With a rapidly growing and diverse workforce, offering paid training, full health benefits and pay above the minimum wage for Oakland residents, CallSocket is outshining many of the large businesses and restaurants that are situating themselves in the city or hope to make Oakland their home in the near future.
The call center, located in the Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland, handles call-in and call-out campaigns for several businesses across the country at a fast and successful rate. Since the Post published its last article in November 2014 highlighting the achievements of entrepreneur Tom Henderson’s expanding business, CallSocket has grown from having 123 employees to over 250.
Speaking to a few staff at the call center, it becomes apparent that the key to the business’s growth is rooted in its commitment to its employees.
Ethical hiring policies, nurturing support and a structured path for quickly moving up come together at CallSocket to create an atmosphere of hope for many Oakland residents who might otherwise not have the opportunity to prove themselves as valuable workers.
“We try to hire those who are chronically unemployed and use that to help people improve their standings,” said Sabrina Baptiste-Shepard, vice president of Human Resources at CallSocket.
“Many of our employees are people who are often overlooked and who have a lot to contribute. They may not look strong on paper but show really amazing success when given the opportunity,” she said. “It’s also just great for the community to provide employment.”
While activists in many states are pushing for the federal government to “ban the box” on job applications, which drastically hinders formerly incarcerated people from finding employment. Baptiste-Shepard says, “CallSocket does not use the box, period.”
The result has been a quickly expanding workforce of capable and hard-working employees for the company.
According to Marilyn Thomas, a team manager with CallSocket who started at the call center a year and a half ago and quickly rose to become a manager, the center offers a paid five-day training class in which employees practice their speech, learn about products and get a sense of the flow of the office.
“Within the first 30 days of working, your benefits start, and they cover 100 percent of all your health, dental and vision insurance,” said Thomas.
“If you meet all your goals within the first three months, you see a pay increase to a second tier. Then, three months later there’s a third tier, and you are eligible for another raise,” she said.
The starting wage at CallSocket is $14 per hour, higher than Oakland’s minimum wage, which will increase to $12.55 in November.
Renee McDonald recently graduated to a third tier call agent and now makes $17.50 an hour. She recalls CEO Tom Henderson coming to Friendship Christian Center in Oakland to recruit employees and eventually calling him about employment.
“I just called and said it’s hard times, and I just needed a job, and he got me the job,” said McDonald. “Mr. Henderson saved me in the nick of time. I would’ve been homeless if it wasn’t for him.”
While Mayor Libby Schaaf boasted about Oakland’s declining unemployment rate during her State of the City address on Wednesday night, it’s businesses like Henderson’s call center that have helped Oakland residents find hope when jobs are still scarce.