New Tracking Program ‘My Backfill’ Speeds Hiring Process, Aids in Employee Retention and Development

Hiring from within is a strong part of our corporate culture, and it is widely known among our employees that we are keenly interested in advancing their careers. But it used to be the case that when a position opened, Human Resources (HR) managers would have to phone around to various regions across the country to get personal recommendations from other HR managers for potential candidates. This process was not only time-consuming, but also caused unnecessary delays in finding qualified internal candidates. HR managers in one region often did not know potential candidates in other parts of the company.

To improve the process and add some structural continuity, in 2007 Verizon Wireless designed a program, based upon existing succession planning procedures, to quickly fill high-level positions. In 2008, the program was expanded to include all key essential positions in the company, and the online “My Backfill” system was born-”an automated, systematized database for employee tracking and development across the entire organization.

Using a simple, electronic spreadsheet, the hiring managers enter information about an individual employee’s current position, along with particulars that are relevant to career advancement, such as mobility, his/her perceived strengths and weaknesses, a current performance rating and an overall development plan. In putting together My Backfill, current leaders at various facilities around the country were asked to identify upcoming talent within their organizations. This local information was bundled by regions and ultimately put into a company-wide database that can be accessed by HR managers involved in the hiring process.

In practice, the new system helps to ensure that no possible internal candidate would be overlooked in the initial screening process. From this first group, a handful of candidates would be interviewed by phone; the top three or four would then be invited to a formal, face-to-face interview with those responsible for making the hiring decision. Since Verizon Wireless wants to choose the most qualified candidate, we also consider outside jobseekers in addition to those already in-house. But the reason for giving preference to employees already working for the company is obvious: Current employees are already familiar with the company culture and work environment, and they need little to no ramp-up time to settle into a new position.

The My Backfill database helps make hiring managers aware of a larger pool of qualified employees that they previously may not have identified. This initiative is a visible indication that management is committed to developing employee skills and responsibilities. As a result, employees are more engaged with the business and with opportunities to navigate their careers within Verizon Wireless. Among the most vocal supporters of My Backfill and our internal hiring procedure are top executives, who have been with the company for more than 20 years and started in entry-level positions.

With the new system now in place, we think the advantages for a national company to track its entire employee base far outweigh any prohibitive considerations of relocation costs if the immediate job productivity is factored in. The next phase of the program is to evaluate its performance after a suitable time has past.

In my experience, My Backfill has made it easier for me to fill positions within the company’s 30-day guidelines. Not least, from an employee engagement and satisfaction point of view, the awareness of the tracking program has helped us retain outstanding performers-”far more than would be the case if the program had not been developed. It also sends the signal to employees that Verizon Wireless is committed to employee career advancement-”and that we have put a formal process in place that can make this happen. So far, the fruits of this program are already beginning to be seen across the organization and are proving to have been well worth the effort.

Yolanda Royall is Verizon Wireless’ Associate Director-“Human Resources for Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky, where she is responsible for overseeing all Human Resources functions, including recruiting, employee retention, succession planning, compensation and benefits management for more than 2,100 employees. Verizon Wireless is one of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For.