Verizon takes Covid WFH lessons into next stage of hiring 950 new employees

As Verizon refines its remote work capabilities, it recently received a flood of more than 10,000 applicants for 950 customer service positions that will be home-based.

While hiring 950 customer service reps during the ebb and flow of the Covid-19 may not rise to the level of breaking news, how Verizon is training them for their new work-from-home jobs is noteworthy.

Verizon's Christy Pambianchi, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said Verizon hopes to have the new customer service employees trained for their new positions by the end of the month before starting work the first week of October.

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Two years ago, Verizon started to let some of its call center employees work remotely. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Verizon had about 4,000 home-based customer service employees, out of a total of 135,000 employees. In mid-March, Verizon sent 90% of its workforce home—including all customer service and telesales employees— over the course of two weeks due to shelter in place policies. Verizon had no choice but to figure out how its employees could do their jobs remotely.

"Like a lot of other companies, we had to pivot to find ways for employees to work from home," Pambianchi said. "We had a lot of success with that so for a number of our teams we decided to make more permanent work from home groups.

"We had a longer term transformational roadmap over five years that kind of continued to build on the success of our home-based agent program, which we had started as an experiment few years ago. But now we have about 20,000 people in this kind of construct, and we're pretty excited about it. And we love to continue learning how do we make distributed teams more successful?"

With thousands of remote workers during the pandemic, Pambianchi said Verizon' continued to hit its key performance indicators. Verizon also gained additional insight on remote workforce training when it transitioned its retail store employees over to customer service and telesales positions after its retail stores were closed.

"I think we've got a lot of success right now because we transitioned those existing teams, but as we begin to bring new people into the family, how do we build those bridges?" according to Pambianchi. "How do we build the loyalty to the company's mission and values?"

With the customer sales reps, telesales and retail employees that moved into other positions, Verizon had about 20,000 employees working from home in that group. Verizon's permanent "work from home program" applies to 12,000 employees in customer service and telesales that support its wireless customers, which will go up to close to 13,000 with the new hires.

Pambianchi said Verizon recast its training and onboarding of employees to work from home during March. Verizon then put the Covid-19 work from home training into new programs. For the new hires, Verizon is now using digital, self-guided content and video based training along with training from current employees and job experts.

Christy Pambianchi, Verizon

"We have really robust training programs for these roles," she said. "They'll get that onboarding material, the assets that they need to be able to set up their work from home. And we're pretty excited about it, because I'm sure we'll keep learning as we go.

"With our work from home telesales and commercial customer service team, we think that it's going to drive increased retention, increased loyalty to our brand and to the company, and more strength in that team. As we continue to think about how our workplace model will evolve, it's going to continue to drive all of those, which ultimately translates to really strong customer engagement as well. So it's really working on our NPS score and our employee engagement score as we take all of those factors in."

Verizon didn't say how much it was paying the new customer care work from home employees, but did point out that the jobs come with 401k savings and medical benefits, as wells promotion opportunities and tuition assistance.

What's next for WFH?

Pambianchi said that as Covid-19 outbreaks have surged and declined over the past few months, Verizon is keeping an open mind on how it would deploy its workforce going forward.

"The broader question of what do we expect to happen long term with assignments? We definitely will have an entire spectrum," she said. "We're going to have some roles that have to be done on site, and we already have those reactivated, like all of our field technicians, and all of our retail store employees.

"We have some roles that we think could be done from home on a more permanent basis or a more remote basis. And then we have a whole body of teams in the middle that we believe are going to still have offices, but it may not be the true traditional 'in the office every day, all colocated in one geography' offices."

Pambianchi said she believes in a post-Covid-19 world, society will place a premium on when people can work together.  Companies could decide to use conference rooms once or twice a week for whiteboard sessions with work from home employees.

"I think there will be a lot of companies that have on premise employment, but it's probably going to be something different than what we knew before," she said. "We have worked really hard to provide a fulsome response to Covid. We've been able to redeploy and retrain employees at scale. We continue to think that that's really important, obviously, with safety and health at the top of the list.

"Its (Covid), hopefully, stabilized again, and we're monitoring to make sure we don't see another big spike as schools reopen and we go into flu season. We're not out of the woods just yet."