There was no actual ballroom, but there was music, dancing, and fun.
Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” rocked through computer speakers, and Anne and Mark Lackey played host to all those arriving to the HireSmart Virtual Employees’ 2022 Christmas party as a couple might welcome family at the door. Anne showed off some moves. Her employees joined along. It was time to celebrate. It was time for Christmas, for gifts, for some love to be expressed.
The party stretched across time zones — 7 a.m. on the East Coast in the U.S., 8 p.m. in the Philippines, 11 p.m. in Australia. This was an international event for an international company.
HireSmart partied across the world on that day in early December, but it also works globally across the calendar, connecting virtual employees (VEs) in the Philippines to clients in the U.S. who need an assortment of tasks handled. HireSmart partners with a local Philippine company for compliance and we have teams in the Philippines and Australia.
This collaboration means that over 400 virtual employees (VEs) perform a variety of office tasks for clients across the U.S., but the Christmas party in the virtual ballroom was not a time for more work. It was a time for fun, as well as a time for two words to be completely understood: “Thank you!” Those words were repeated frequently by Anne and Mark to the VEs at the party.
HIRESMART OFFERS FUN AND GAMES
The festivities kicked off with a “Stump-the-Boss” contest, with VEs given a question they answered collectively through a poll, such as: “Do you prefer to open presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?” The Co-Founders competed to guess the right answer. Anne said “Christmas Eve.” Neil said in the morning. Seventy-nine percent of the employees said “Christmas Eve.” Anne pulled out the close victory after several questions.
The Zoom party then got a little more personal as over 400 employees were put into smaller virtual chat rooms for about 15 minutes to meet each other and talk about their commonalities and interests. For instance, in one room, Dianna shared that she is a prolific reader, enjoying the escapism of romance novels in her spare time. Estella likes to cook Italian food and has two sons, 8 and 3, and enjoys playing with them. Dane said he likes to ride his motorcycle when he gets free time. The group smiled and waved goodbye to each other as the party resumed in the big room for the “big show.”
Entertainer Keelan Leyser then took over, calling individual VEs up on “stage” as he dazzled the audience with often logic-defying tricks, both with cards and without. “Stump the Boss” was the first game of the party, but Leyser “stumped the audience” with his ability to provide predetermined correct answers to seemingly impossible narrative journeys with the audience members.
“We wanted to get you something that was a little different and a little exciting,” Anne said to the employees, whose faces expressed disbelief with Leyser’s tricks.
ANNE TAKES ‘THE STAGE’
Anne then took “the stage” to talk to the large room of employees. She spoke of her own health issue this past year, which is in her rearview mirror, but the health matter took her out of her routines for some time in 2022.
“I share this not because I want a pity party or anything, but because I know a lot of you are going through difficult times yourself,” she told her employees. “And you feel like you’re alone or there are challenges, and sometimes life is hard. Let’s just call it what it is. But we do what we do. We persevere. We go through these challenging times and out of that bears a new perspective.”
Anne said her experience helped her understand the value of what HireSmart offers.
“My team was super supportive, and they stepped up in a time when I really needed them,” she said. “And for a lot of you guys, your client needs support, too. So be there for them. And then, we will be there for you.”
HIRESMART: A GROWTH TRAJECTORY
Anne shared some of the successes of HireSmart over the past year, including the company’s rapid growth. The number of VEs serving clients continues to skyrocket, with the staff growing by 40.5 percent over the past 12 months.
“So that’s our goal for next year,” she said. “We have 42 percent more new clients this year, which means we’re able to help more U.S. companies, which gives us more opportunities to get more VEs working because that’s our mission.”
Anne talked about the growth of the company, but she wants to see the VEs grow professionally, too.
“We provide careers,” she said. “This isn’t just a job. We hope it’s something you want to see in your professional development and that you are meeting your life objectives as well.”
SMART LEADERSHIP PROGRAM ANNOUNCED
Along those lines, Anne announced the establishment of a company “Smart Leadership Program,” a six-week intensive led by Anne to help five-or-six employees take another step in boosting their careers with lessons on leadership. She emphasized the classes, which will begin in late February, are totally optional and there’s no pressure to join.
“If you’re like, man, I really want to take my career up to the next level, I’m willing to invest my time to help you,” said Anne. “I’m looking at about five-or-six people in a very intimate setting.”
Participants will commit to one hour a week in a virtual class setting, with an additional hour a week of homework.
“At the end of that you’ll get a certification,” she said. “I will also have a conversation with your client that you have passed this and maybe this will lead to better bonuses or enhancements.”
SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM LAUNCHED
While career development is a major emphasis, Anne and Mark Lackey aren’t just interested in helping their employees. They want to help the children of HireSmart employees, too. The couple then announced that they will award scholarships in 2023 to advance the education of 20 children of HireSmart employees in the Philippines.
The Lackeys planned to kick off that campaign last year, but Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines in 2021 and a number of HireSmart families needed help. So, the scholarship money for 2022 was redirected toward typhoon relief for 31 HireSmart families.
“We directed that support to those victims to help them relocate and have power and food,” said Anne. “So that kind of wiped out the funds we had for the scholarship program. We felt that was the biggest need.”
But the scholarship program is back for 2023, and 20 children will receive a year-long education scholarship. Employees with children were encouraged to apply.
“Imagine the impact we’ll have helping your children get the best education possible,” said Anne. “We know that by helping our young people we’ll have a lasting impact on our communities, in our cities, our countries, and ultimately what we’re looking to is to change the world.”
The scholarship program comes under the broader umbrella of HireSmart Cares, a non-profit established by Anne and Mark Lackey to serve a variety of needs of children in the U.S. and abroad.
SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS GIVEN
Of course, what’s an office holiday party without awards, without acknowledgment from the bosses on a job well done? The Lackeys saved those moments for the end, presenting several employees with special honors for their stellar work with U.S. clients in 2022.
Anne said those honored are “the rock stars” of the HireSmart crew.
The award for top VE of 2022 went to Regine, a “rock star who hits all the marks,” Anne said.
Regine’s business client was also effusive in praising her, saying she goes “above and beyond, is amazing and so reliable.”
“She can assist with anything,” the client said. “She is truly a team player. Goes above and beyond every day in assisting her co-workers and clients and provides great detail and information precisely. I receive compliments from those who have spoken to her. She is able to deal with all different personality types. She’s well-rounded and a pleasure to have with us.”
HireSmart received 136 nominations for “Top Overall VE,” meaning that 30 percent of the HireSmart workforce was deemed worthy of the top honor by their clients.
The award for the “top newbie” VE — someone who has been employed for less than six months — went to John C., who returned to HireSmart in 2022 after previously working for the company for two years.
“He impressed us so much after three months of working with us we asked him to step into a more difficult role,” his business client wrote. “I’m grateful for the energy and dedication. We hit the jackpot!”
The Top VEs were both awarded new laptop computers for their performance in 2022. Regine’s emotion was obvious as she received the good news. She seemed choked up with joy as she was shown on the party screen.
HireSmart also presented its “Core Value” awards for employees representing the company’s values in their work with business clients. Jovilyn took the “Core Value” award for “availability” for always being there for her client, who said she is “a key employee to making the business run smoothly and efficiently.”
Laiza won the “Core Value” award for “service,” with her client saying she has made life much easier for the company with her hard work.
“She’s given me back at least 20 hours per week by taking responsibility over the proposal creation process, preparing management reports, managing our project management and billing systems, and tracking the team’s WIP,” the client said.
Judy Ann won the “Core Value” award for “relationship,” with her client saying, “She anticipates my needs, is so attentive to detail — she cares about her results, and she cares about the team. She constantly tells me, I’ve got you. And she does! Even though she’s in the Philippines, it feels like she’s right here all the time, and that’s a difficult thing to accomplish.”
The “Core Value” award winners all received a power station for their work in 2022.
HireSmart also recognized BJ with the “Ambassador Award” for bringing more VEs into the business, which earned her a cash bonus.
The “Best Small Team” award went to the VEs serving Sundance, with 19 of their employees recommending their HireSmart VEs for special recognition.
The virtual employees working for One Focus were recognized with the “Best Large Team” award. The team award winners received a cash bonus for their work in 2022.
The global party wrapped up after awards were announced, and the crew said their goodbyes with Pharrell Williams singing “Happy” in the background — another HireSmart year on the horizon.