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When you think of the world's most innovative companies, a Canadian call centre may not jump to mind. But SureCall leads the way in equitable hiring practices, environmental sustainability and community giving through an innovative approach to business rooted in purpose and values.

SureCall is the creation of Desirée Bombenon, winner of the 2020 RBC Momentum Award, earned at the Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards late last year.

While a student at the University of Calgary, Bombenon joined the dispatch department of Page Direct – a Calgary-based paging and telecommunications company where she worked typing out messages for pagers. With the rise of cell phones, the company sold its paging assets and evolved – under Bombenon’s leadership – to become an after-hours answering service. As the organization grew and changed, Bombenon felt a need to do more with it from a perspective of environmental and social governance – so when Bombenon’ ideas weren’t readily accepted, she took a few years off to think about how she could create real value for the organization and the team.

Bombenon came back to the organization as a stakeholder and reinvented it as SureCall Contact Centres Ltd., offering customized services for clients while creating more of a consultant role for frontline staff. “I wanted to come back with the influence to change the organization into something that had purpose and values.”

In doing so, she built a better work environment where employees could feel accomplished, valued and know they were achieving something that was bigger than simply coming in to do a job.

An unconventional recruitment process

To create a different kind of business, Bombenon recognized the need to establish a different kind of hiring process – particularly in the call centre industry where there is a high turnover rate of frontline staff. This included taking the cognitive bias out of hiring, and instead assessing candidates based on their alignment to the values and the culture of the company.

“We have a very different way of recruiting and hiring,” explains Bombenon. “We have a no resume, no interview process. We’re not interested in an individual’s past performance – we’re only interested in their future potential.”

Instead of following a traditional application path, a candidate fills out a profile that matches the values and culture of the organization. If they reach a score of 85 or higher, they’re pretty much hired into the role. It’s a process that leads to a diverse and inclusive workforce, as there is no knowledge of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion when the candidate applies.

“You can’t find a more diverse group of individuals than if you walked into our building today and looked at our team,” says Bombenon. “There is no cognitive bias in bringing in those individuals except for a bias for the type of values, culture, beliefs and philosophies our organization has.”

Once hired, new employees go through a comprehensive onboarding program that focuses on the values and culture of the organization. “We spend a tremendous amount of time first talking about who we are, about our culture and what we’re trying to do as an organization,” says Bombenon. “We talk about the benefits of giving back to the community and what that means to the community – and we look for engagement with our bigger picture and bigger purpose.” It’s only after this process that the candidate is walked through the roles available, the skill sets that will be required, and what the best fit would be for them as an individual.

One of the outcomes of this first-of-its-kind hiring process is a low rate of turnover, which Bombenon explains is due to the accountability and connection an individual feels towards the organization. “Because it’s their choice to work here, they’re highly motivated to prove themselves.”

A deep commitment to social and environmental governance

One of Bombenon’s primary objectives when reinventing SureCall was to create an organization that was a force for good – not only for her employees but for the planet and the communities within.

Becoming a Certified B Corporation in 2019 was the exclamation point on her team’s efforts. “We already had processes in place, but it still took over eight months of hard work to receive the B Corp Certification,” says Bombenon, which means that the organization is upholding the highest standards of social and environmental performance and, according to the Certified B Corporation website, “legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.”

“Being B Certified means we are living the B Corp values, maintaining a paperless workplace, making sure our hiring processes meet diversity and inclusion standards, establishing recycling and composting programs in the office, using ethical vendors and more.”

Furthermore, SureCall was recently named Best For the World™ 2021 by B Lab Global in recognition of its exemplary performance, specifically for their involvement in community giving. In fact, SureCall ranks in the top 5% of all B Corps in its size group worldwide for their sustainable business practices.

Doing Good With Every Call

An integral part of SureCall’s culture is its commitment to giving back. Through two high impact programs, the organization is making a significant difference in the lives of many.

Their Good Call™ program launched in 2016 as a local endeavour to assist not-for-profit organizations and local charities. It has since spun into something much more purposeful, evolving to also help fund national and international projects through the contribution of revenue. “We give two percent of our top line revenue, which means that even if the company is not profitable, we are still giving two percent to the program to make sure projects can move forward. That in turn motivates the team to work really hard.” The model also enables client acquisition and retention, as clients know that two percent of their invoice is directly contributing to meaningful causes locally and around the world.

SureCall’s Hero Girls™ program, meanwhile, helps educate and empower girls in underserved and developing communities. A program Bombenon built while attending Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, it supports more than 100 girls a year through scholarships, mentoring and entrepreneurship programs, enabling girls to learn how to be leaders, contribute back to their communities and create self-efficacy for themselves. “Some of these girls have launched innovation projects within their villages that nobody imagined they could have done,” says Bombenon. Every call the SureCall team takes contributes to this important cause, so the team believes they truly are ‘Doing Good With Every Call.’

As recipient of the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards RBC Momentum Award, Desirée Bombenon is transforming the call centre industry, leading the way in equitable and unbiased hiring and building initiatives that matter to communities, her employees and her clients.

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