Vaccines, Wages, and Hybrid Work

Let's face it, COVID times are nebulous at best. and with questions like:

  • Should employers mandate the COVID vaccination?

  • Will employers bump wages to stay competitive?

  • and... What will "back to work" post-COVID even look like? Office? Remote? Hybrid?

Luckily Seth Feit, Group VP of Talent at Spectrum / Charter Communications, stops by the pod to share details about all of these topics and how Spectrum is doing the hard work to get back to work.

Enjoy this Sovren exclusive.


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INTRO (1m 2s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast. Yeah.

Seth (1m 22s):

Oh yeah! Friday, Friday, Friday is our recording day. Today. What's up, everybody. You are listening to the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your loyal cohost Joel Cheeseman joined as always by my cohost Chad Sowash and today. What are we got? No, no, no, no. We got a treat today guys. It's Seth Feit. Did I say that right? Feit? Feet? I don't know. He's Group VP of Talent at Spectrum/Charter Communications. Seth. Welcome to your worst nightmare. Great to be here gentlemen. Oh, he's still here. Good. We didn't scare him away. So what do we need to know about you that I missed in the intro? Well, you did, you did butcher the last name, not a big deal.

Seth (2m 3s):

It's Feit, not Feet.

Joel (2m 5s):

Feit, not Feet, that's sexy.

Seth (2m 7s):

Yes Sir.

Joel (2m 13s):

Seth Feit.

Chad (2m 14s):

I want to hear about the AOL time that you had, you were Director of Talent Acquisition in '98 through 2000 at AOL. We're talking about dial up. I mean, tell us about that. How was that different than your role today?

Joel (2m 32s):

Just lost about a third of our listeners.

Chad (2m 35s):

Hey, I still have my AOL. I still have my AOL email address too, by the way. Do you use AOL instant messenger as well?

Seth (2m 43s):

Not AOL instant messenger, but still keep my, keep my AOL email for the glory days.

Joel (2m 48s):

You still have the phone number that you use to dial in to AOL.

Seth (2m 51s):

That was a great run for me. I mean, AOL was an interesting time. I joined back in 98. The company was doing real well back then. I mean, it was gearing up to eventually buy time Warner. And so I kind of lived through through that merger that, you know, was not the greatest merger in the history of mergers. That's for sure. But you know, AOL was an interesting time back then really, you know, to some extent the internet on training wheels, we were getting, everybody started on the internet. AOL was early into search early into commerce. You know, we were in Dulles, Virginia, not exactly a melting pot of where everybody wants to go work for technology, but we we were making the most of it back then. AOL was a very creative, great fun place to work.

Seth (3m 33s):

I thoroughly enjoyed it. We wound up, you know, the company I mentioned say we, I was a senior manager director level kind of promoted in the time I was there, but we bought, we bought Time Warner and that merger eventually wound up closing. And I moved over to the Time Warner entity, you know, later moved over to the cable side of the business cable business got bought. I mean, I've been at a version of this company. I really never left AOL, I'm 22 and a half years now at a version of this company. So, you know, Charter Communications bought Time Warner cable. And that's how I'm a part of now this Spectrum brand and the Charter company. So it's been a wild ride.

Joel (4m 8s):

Seth, can you paint a picture for the kids of what internet recruiting looked like in 1998?

Seth (4m 13s):

Yeah. I mean, since we were the internet, we were certainly using it a lot. Right. We were the way people were getting on. We had partnerships with some of the fellow dinosaurs, maybe like the They weren't early partner of AOL's and that was

Chad (4m 28s):

Key word Monster.

Seth (4m 30s):

Absolutely. We partnered closely with them. It definitely, we benefited from the company partnership with Monster at the time, because we were of course using it for, you know, that online career center, original start for Monster that we had used that in my college recruiting days at my previous employer before I ever got AOL. And I was thrilled that AOL had a partnership with Monster. I mean, we were out there trying to find technology people that wanted to tinker on this new thing called the internet. And, you know, I was in a programmatic type of role that AOL was kind of split up between some business units. I was what was considered the corporate group. I oversaw recruitment technology, college recruiting kind of stuff.

Seth (5m 10s):

So I dabbled in a few of those types of things, did some MBA recruiting, but it was, it was definitely early days of internet, you know, and unfortunately, really what happened with AOL. If they'd maybe had made more investments in the search and commerce side, maybe it would still be a bigger, better company than it is today, but the folks that all work there, we have a strong bond together. We stay in touch there's people that I worked with 20, 22 years ago that we still stay in touch to this day and it was a definitely a great experience.

Joel (5m 40s):

The cult of AOL.

Chad (5m 41s):

I remember in 1999, we had an all hands meeting in Indianapolis at Monster. The big unveil was we just landed key word monster. That was a big thing in those days.

Joel (5m 58s):

Why would you not want the keyword jobs or was that already taken?

Chad (6m 2s):

That's no, it wasn't. It was all about the brand. That was it. You forget who Jeff Taylor was, right. He didn't care about jobs. He just wanted the Monster. Right. But, so talk about your role today as Group VP of Talent. That's a pretty big all encompassing role, right?

Seth (6m 23s):

And in a lot of ways, it's a broad responsibility, but we have a very distributed type of HR and recruiting and training type of model. So although I oversee sort of the strategic direction of where we go with our recruitment and learning training, leadership development, org effectiveness, performance management. So a lot of big picture things fall under me from an overall leadership standpoint, but a majority of those real functional responsibilities of getting that work done the actual recruiting, actual training, you know, 95% plus sits in the business unit. So I sort of gather the, we have councils that we've set up for the talent acquisition side and the learning side.

Seth (7m 3s):

So myself and my team, we get those groups together. We used to do in-person on a quarterly basis. In a COVID world we do more monthly WebEx kind of set ups. And, you know, we try to drive on this mission to attract, acquire, develop, and retain talent for the company, monitoring what's going on out there, making sure from a recruiting standpoint and a learning standpoint that our recruiting community and our learning community have the tools to be successful. And, you know, I'm fortunate that the company's doing well. We invest in those products where we're five years, post-merger now with Charter buying Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. And, you know, the company fr recruiting and transformation kind of standpoint is really started coming together.

Seth (7m 47s):

And the pandemic has been a spotlight for that. We had to really come together with that. And, you know, the talent function is trying to do the best we can to make sure we've got the best talent in our county.

Joel (7m 57s):

What's sort of your general take on minimum wage, the state of minimum wage in our country today?

Seth (8m 2s):

Well, I mean, you know, obviously there's a lot going on with the Biden administration and there they're looking at some things from a federal standpoint, we'll have to see where that goes. I think from a company standpoint, you know, we, 80% of our roles are probably considered frontline in nature. It's a, we're a cable operations company. So it's those technicians that are going into customer's homes, the maintenance techs that maintain the network and the plant, the call center reps that are handling either, either billing calls or technical calls. We have a huge sales organization. Then we have a bunch of business units that are aligned as well around some of our, you know, we have an advertising business and a fiber B2B kind of business, but, you know, so the minimum wage thing for us, like we knew we had to work on our, you know, 11, 12 bucks an hour is not going to cut it in New York City.

Seth (8m 51s):

It's not going to cut it in Columbia, South Carolina either. So, you know, we knew as a company we had to invest, fortunately, our senior leadership at Charter, they really wanted Charter employees to do a lot of things. So we didn't Time Warner cable had a decent amount of outsourced, you know, contractor for field operations installations. Maybe some more call centers, would have been outsourced then than not compared to what Charter had done. And so Charter came in, but post acquisition and really wanted to bring those jobs, you know, to the company and certainly onshore. And so as a part of that evolution as a company, we were just looking at what our wage practices are and we had decided a few years back that we were going to go with this $15 an hour minimum.

Seth (9m 36s):

And it was, you know, even at that time we thought pretty progressive. And it, we had some challenges internally around some salary compression and those kinds of things. And it took us a better part of a year, year and a half to iron those out.

Chad (9m 48s):

What year was that? Seth? Was that like 2016 or

Seth (9m 51s):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 2016, '17, I guess. I don't know exactly, but sometime around then probably we announced it in '17, had it fully implemented in '18. We're always looking at it. It had always been on the radar, but then when the pandemic hit, you know, rather than, you know, throw $500 or a thousand dollars at each employee and some companies did that and I'm sure employees appreciated that we wanted to make a bigger long-term investment. And so we had this long-term vision of going to $20 an hour. So we figured this is the right time to announce that we're going to go to $18 an hour. So that's what we announced that last year, we just implemented it earlier this year. And so now we're at $18 an hour next year, we're going to be a $20 an hour minimum for these frontline roles.

Seth (10m 34s):

We believe it's going to be an eventual, competitive advantage for us. And we'll, we'll keep, and

Joel (10m 39s):

You hire people all over the country, I assume.

Seth (10m 41s):

We do. Yeah. We're 95,000 employees. We're in 41 States. We have call centers in just about each of those 41 States. It might be like 39. So it might not be every single one of the States we service, but in most States multiple centers, we've got different types of call centers. And, you know, these frontline areas, it's primarily that field technician.

Joel (11m 3s):

The question is so obviously 18 an hour in, you know, Bessemer, Alabama is not the same as $18 in, you know, New York City. Is $18, $18/20, just the floor and people in those higher level markets, higher tier markets, they get paid even more. How does that work?

Seth (11m 22s):

Well, I mean, it's all a little new to us as well as we launched this. I mean, certainly there's markets like New York City and LA that we service that are higher cost of labor, higher cost of living areas in some of our smaller markets, but it's really a baseline for us to start. There's not a ton of differentiation right now at those levels. We're trying to get people to that $18. And then next year, the twenty dollars and, you know, depending on the location, there's, there's going to be some, some variations of that. Of course we have progression type of plans. Like a call center rep starts off as a CSR customer service rep one, and then works their way through a progression to a two