Magazine article American Banker

B of A Turning Welfare Recipients into Loyal Workers

Magazine article American Banker

B of A Turning Welfare Recipients into Loyal Workers

Article excerpt

Dorothy Massey, a proud graduate of Bank of America Corp.'s welfare-to-work training program, was hired last week as an automated teller machine processor.

On one level, the hire merely illustrates the tightness of the U.S. labor market. But for Bank of America, Ms. Massey represents an unusual recruitment opportunity, because of a somewhat surprising trend in welfare-to-work hires.

"We have found that Bank of America's turnover rate of former welfare recipients is much lower than for people who have never received public assistance," said Julie Franke, vice president and regional staffing manager for the company's Southern California operations. "They typically make loyal, stable employees."

That loyalty is especially attractive in an industry dealing with the perpetual hassle of replacing tellers and other low-level employees.

The tight labor market and the fact that some companies have actually resorted to offering signing bonuses to managers who bring on new entry-level workers have made it hard to retain employees, said John C. Wilson, managing director of financial services at Korn/Ferry International in San Francisco.

"A lot of organizations are literally desperate for talent at all levels, and that fight is the toughest at the lowest levels," Mr. Wilson said.

That is in part why San Francisco-based Bank of America started its program in April 1998, five months before NationsBank of Charlotte, N.C., bought the company. To date the program -- now implemented through 13 local projects around the country -- has given jobs to 800 former welfare recipients, said senior vice president Susan Portugal, who oversees it.

The Seattle project, among the first to get off the ground, has achieved a 92% retention rate, Ms. Portugal said. She chalked that up in part to the counseling and assistance provided after the hire date. …

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