When asked about its employment practices, global sales and marketing company Televerde says, “it hires winners, not inmates.”
While 70 percent of its workforce perform inside sales and demand generation jobs from seven engagement centers located behind prison walls in Arizona and Indiana, the highly-trained, intelligent incarcerated women holding these positions are key to the company’s success.
This winning model that combines purpose with profit earned Televerde a Global Impact Sourcing Award (GISA) in the category of small provider organization from IAOP and the Rockefeller Foundation.
“It’s the current and formerly incarcerated women who make our model a success,” says Kellie Walenciak, Head of Corporate Communications at Televerde. “They inspire those that work with us — clients, partners and suppliers — to make deeper personal and professional investments. It’s powerful.”
Walenciak shared the company’s impact sourcing journey during a panel discussion on Doing Well by Doing Good at OWS 2.0 in Orlando, Florida and accepted the GISA award for Televerde during the awards luncheon ceremony.
While winning awards like the GISA powerfully validate Televerde’s work, the everyday accomplishments by the women who form the company’s backbone are worthy of high praise and recognition. Given a second chance, they are turning their lives around and building new futures for themselves and their families.
From the outside, their work environment looks like a typical engagement center with rows of cubicles that the women can decorate, computers and headsets for making calls. The employees commute to their jobs walking or by shuttle bus and catch up with each other over breaks. The only noticeable difference: their work attire is orange.
After undergoing an extremely competitive application and screening process, the incarcerated women complete intensive training that is compared to a mini boot camp in business acumen, sales and marketing, and the most in-demand technology skills such as Marketo, Salesforce and Eloqua as well as soft communications skills.
These women know how to close deals, solve problems, manage conflict, navigate change, communicate with senior executives and collaborate with other team members. In short, they are savvy businesswomen in the truest sense of the word.
“They are the opposite of every label placed on incarcerated individuals,” says Walenciak. “Their stories are raw. They have grit and determination. Society has turned their backs on them. If given empathy and empowerment, they will make the most of their second chance.”
Company Born in Purpose
While the term impact sourcing is only about a decade old in the BPO industry, Televerde has been embracing the model of intentional hiring and providing career development opportunities to people who otherwise have limited prospects for formal employment since its start 26 years ago.
The company was born in purpose. While volunteering for a prison ministries program, Televerde’s founder saw an opportunity to help women build business skills while serving their sentences. He believed this would lead to productive career opportunities after their release.
Televerde launched in 1994 with a six-person call center running out of a trailer at an Arizona prison with a simple model of hiring, training and compensating this community through on-the-job experience.
At its start, the idea was stigmatized and some customers were unwilling to invest with Televerde. But over time and with criminal justice reform, Televerde has found increased acceptance and the right customers to partner with, including some of the most recognizable brands in business today like SAP, Microsoft, Adobe-Marketo and Pulse Secure.
“When our partners, suppliers, and clients learn about our model, they become advocates for it,” Walenciak says. “They’ve visited the prisons in which we operate. They’ve met with our ladies. The fixed narratives they had in their heads about prison and the people in prison, changed…for the better.”
What may have seemed like a gamble in its early days has paid off for everyone involved: the prison systems and taxpayers in those states, Televerde and its clients, and the more than 3,000 women who have been through the program and their families.
And the results are impressive: The recidivism or return to prison rate for the women who have participated is 5.4 percent compared to the national average of 68 percent. After five years, their average salary is four times greater than those who did not work for Televerde while incarcerated.
Once released, 94 percent secure meaningful employment within one year of release versus 54 percent nationally. Many of the women who have graduated Televerde’s program now hold positions at some of the most recognizable Fortune 500 companies in top sales and marketing positions and in roles such as administrators, telephony engineers, data warehouse and BI developers, marketing automation analysts, SQL Reporting Developers and more.
About 40 percent of Televerde’s workforce at its Phoenix, Arizona headquarters began their careers with the company in prison and represent every business group and level, including the C-Suite.
According to the company, the model has generated more than $8 billion in revenue for its clients. From an economic standpoint, Televerde saves the state of Arizona up to $9.5 million annually by empowering women to succeed on the outside and not recidivate, a recent study from Arizona State University’s Seidman Research Institute found.
With its model, Televerde has found a solution to one of society’s more pressing problems – the dwindling lack of talent to fill in-demand jobs and high turnover. Its loyal workforce outperforms.
Hiring impact workers also has the benefit of developing a more diverse workforce that values all its people and employees who have greater empathy for each other, the company said.
“We learn that the world isn’t black and white,” Walenciak says. “There’s a lot of gray and justice is complicated. Why people wind up in prison is more often than not due to some really unfortunate circumstances. This makes our workforce stronger. Knowing that you are working for a company that isn’t focused solely on generating profit becomes a point of pride for our employees.”
On top of that, using impact sourcing speaks to the values of today’s millennial and Generation Z consumers who want to do business with purpose-driven companies like Televerde.
“Consumers are looking for brands that take a stand and companies that make both profit AND purpose part of their business strategies,” she adds. “All this has created a watershed moment for Televerde and our clients. Together, we have an opportunity to amplify the work we’ve done and the results we’ve achieved, while also showing the proven societal impact of a business model built on second chances.”
Visit the Televerde website.