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Managing The Human Resources In The Pandemic



Juanita Coley: I can hear you better now. Yes.


Orlando Haynes: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I feel fantabulous as well, if I can steal that from you. So, you trade market, I'll give you the credit. So yes, so as you said, Orlando Haynes on the Talent Acquisition Manager for one of the largest call centers in the world, it's called Sykes. It's a global call center. Short little thing about them. They've been in the industry about 43 years, about 50,000 plus employees internally and I run the recruiting team at our local Lakeland site in Florida if we have any out of state viewers there. So yes, it's a lot of high value hiring, phenomenal culture and our goal is definitely people first.


Juanita Coley: I love that; people first that is so important. So, I follow you on LinkedIn, we've been connected for what feels like ages now. So, I feel I personally know you even though I've never met you in person, you are always posting insightful things as it relates to people and people engagement in acquisition, all those different things. And so, I was like, we have to get Orlando on the show. So again, thank you so much for being my guest today. So, we're going to hop right in, have you seen any of the previous episodes? I don't want to put you on the spot. Have you seen any of the previous episodes?


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Orlando Haynes: I saw a little bit of the one you just mentioned about the NASA one that stood out? I was like, oh my god, I got to check this one out.


Juanita Coley: So, we're just having conversation and we're just inviting the world in to see it at the same time. But these conversations grow legs of their own. So, I've already synced over some questions, but a lot of times these conversations grow their own legs. So, audience buckle up put your seatbelt on, Orlando put your seatbelt on. One thing that all of the guests have in common so far is they're always like, that's a good question. This is real interview guys, so let's have some fun. You ready?


Orlando Haynes: I'm ready.


Juanita Coley: All right, cool Haynes. So, first question that I have for you Orlando is, we are pretty much a full year into this pandemic, how has that changed the recruiting process, if at all, any?


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Orlando Haynes: Yes, that's a great question. Something unique about Sykes, we have a work at home platform already. So, when the pandemic hit our pivot, for the brick-and-mortar folks to make that transition happened fairly easy for us. We just modeled what we already had in place and we prepared to transfer 1000s of employees including myself, home within a matter of weeks. I think the number was north of 10,000 employees, that we were able to transition home that needed to be home while still servicing the customer because we already have the work at home model built. So, it was very easy to just mirror what was in place, and now we've been home for about a year, it's been a year in March. So, what's changed from the onboarding process and in attracting talent has changed because now we've utilized more digital platforms in social media platforms to attract folks and then also share what's going on internally from a brand perspective and cultural perspective that hopefully will attract folks to partner with Sykes.


Juanita Coley: That's so interesting. So, you're now leveraging more social media. So, one thing that I heard you say is that you guys were already kind of uniquely positioned in that you already had a lot of your staff work at home, you already had that division kind of already built out. About how much of your staff was already working at home when the pandemic hit?


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Orlando Haynes: I think that's about a third of our workforce, right now. I'm not knowing what the exact number is, we don't communicate much in terms of the work at home division because they do run the same, and we sometimes share the same businesses that we support. So, we'll try to mushroom them out as best as possible in terms of our clients, but I would say a third of our workforce is already work at home but then majority, because we have sites globally, all over the world; Germany, China, those were a lot of folks that we had to see if it was necessary based on the pandemic to make the transition to work at home. And the big thing too, was technology, support depending on the client.


Juanita Coley: And so, with Sykes; so, you have a third already in place. You had a third of your staff already remote work at home and when the pandemic hit, then you were able to kind of follow that model that the work at home side of Sykes had to say, let's go ahead and get these people that are on Sykes move to work at home. And you mentioned something else about the technology, was that a significant cost to then get people that are onsite work at home?


Orlando Haynes: Well, no, not necessarily in additional costs and that's definitely a high-level conversation in terms of the organization but because it was already in place, we knew what we needed from a technology standpoint, from the basics of this person who's going to work with us. Current employees have home internet, sometimes we will think so high, AI and things like that, where it's just no, do you have connectivity in your home to take our laptop home with us into service the client. Then we had to work about what software was legally allowed to be used because of client proprietary information, what platforms can we train on, so it was a lot of things that we partner with the work at home division, what are you currently doing now?


And it also takes a step further, what does the client allow for and are you seeing any gaps in the technology, the speed in which the calls come in, any call drops? So, we start to get down with the lingo, AHT, does that change? Has that changed at all that service time? So, again, it was on a broad scale, it was a smooth transition for us. Again, just to repeat myself that because we had it in place, so we just said, left hand helps the right hand, let's make sure we just now service the client and people are safe.


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Juanita Coley: I think that's the big thing, understanding the client's compliance requirements, like, can we legally do this? What are the compliance things that we're going to have, those checkboxes that we're going to have to check off? You think about health care industry, things like PHI and HIPAA and all of those things, if you're now taking that out of a controlled environment onsite, and then we're now doing that in our homes, or whatever the case may be, what are the compliance things that companies have to go through that hurdle if they're in the BPO space or something like that? Or even if they're not in the BPO space, they are just handling their customers? What are those things that looks like? How long into the pandemic were you guys be able to kind of pivot in? So, I'll ask that question, first. How long into the pandemic were you able to kind of rally with the work at home site and say, you guys already have a model left hand help the right hand, how long did that take for you guys?


Orlando Haynes: Yes, I will tell you it was less than a month where several departments and divisions. should I say several sites that needed to go to work at home or home? So, it was probably two weeks, three weeks max that we made the transition, you're talking 10s of 1000s of employees who got transition that fast equipment, everything.


Juanita Coley: So that kind of leads me to one of my next questions, which is, how did that impact the agent engagement, agent experience? We'll talk about customer experience in another moment or so. But moving that number of agents, think about that 10s of 1000s of agents work at home in a matter of weeks, how did that impact them? Did you hear any feedback of, my headset not working or I can't get my VPN connected, or all of those different things? Did that bubble up to you or you don't deal with those problems?


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Orlando Haynes: No, we hear it. So just trust that there was a big check that had to be stroked to cover new equipment and even at the local level, we give our folks now that we hire that are working from home to swap out equipment as needed. So, a big push and during the pandemic when the commute in the travel and the shipping slow down, so we had to get ahead of the game tremendously and share with other departments or other sites that didn't have as much going on. So, we say if you had 50 or so, 90 or so pieces of equipment; when I say pieces, I'm talking the full ball like headset, monitor, keyboard, the whole package. We need 90 of those shipped ASAP to this location, this part of the country to cover, its technology, something always and will go wrong.


Juanita Coley: And so, when you have had that challenge and I remember working with one company at the beginning of the pandemic hit, we were having Excel spreadsheets of these people that working at home already, these people aren't working at home these people have the equipment, these people don't have the equipment, where do we borrow equipment. So, it was this whole song and dance. So, I can only imagine doing that for 1000s of agents. And we heard it from the agents like, I can't connect or I got the laptop, but I didn't get the headset or the VPN is not working, I can't connect and where do I connect. So having those job aids and process docs ready helped to be able to have that conversation and make sure that things like AHT, that wasn't impacted or shrinkage or occupancy didn't go down which you're going to see those things.


The more you see agents have an issue with technology, then we begin to see, more and more agents are off the phone when they shouldn't be off the phone, which is going to impact their hearings. And then what do we do about that from a workforce management standpoint? Do we hold them accountable? So, it's just this whole lifecycle there are so many different things that are impacted from just the pandemic because when once the agent has an issue with technology, so, the agent experiences impact, then we have customer experience issues, so, the customer queue is building up and now customers are getting agitated and now the brand is impacted, and in the BPO world may not necessarily be the direct Sykes world, but then the customer that you represent, so now your customer is angry, are frustrated.


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So, I'm really interested to understand more about how the agent experience even now in the pandemic, so we're year in, how are agents now? How are they coping with working from home? Do you see any burnout? Do you see that they are engaged? How do you guys keep them engaged, a year into the pandemic?


Orlando Haynes: That's a phenomenal question. So, what we did notice, most companies will notice that folks, traditionally were not set up to work from home. So, especially now with kids being home, so if they have a family person, it's the juggling the kids the background noise because of this compliance issue, things like that, making sure nothing that shouldn't be exposed to family members friends coming in, and just not having space or the quiet space to work efficiently. So as needed, we'll support those folks. And if there's a tremendous need to where they can't, we've been given opportunities to come back to the site gratefully enough that the organization has consistently maintained social distancing and sanitation the entire year daily around the clock. So, we have no issues there in terms of the cleanliness of our site, and folks need to come back.


But what I've noticed is specifically in sites that the account managers, so with the world of zoom booming, now is that we had to take things that we've done on Sykes into the virtual world, making certain days in meetings more fun and more interactive, so, there's no complacency. So, we have webcams so we can say, Monday is a funny hat day, Tuesday, funny T-Shirt Day, whatever it is, and how we celebrate those employees. Just because as we come off the forefront because we know especially if someone lives alone in their home, eight hours a day work an eight-hour shift, and don't go out as much, that could be mentally taxing. And then thus the need for mental health awareness and things like that. So, make sure they're doing okay period as an individual. Forget about the calls and meeting your deadline. How are you doing as an individual during this time, so we have to just go peel back some onions, and really touch the person.


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Juanita Coley: That's so good. So, just checking in on I love how you said you have the webcam. So, you've employed the webcams, to be able to have that touch feel type of dynamic, where it's one thing to be remote in working virtually in the virtual environment and being able to get everything that you need to get done, Done. It's another one I think incorporate the webcam, because then it makes us to know that we are connected, I can see you and so I love the funny hat day I was on Instagram, and I saw zoom was doing, they were judging their team members backgrounds, they are doing a funny, who has the best background day, a type of thing. So, I thought that was pretty cool.


And I think you're right, making sure that the agent stays engaged, and they have whatever it is that they need and checking on them even as an individual. How are YOU doing today? So, many times we go through our day to day, especially as leaders and executives and we're crossing our checklist off, we have this to get done. But just taking the moment to stop and say, how are you can make a tremendous impact on agent. And if we are making an impact at the agent level, then that trickles to the customer experience. That agent is now more engaged. Their tone is more alive when they're talking to the customer and as a result then we have better customer experience, again, the Disney effect. So, that's my thing. One thing that I thought about when I was thinking about agent engagement is how does diversity in the customer service industry impact the customer experience? Can you talk about that?


Orlando Haynes: Yes, so obviously, that's been a big thing now, over the past couple of months, but diversity, and I'll speak specifically to sites where we're extremely diverse company, because we're global. So, we have different ethnic groups at all stages of management throughout the organization. And one of the things I love about the opportunity for growth it's only relegated based on a certain area, your performance, obviously, and your ability to lead and kind of duplicate systems or processes in yourself. So, it's extremely diverse. I'll just speak specifically to Lakeland. We're heavy African American mixed in Spanish and white Americans. So that's the mix there.


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But we come in all shapes and sizes. We're definitely open to the fact that you can do the job we'll train you. There's no specific look we need to have but when we're behind the phones, we just know that if you're a professional individual, come on in but so it's a melting pot, which is extremely cool. And as you see as we connect with different locations, on various calls, you surprised you're like, I didn't know this person was that I just seen the email this person is that I didn't know. This person was African American, Asian, whatever the case may be, just because we're such a diverse organization across the board.


Juanita Coley: That's insightful. Being in HR and talent acquisition, have you seen or have you ever had an instance or have you ever heard about an instance where maybe having a lack of diversity and not just from an ethnic background, but just whether is experienced gender, we're diverse in so many different ways. Have you ever seen a lack of diversity impact the result that the customer received?


Orlando Haynes: Within the organization or just overall you saying?


Juanita Coley: Within or just overall in general?


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Orlando Haynes: I think the main thing when it comes to lack of diversity is that it creates a stagnant innovation for that organization.


Orlando Haynes: So yes, it stagnates the innovation within the organization, which is extremely crucial for growth, from a personal level, in from an organizational level. And that's a marketing tool, we'll put the face of someone who looks like the target market they're trying to attract. So, there's nothing new. But what happens is, it's been sometimes suppressed. In a lot of organizations at the very top level, C level, executive level, but in the mid-level to junior level, you'll see a lot of diversity. And I think the more diverse you have the more diversity of thought, action, innovation, and execution. This way, you can service multiple clients, it needs to be a mirror, who we have internally is who we serve.


Juanita Coley: Man, you see, I had to drop those gems. Okay, you got a gem drop on the show, Orlando, you got a gem drop. Now I'm going to go back to what you just said, because I want to make sure that the audience got it, you said a lot of times diversity, and I'm paraphrasing, so, you can always go back right to say, no, that's not what I say now don't put words in my mouth. But what I heard was, diversity sometimes is a marketing tactic that we leverage in organizations where we're trying to attract a particular audience. And so, we use that ethnic background or that diversity piece, as for that audience that we're trying to attract, however, at the executive leadership levels, many times that piece of diversity is left out. So, we're on the marketing material.


We're on whatever we're trying to attract, but we're not at the decision-making level, which then does not make it all the way down a lot of times to the product and/or service that we put out. And, interestingly, you say that because I'm thinking of an organization that shall remain nameless, I'm thinking about some material that they put out and I'm like, what happened in the board meeting when we thought about having this hat, this piece of material come out, and is what you're saying. We were in that diverse whether it was women, whether it was African American, whether it was LGBTQ community, whatever it was that piece of diversity was left out of the decision making in the executive levels and so when we the public, the consumer got the product, it was like, this doesn't translate too well.

So, I think that is you drop the significant gem right there. So, I had to go back. I couldn't let that gloss over. So, that was interesting.


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How do we change that?


How do we make sure that we're not just the face?


No, this conversation about to go somewhere completely different. I'm going to bring it back, I promise.


How do we change that?


How do we make sure that we're not just the face, especially being in talent acquisition?


How do we make sure that we're not just the face on marketing material, but that we are in the executive positions and in the decision-making roles to when it comes to making decisions, we have a voice?


Orlando Haynes: I think one of the things is being confident to share your opinions, but professionally, because the worst thing you can do is come off unprofessional or in a negative tone to where the higher-ups won't hear you make a compelling argument and put data together, put proof together. And they're presented saying, here's what I'm noticing in the market. And I've seen talent out there. Have we thought about X, in executing X in this way? One, you have to think strategically as a business person. This is the world of business, we're talking, we're not trying to just get out brothers and sisters, in the end, it's going to be a big party.


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Well, no, this is a business. There's revenue to be made its customers be serviced. So, we have to think the same strategic mindset, and not just get upset, because we don't see enough of us in there.


Well, let's make sure us is prepared to get there in the opportunity. So, we have to make sure that we're putting our ducks in a row before presenting it because, again, it's not just, the big rush now is that there's not enough diversity, and we can't come knocking down the CEOs door, the executive door saying, get more of us in here, that's just never going to work. It's never going to work. Put together a compelling argument, make it make sense to the bottom line into the organization, whether it's a service or widget they're selling, and take it from there. But don't let the conversation die, continue to talk about it and bring it up whenever you can.


Juanita Coley: Orlando said to make it make sense. That's what I got from that. Make it make sense. Ebony and I were talking and we were talking about how African American women make up 2% of executive leadership and all of those good things. And she was saying about another study. So that was from a Mercer's study that we were looking at, and then she was looking at another independent study that was talking about at the rate that we're going it would take us about, I think, another 95 years to catch up, as far as having diversity and inclusion and equity and all that good stuff.


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But you said something else key when you said, yes, this is a topic that we're talking about. And it's an important topic, I believe that we're talking about, but make it make sense, we can't just be going in here busting down the door is talking about we can, we definitely can do that.

But if that's the case, start your own business, where you are all diverse and if you want to partner and work with these organizations, then we have to come in with stats, we have to talk about this because, at the end of the day, it is a business. And we have to make it make sense. This is the bottom line; this is how it impacts your business. This is the result you will get from having a more diverse product or service or staff or whatever we're talking about, and make it make sense. And you lead with that, not from a place of being disgruntled or being whatever. But you lead with a sense of partnership in making it make sense. How does this impact your bottom line?


Otherwise, you start your own company, and then you could be as diverse as you won't be. You won't get me in trouble, see he's going down the wrong vein. Alright, another question I had for you. So, I've been recently reading this book, I just actually finish it.

It is the E-myth by Michael Gerber. Have you heard of it?


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E-myth Enterprise man, I read the book, somebody recommended it in a group that I'm in. And so read the book and fantabulous. It's a great book. So, if you haven't read the book is called the E-myth Enterprise by Michael E. Gerber. And in the book, I don't want to be a spoiler or anything, but he's talking about how these E-myth Enterprises, businesses that grow larger than the life they take, they have their personality and all of those different things. One of the things that he's talking about is businesses succeed only because people want them to and people connect with basically, the visual, the emotional, the functional, the financial aspects of businesses. And he begins to talk about the people, the people being the customer, the employees, the suppliers, the investors. And so that got me to thinking even more so about the customer experience. Maybe we've been thinking about customer experience wrong. I think going on Disney call centers.


So, I began to imagine and maybe we've been thinking about customer experience all wrong. Maybe instead of thinking about customer experience, just from the customer standpoint of what they're receiving, we need to be thinking about it in a more holistic approach of thinking about, the processes that go into everything from it, the hiring, how we hire and who we hire. And I know we have these different things like the disc assessments and all of those different things when we're in HR, we're doing the acquisition. But I think it's very siloed. As it kind of stands right now. When we think about disc assessments in the hiring process, I'm not thinking about the result of the customer experience, I'm just thinking about, I need to fill this wreck, I need to hire so that I can have people on the phone?


Not necessarily, am I hiring a diverse enough workforce? Or am I hiring with this set of experience? Am I hiring from whatever, so that my customer has someone on the other end of the phone that can connect and relate with them? Do you think that the current focus of customer experience has tainted our focus of customer experience in how we do customer experience?


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Orlando Haynes: Yes, I think the first question I would ask is, who is the customer, or sometimes we think, is just the external folks that we transact with. Well, it starts with the internal employees of the organization, every department, every coworker, every management team, that is an internal customer, that we got to know how to work with to be effective externally, with the folks that partner with if we're not servicing each other correctly, how can we serve external correctly, and what I mean by that is, you'll have higher attrition, you'll have higher performance issues because culturally the organization is not jelling right.

And then that goes into how we serve our customers no different than if you argue home, go to work, and you have a bad attitude. And you're taking that attitude in the office with you this same principle, if internally, we're not meeting the needs of, of our internal employees, and then we want to pick up and we're talking in the call, we're on the call center products, and we're getting back-to-back calls, I'm already having a bad attitude because HR or this other department didn't service or didn't give me the answer I needed and I'm getting back-to-back calls that are negative and upset, how do you think I will respond to that? I may have a weak moment and lash out. That's never good.


Juanita Coley: Not a weak moment.


Orlando Haynes: You get dropped calls and all those things. They go into cues that they shouldn't be in the work hours. We are in trading queues and there's no training going on. Why aren't you taking the calls? Because, internally, we haven't hit the point where we're servicing our internal customers first. And people first, this way we can service our external customers at a high level.


Juanita Coley: Man, that is so good. They're dropping gems in the comments for you. That is so good. I 100% agree. Until we begin to start servicing the people, just people in general, so we're servicing our employees, we're in service, the customer we're servicing and we are caring about the total person, then I think the result or the byproduct of customer service is how are we showing up internally.


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I was thinking about a company that I went to, that shall remain nameless. But they were in Chicago, I can say that. But I was at a customer that was in Chicago, I'll maybe I'll get them on the show. And I was just so blown away by how they treated their employees, I was there for a workforce engagement where I was doing some forecasting, optimizing their workforce team, but I was just so blown. I'm like, why am I here? They had cubicles around, they had cabanas around. They brought in breakfast they brought in lunch. They had to be spending tons of money on just servicing their agents and their staff, not just the agents, but just their staff in general.


I 100% agree with everything that you're saying that it takes us as an organization focusing on how do we focus on the people because again, the quote that I was saying about in the E myth enterprise, he said, businesses succeed not because, they're great businesses, but because people want them to, people ultimately are they're buying from you, they're working from you, they're supplying you, and they're financing you. They fall in one of those four categories. And so, this company was doing such an excellent job at, the employee engagement piece of it all that I was just blown away at, they had unlimited buckets of PTO. Would you put in a PTO request for the simple fact of making sure that we could track it from a workforce standpoint. That was it.


But not because you had a bucket of time that you took PTO from, then after a certain amount of time, they made us mandatory that you did an I think two weeks sabbatical. So, they track your computer, if you cut on your computer that was grounds for getting coached. I'm like, my mind was just blown, what I think was two years or either five years that they made every employee This is not just an executive thing, this was your agent that was they have been there he was either two years or five years where you had to take a sabbatical, a two-week sabbatical that was paid.


I was like, this is crazy sauce. And definitely, I have to see if I can get them on. When you said what you said, it made me think about that organization and how they're leading and servicing people and what they found, I'm saying all that to say what they found is that their agents took less time off, because they would feel guilty, like, I can take time when I want to. Do I need to take this time? I'm not sick, I'm not going to use a PTO day to call out sick when I'm not sick. I can use it whenever. They saw that they had people take off time, they have very low attrition rates, and call center attrition is through the roof, turnover people turn over so quickly in call centers. And so, they have very low numbers there. And it was because I'm convinced of what you're saying, they focused on servicing people.


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People could eat there, they probably came to work, just for food. They had great meals and all those different things. So, I think that is so important that you said that. So, I know we're coming down to the bottom of our time here. It's been so great having you on. I see that you have Orlando Haynes, you have your site and everything. Tell us more about what you do independently of Sykes and where we can find you and connect with you and all of that good stuff.


Orlando Haynes: Sure. So, I am a Talent Acquisition Manager and I've been in this space slash recruiter. So, I've been in this space for about 18 years and I do also career coaching. And one of the things that I'm passionate about, and helping job seekers is rethinking their career mindset, and helping them elevate their brand.


So that utilizing the LinkedIn platform, how to get noticed in this current market. So, I help folks’ kind of put together what I recently developed what I call a 10 by 10 content creation plan, to where you can start sharing your experience, your expertise in your competencies in a way that you can showcase those talents, and help your job search. So, I'm all about helping folks’ brand themselves because I think in this current pool of the job seekers that are out there, it's a little tougher to just post and pray and hope and pray that you have to do something different. To be out there that's what I'm all about is helping job seekers and professionals.


Juanita Coley: I love that. Now, don't be surprised if I bust out with a shirt Orlando. No, don't post and pray with the low hands. He is like this, stop posting in prayer. That's hilarious. No, that is awesome. What is it called again, a 10 by 10 content strategy?


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Orlando Haynes: It's a 10 by 10 content creation strategies extracting 10. To start you off, you can do this in written form or video clips. You take 10 items that you can break down over 10 weeks, you're giving tips based on your experience so if you're at a call center if you're marketing through an HR sharing those tips on that platform again whether it be written form or video where they let you be consistent and build up your network and profile. This way you can get noticed better by employers.


Juanita Coley: That is awesome. So, if you're out there listening and you are working in a contact center, you are working or you're not working and you need a content strategy, Orlando is the guy to connect with and get it done. I wonder how that works for organizations. Thanks so much for being my guest hang out in the green room for me for a second and I'll be right there with you. But thank you so much for coming and hanging out with us you dropped so many gems again he talked through why diversity matters you talk through the hiring how you guys were able to pivot at Sykes and how even having an existing model help you guys to pivot quickly. And I love all the things that you talked about today. Thank you so much for being my guest on the show today. So, hang out in the room with us for a little bit.


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