This piece originally appeared in the August 2022 edition of MReport magazine, online now.
Dave Robertson serves as Senior VP, Chief HR Officer for Guild Mortgage. He oversees the company’s human resources and management training programs, which are focused on building capabilities and leadership best practices within Guild’s growing workforce throughout the U.S. He is a founding member and vice president of the Guild Giving Foundation, a nonprofit organization that encourages volunteerism among the company’s nearly 4,000 employees and supports local causes.
Under Robertson’s direction, Guild has implemented new training and development programs across the company. He has helped centralize corporate recruiting efforts and expanded its national reach to attract a broader array of talent in support of Guild’s growth. He also leads Guild University, the company’s core learning and development center, which features coaching, mentoring and ongoing professional development for employees at all levels of the company. He graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1990.
Guild has been recognized nationally for its corporate culture and named a Top Workplace by The San Diego Union-Tribune every year since 2013.
What are the main obstacles to hiring and retention post-pandemic?
Within talent acquisition, the pandemic played an interesting role in how hiring standards and practices had to adjust to new market conditions.
Post-pandemic, candidates have a new set of expectations, with many being much more self-aware of what they are looking for, both personally and professionally, and this has become evident during the interviewing process. When selecting candidates, it’s become more important to consider how both a candidate and a company can support each other. A company can no longer go into an interview simply looking for someone who can do the job well. Companies must now consider what can be provided to candidates to best set them up for long-term personal and professional success. Employee retention is more crucial now than ever, as candidates are much more willing to quickly move to other companies that are more aligned with their individual long-term goals.
How have factors such as increased migration and the Great Resignation impacted your ability to find and keep the talent you need?
The Great Resignation has been an interesting phenomenon to witness. Currently, candidates are much more aware of what they desire and do not shy away from asking for it. If an employer cannot provide what they are seeking, they are also not afraid to walk away. Candidates want to ensure they work for a company that not only offers fair wages and amazing health and welfare benefits, and they are seeking out companies that provide other intangible benefits, such as positive company culture, organizations that prioritize and support work/life balance, and workplaces where one can contribute positively, and hard work is appreciated and rewarded.
Additionally, candidates are seeking out organizations that are engaged in their communities and supporting meaningful causes that candidates can connect to.
Because of the complexity of the specific needs of candidates, Guild has adjusted our recruitment efforts to highlight how much our organization can contribute to support a candidate in terms of professional goals and in supporting local communities, particularly through our non-profit Guild Giving Foundation. We not only share potential career paths that one can take at Guild, but we also ensure that candidates know about many of our other benefits, including paid time off to volunteer.
We also talk about our scholarship program and ensure that they are aware of our focus on building and supporting our culture and diversity at Guild through the use of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
Now that we have somewhat emerged from the pandemic, is it easier or more difficult to hire the talent you need?
The pandemic was a period of adjustment that came with both positive and negative aspects in terms of talent acquisition. Many of our teams have gone fully remote; therefore, we have the new ability to reach out to a larger candidate pool from a geographic standpoint, as we are no longer limited to candidates who are within commuting distance from our local offices. Not only does this allow us to hire the best possible talent but having candidates and new employees who come from various places around the country provides our teams with a greater sense of diverse perspectives.
However, some difficulties have arisen as well. One of the biggest obstacles we face is a competitive market for talent. Now more than ever, we must work with even greater enthusiasm and swiftness to secure the best candidates for our teams. It has become more common to see highly qualified candidates have multiple pending offers, so while it is extremely important for hiring teams to deliberate which candidate is the best fit, it is also important to remember that candidates are also looking to move quickly to find the best company for their career move.
How has remote work or hybrid models impacted your training and onboarding?
We very much rely on technology to stay connected with our remote employees and new hires. We have leveraged our technology to provide virtual training, job-shadowing opportunities, and 1:1 video meetings for our remote employees and new hires. Our technology allows us to stay more connected than ever before. There’s something to be said about having the ability to not just talk to someone who works remotely but also see them regularly via your desktop and share a virtual cup of coffee with them. Our enhancements with training now support a variety of interactive learning for our employees, including eLearning and Instructor-led courses. This has made a positive impact on our employee population.
Have you seen changes in productivity or engagement with team members working remotely vs. in-office? How have you worked to maximize productivity as the office environment has evolved?
Yes, this new virtual environment has required some adjustments, and there have been changes in productivity and engagement. Many employees thrive in a remote environment from a productivity standpoint, and this has positively impacted their performance. However, not all individuals do well working remotely.
For some, the distractions of a normal household have made it more challenging and have definitely impacted overall performance and engagement. This is one of many reasons why Guild has maintained many of the local offices and has been looking at shared workspaces. We want to ensure that there are options to support overall productivity and engagement within the organization for all types of work styles.
Aside from remote-working flexibility, how are the needs and requests of job candidates changing?
Candidates have been more transparent about their individual personal needs, including family responsibilities and how home life will interact with their work responsibilities. Many candidates with school-aged children or other family or household responsibilities are now more transparent about their need to have a flexible schedule that allows them to manage their household and family needs during the typical workday. It’s not uncommon for us to be asked if we can split a workday or start much earlier or work later than our standard core business hours.
What are some other programs or policies you have implemented since COVID to try to attract and keep workers?
The new virtual environment provided the perfect platform for Guild to launch several new programs and initiatives. Among them, we started all-company Town Hall meetings for the very first time. Led by our executives, the Town Halls were a time for all employees to gather and learn about pertinent company information and ask questions. They were a wild success.
Other initiatives that were easier to launch in the virtual world included our ERGs (Employee Resource Groups)—internal company-sponsored communities within Guild formed by and comprised of employees who are linked together by shared backgrounds or shared interests. ERGs work to reinforce our positive workplace culture where employees with different backgrounds and interests are respected, treated equally, and are given more opportunities to succeed. Thus far, Guild has successfully launched three ERGs since COVID: a Military Veteran ERG, a Black Employee ERG, and an LGBTQIA+ ERG. We have plans to launch even more groups.
How are you providing advancement opportunities within your organization?
Guild’s internal training teams have been leveraged to provide ongoing support not just to new hires but also to all employees throughout their careers. In the field, we have training teams dedicated to helping our operations and sales support teams gain the skills needed to become subject matter experts. Current roles are consistently being re-evaluated to support additional responsibilities and opportunities for growth.
Are there any other key issues or challenges regarding hiring and retention?
While this may not necessarily be a new issue, it is worth noting that candidates are becoming much savvier when it comes to negotiating their compensation. Many states now require transparency with salary ranges. This, coupled with a competitive job market, has allowed candidates to be more assertive in asking for compensation, even if the request is not necessarily reasonable or aligned with the market. Given that salaries tend to be one of the biggest liabilities on the books for a company, this is forcing many companies to be more creative in determining how to compensate a candidate fairly.