't mess up and maybe there was a problem on connectorRN’s App with clocking in right, that certainly happened a number of times. Not to say that our app has a lot of bugs or anything.
Lydia: It’s a startup and it gets better.
Allison: Yeah I mean startup life. I think every company has its hiccups and so you can't just default to believe everything that the paying customer says, because if you do always side with us, sorry not us the facilities rather, then they can go and work at any other staffing agency in the U.S. They can go and drive for any other company they can go and drive for the Amazons of the world. Do you think Jeff Bezos cares about all of those drivers? I can guarantee you he's not calling them all the way K.C. is. That's hugely respectful, so similarly to K.C., we have something called Power Hour each week. We separate into teams to make it kind of fun, and we just call nurses for an hour and say like “Hey how you doing? I noticed you haven't picked up shifts in a while, is there a reason for that? Do you maybe not understand the app? Is there something that I can help you with? Or maybe it's just Covid19 and that's not something that's necessarily within our realm of control but hey we would love to see you back on the platform when you are able to.” The amount of times that I've seen employees just saying thank you for appreciating them, even outside of nurse appreciation, we have Nurse Appreciation Month because this is something that we've been doing now since I've started up connectRN and it's just huge. It really really goes back to actually caring about your employees whether they're full-time, whether they're per diem, whether They're part-time, whether they're hourly, exempt, or non-exempt, it doesn't matter. You need to care about your people, and so first and foremost we always want to first connect with our clinicians to see how are they feeling, how can we help them, how can we advocate for them, and then figure out the rest. And that's really key for all employee retention.
Lydia: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. K.C. are you going to mind if we do a Power Hour hitting you guys up once a week checking in?
Lydia: Okay we might be implementing that soon. It’s something we keep talking about just getting more people on the phone right now and talking to customers more. Our CEO even has his notes every week of every customer he's spoken to, just to share that with the team, as far as okay, here's what's going on in their world and I think team-wise we just need to scale, that is kind of the next step.
Q&A: Creating Career Progression for Employees
(44:10 - 54:30)
Lydia: There was another question that came in for K.C. as a follow-up. What do you do to create growth and progression for your roles? Are there any training tips for development and a role that doesn't necessarily have a typical career progression? So we talk a lot about career progression, how you reduce turnover. With drivers this is a little bit difficult. Is there anything that you guys are offering or doing in order to help people think about that?
K.C.: That's a great question too. So as far as training with the team that works for us in our main office, we do a lot of information sharing. Everything about the weekly revenues to the cost of goods sold to the gross margin, to what are the expenses, and with the goal of making sure that everybody understands that how every decision that somebody makes, that could be a dispatcher working in the dispatch operation and offering to pay somebody more money, how does that impact the gross margin. There's a lot of training that happens indirectly by sharing information about everything that we do, so everybody is marching to the same end goal. As far as career growth in the company with drivers, for every driver for every geography that we operate in, we have a lead driver and that lead driver is always promoted from within. It's somebody that has been with us and has done a great job, it could be the first week or it could be the first month or six months but they get what we do, they're excited about what we do, the clients love them, they love what we do and they become lead drivers and there's career opportunities for them. I can tell you Dave from Seattle is coming here tomorrow, he's been with us for two years as a driver to start within Seattle, then the lead driver in Seattle for the last year, and now he's going from being an independent contractor to full-time employee. Same with Stacy in Atlanta, today was his first day as a full-time employee with benefits and an employee stock ownership plan. Same with Sammy in Decatur, Alabama -she started with us three months ago and now she's working as an employee. So there are a lot of career opportunities and we look for people that get what we do, they take care of the client the way the way everybody should take care of the client, which is which is treat them the way you want to be treated, and then if they're interested in doing different things, we always look for good people. In the last two months, as everybody knows things have been slow. So instead of reducing hours or reducing pay or reduce the force, what we've decided to do is cross train everybody. So at a high level, we have a customer service function, we have a recruiting function, and we have a dispatch operation function. Instead of having people just specialized in one thing, get them cross trained. So if we're busy then a recruiter is doing the customer service or doing the billing and accounting. So we just look for good people, we don't look for the skills, we look for the attitude and train for the skills, and if they're interested in growing and we would love to share whatever we know. We'd only know everything we can learn from I learned from our drivers and our employees as much as they learned from me. So that's how again it’s a long way to answer the question but it’s having an open transparent environment where everybody learn from each other, we don't have formal training sessions where you know we're going to train what gross margin is, but you talk about it so much it gets ingrained in somebody's head and if they don't understand it my first reaction is go to Google to find out what it is. If you don't know what it is, I'll be more than happy to sit down with you as long as you want and explain it to you. But explain the why, why it impacts the business, why something has an impact on the business so everybody can march to the same drumbeat having the same goals.
Lydia: Yeah that's great, I love that you know so many people's names at your company and where they're located and how long they've worked there. I think that it speaks very highly of you as a CEO that you're so attuned to that. Allison, I believe you built out your own sort of career progression program at your last company, I'd love to share how that came about and what you did there.
Allison: So in my last company for context, we used analytics to match families to share a Montessori-trained nanny. Now when you think about a nanny, that's not necessarily a profession that you think about having any sort of career progression but we had hired nannies when we first started as a company and then existed for about three years, give or take. So for those that had started with us like from way back in the day, they were antsy to do more than just get paid a little bit more than say the newer employees, and so I would encourage people and executive leaders to think outside of the box for career progression. Just because a lead driver doesn't exist today for example or a nanny lead as we very much call them, didn't exist, didn't have to. So then we had nanny, nanny lead, and then nanny mentor and so by developing that, we also created clear structures for compensation that incentivize people to want to continue to work for us on the longer-term basis. But also two, by doing that we were actually able to create a really awesome sense of community. So if you're working with an hourly population, and especially if I think about drivers I mean probably a pretty isolating job, if you're driving product as opposed to people from door to door. So if I can talk to like, let's say for example if I'm a driver and I've got to go from Boston down to DC to haul some Freight and I can talk to my driver mentor friend for at least an hour or two on the phone to start passing the time, maybe they can use some of that time to tell me about tips and tricks that they've been able to use to climb up to that mentorship position. And simultaneously as K.C. said, cross training is always super helpful but it doesn't necessarily have to be something that's been developed extensively. You can look to many of the free resources online like Coursera and other eLearning websites, but also to something that we did in my last company was a “Lunch and Learn” where this was entirely voluntary. We said, pick something that you feel you've got a competent grasp on and teach the rest of the company about it, and so we learned about everything from how to conduct a behavioral interview to cybersecurity pitfalls. Spoiler alert: I clicked on the spam email, they asked me what flavor ice cream I wanted, and I fell for it. So learning these things that I never would have thought of as an HR professional were really cool and we were able to record them and share that with our hourly workforce too, so that way they can upskill in ways that they never thought of before. Maybe it's time hacks for professionals, so perhaps those tips are involved in calendar blocking or any other number of skills that are extremely applicable across the board just so many but that community piece was really really helpful not only my last company but also at connectRN too so I would encourage connecting people together because people will often stick around as you know for bosses most definitely, but also if your peers are there to support you too and a job that's often isolating like being a nanny or a driver, anything else for you don't get a ton of human interaction I imagine that would be a pretty big game-changer.
Lydia: Yeah I mean especially if you could just listen to the recordings of those “Lunch and Learns” and maybe it's something where you can have it be a stream on the radio or whatever it is that you're driving or when you're a nanny and they're napping. I can see that being very helpful as a way to train and also connect. Well, we are over time, this is really just a great opportunity to learn from both of you as to how you've grown the business and how you've retained employees. Thank you so much for joining.
K.C.: Thank you Lydia!
Allison: Thanks Lydia, thanks for streaming.
K.C.: Have a great rest of your week.
Lydia: You too. Thanks guys, bye!
For more in-depth discussions with industry leaders and business owners, check out our other Workstream webinars. To see how Workstream can help your business adapt to the current crisis, click here to schedule a demo.
Lydia Fayal Hall is Head of Marketing at Workstream. She previously held leadership roles at OneSignal and Chalkup, acquired by Microsoft. Lydia has written for publications including The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. She is an alum of UPenn, Johns Hopkins, and YCombinator IK12. Originally from Stonington, CT, Lydia now resides in San Francisco, CA with her Australian Shepherd, Indy.