The HireSmart team means business, but it loves a good party, too. And the company had plenty to celebrate on Dec. 2 at its annual online Christmas extravaganza.
HireSmart's Filipino virtual employees excelled in 2023, and the company recognized their stellar individual efforts in serving clients over the past 12 months. The virtual team helps U.S. business owners handle a wide range of tasks and scale up their operations cost-effectively, while virtual employees can work from home with good pay and health and dental benefits.
HireSmart is a rapidly expanding business, with the number of V.E.s serving U.S. clients skyrocketing by nearly 50% over the past 12 months to more than 700. The company has grown by 1,472% over the past seven years.
Anne and Mark Lackey, HireSmart co-CEOs, say that success comes from having a dedicated team of employees, who were welcomed to the upbeat virtual shindig with Anne rocking some dance moves to "We Are Family" as a few virtual employees did the iconic John Travolta "Stayin' Alive" finger pointing move.
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.
There was plenty of fun and laughter as the party broke three times into smaller "get-to-know-your-co-worker" sessions of four and five employees mingling to discuss what makes them grateful, how to step out of your comfort zone, and what makes the perfect vacation.
GRATEFUL FOR FAMILY TIME
Many employees shared that they are grateful to work from home and be present for their children and other family members, which wasn't the case for those previously working in call centers.
"Most of all, we're grateful for the time that we have for our family that we didn't usually have when we were in the B.P.O. industry," said Andrea.
Kath, a virtual employee, talked about his joy in being a provider for his family.
Several employees shared excitement in breakout sessions about their plans for home ownership. Employees can use their association with HireSmart to apply for home and car loans in the Philippines since HireSmart has a legally recognized partnership with a Filipino-based HR firm.
EMPHASIS ON LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
One VE breakout group talked about wanting to step out of their comfort zone by embracing public speaking. Anne shared that she will host classes in the summer of 2024 for V.E.s interested in improving their public speaking skills. HireSmart is committed to continuing employee education programs, such as the leadership training seminar for V.E.s in 2023. Three employees — Joy, Rose, and Emily — were recognized at the party for graduating from the leadership program, which will be offered again in 2024.
Anne, a tongue cancer survivor, shared with employees that she's no longer able to sing due to the cancer surgery, but she is learning how to worship in church with sign language. She told the virtual employees that she'll "step out of her comfort zone" in 2024 by standing before her congregation and signing the words to a praise song. She urged all of her staff to embrace new challenges in 2024.
You can read more about Anne’s journey and lessons in her Forbes article: Five Steps Toward Order Amid The Post-Diagnosis Chaos
A THANK YOU TO THE VES
The primary Christmas message from Anne and Mark was one of gratitude to the virtual employees who make the company unique. HireSmart also puts its resources into showing gratitude, not just saying it.
Potential V.E.s face challenging screening standards to earn a place on the HireSmart team, but once on board, employees earn free health and dental insurance from the company (at no expense to clients), continuing education opportunities, a work-from-home lifestyle, and scholarship opportunities for their children's education. HireSmart also supports V.E.s in times of trouble. The company assisted 31 VE families affected by Typhoon Rai in 2021.
Employees also received a number of prizes during the Christmas party, from headsets to power stations to new laptops for the top employee winners.
EDUCATIONAL SCHOLARSHIPS THROUGH HIRESMART CARES
Meanwhile, the company is expanding its scholarship program to offer quality education to more children of V.E.s, while the 19 2023 scholarship recipients can renew their tuition grants for up to three additional years.
HireSmart Cares, the nonprofit philanthropic branch of HireSmart Companies, will award up to four years of scholarships to the child of a virtual employee. Mark announced that the tuition program will see a 32% increase in 2024.
The Filipino scholarship program is one of three initiatives for HireSmart Cares, which is committed to helping kids learn new skills through tools, time, teaching, and technology. HireSmart supports the next generation of U.S. farmers in a variety of ways, such as providing a $50,000 grant for the expansion of a north Georgia school ag barn so teens who don't live on a farm can learn what it takes to raise livestock. HireSmart also funds an array of workforce development initiatives to help U.S. youth prepare for careers after high school.
CORE VALUE AWARD WINNERS
HireSmart lives by its "SMARTER" core values: "service, mindfulness, availability, respect, teamwork, ethics and integrity, and relationships." Those words are a guidepost for its employees to understand decision-making in any situation, and the list is regularly discussed with V.E.s because it keeps the focus on integrity and consideration of others.
HireSmart virtual employees were nominated for the 2023 "Core Value Awards" by their clients for exemplifying the company values, with winners chosen based on a points system.
Naneth won the 2023 HireSmart "Service" Award, which recognizes an employee who always acts in service of others.
"I am recognizing Naneth for exceeding expectations because of their consistent commitment to going above and beyond in their service," said Naneth's client. "Their proactive approach, attention to detail, and dedication to delivering exceptional results make them stand out and embody the core value of exceeding expectations."
Hope received this year's "Mindfulness" Award. HireSmart emphasizes that employees should be mindful that everyone has choices, and striving to be the best choice through quality work is essential.
"Mindful — has no issue reaching out when needed," said Hope's client. "Available — always on teams and responds quickly. Team — always willing to work together to accomplish what is needed."
Tony won this year's "Availability" Award for always being responsive to his client's needs.
"Tony exceeds on all of the above core values," said his client. "He exceeds his task, mindful of others, easy access he emails back within 30 minutes, respects everyone. Always asking if anyone needs help. Building great relationships with the team. Tony embodies all of these core values. He is a hard worker, always available, kind, great team player and cares about others. We are so happy to have him as part of our team!"
Learn more how CEOs can use core values to empower their employees: Beyond Words: Turning Your Company's Core Values Into Daily Actions
The 2023 "Respectful" Award went to Frederick or "Icko," who exemplifies an attitude of care and respect for others.
"He is eager to help a customer," said Icko's client. "His responses are thoughtful and respectful, even in difficult situations. He has exceeded expectations on numerous occasions. You wouldn't even know he is not located right in our office with us. From attending monthly meetings to handling all tasks quickly and effectively, he has been awesome to have on my admin team!"
Deborah was honored with this year's "Ethics and Integrity" Award for her high moral and work ethic standards.
"She is a wonderful accountant!" said her client. "Debbie is reliable and intelligent. She has amazing rapport with her boards and can always help them find answers or solutions. I am so lucky to have Deborah on my team. She makes my life easier."
Jovilyn, or "Jovi," earned the 2023 "Relationship" Award, which honors V.E.s who go the extra mile for their clients and make genuine connections.
"Jovi is so kind! I want to adopt her as my sister!" said her client. "She is always smiling, has kind words, gets my goofy humor, and loves to joke around. I feel like I have known her forever and would love to meet her face-to-face so I could give her a hug and make her favorite soup! Everyone who speaks with her tells us how much she is professional and quick to answer questions. She is a true team player and quick to ask questions if she is unfamiliar with a topic. She truly deserves to have every award that is available."
OTHER RECOGNITIONS MILESTONES
Zyra is always super quick to respond and sign up. She was the first to take action and register. So she was recognized.
We celebrated the 3 VEs who completed the SMARTER Leadership training. This was a 6 week intensive. Each of the students who completed the program received a TV. Congratulations to Joy, Rose, & Emily.
Geny was recognized with the HireSmart "Review Queen" Award for getting great online reviews for her work for her client.
TOP VE AWARD WINNERS
The top "Newbie VE" Award for employees with six months or less on the job went to Anne, whose client said she has "excelled in every part of her role, thoroughly exceeding my expectations."
"All of our H.R. team has been able to develop the best relationship with her, even thousands of miles away," said her client. "Overall, Anne embodies every aspect of the core values and the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. acronyms. She did an amazing job assimilating into our team, and she always goes above and beyond in any task that she is completing…She is amazing at auditing and tracking. This has been so helpful when we need to review documents. She also has been able to assist with the interview and hiring process with such ease. She helps create relationships with others while showing support."
HireSmart's 2023 top prize for "Top VE" went to Ina, who shed happy tears after the honor was announced Dec. 2.
"Ina is the ideal employee — truly a marker for excellence in every single way," said her client. "She is one of the reasons I show up to work every day and why I love leading the team! She always exceeds expectations. When it comes to completing tasks and lending a hand when one is needed. She respects everyone she comes in contact with, clients and co-workers alike. She always checks on her team and makes sure there is something she can help with to communicate what may need to be addressed. Along the lines of teamwork, her heart is in everything that she does, and you can feel that with the relationship we have with her. She is amazing!"
Both the "Top Newbie" and "Top VE" recipients were rewarded with new laptop computers from HireSmart.
The global party wrapped up after awards were announced, and the crew said their goodbyes with the 2023 release of the Beatles' "Now and Then" playing in the background. Another HireSmart year is on the horizon — more growth, good times, and connections ahead.
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