2009-11-20 / Front Page

Community Leaders Answer Questions, Offer Advise To OVHS Students During Recent Employment Panel Discussion

by Amanda York Staff Writer

Community leaders and employers, Gordon Wells, president and CEO of Owen County State Bank; Rob Babbs, owner of Babbs SuperValu and Sav-A-Lot grocery stores; Denise Shaw, executive director of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation; and Master Sergeant (US Air Force-Retired) Cindy Greenwell (left to right) recently visited the Owen Valley High School auditorium to take part in a HELPS Academy soft skills panel discussion. The group answered questions from the students pertaining to employment. (Staff Photo by Amanda York) Community leaders and employers, Gordon Wells, president and CEO of Owen County State Bank; Rob Babbs, owner of Babbs SuperValu and Sav-A-Lot grocery stores; Denise Shaw, executive director of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation; and Master Sergeant (US Air Force-Retired) Cindy Greenwell (left to right) recently visited the Owen Valley High School auditorium to take part in a HELPS Academy soft skills panel discussion. The group answered questions from the students pertaining to employment. (Staff Photo by Amanda York) Community leaders Gordon Wells, Rob Babbs, Denise Shaw, and Cindy Greenwell recently took time out of their busy schedules to engage in a panel discussion and answer questions presented to them by the students of the Owen Valley High School HELPS Academy. The questions were about jobs and what potential employers look for and were designed to help the students understand the workforce.

The questions and some of the answers given were as follows…

1. What details on a student's high school transcript do you pay attention to when you are interviewing?

OVHS junior Samantha Coffman took her turn at the microphone, asking the panel a question during the recent HELPS Academy soft-panel discussion. (Staff Photo by Amanda York) OVHS junior Samantha Coffman took her turn at the microphone, asking the panel a question during the recent HELPS Academy soft-panel discussion. (Staff Photo by Amanda York) "Generally speaking… what we look for at the bank would be items that lead us to know whether or not the student is reliable and dependable. Those are two very important characteristics, so obviously attendance is important. Good grades obviously go without speaking," Wells said.

Babbs added, "I would go ahead and say the same thing about the grades. During an interview, we ask what classes they are taking. We have them list their classes and teachers, and we'll go on to ask what is their favorite class and who is their favorite teacher. As Gor- don said, the attendance is very important. Grades, grade point average, while 4.0 isn't required, we like to see some reasonable amount of effort, trying to make as good a grades as you possibly can because that relays to other things in life, work and your civic responsibility, and other day-today life."

"In the military because so much is riding on physical as well as mental abilities, things that I would look for as a recruiter, which I did by the way for 13 years, would be again to look at attendance, but not just for this year, but overall, Greenwell said. "Because if you are absent a lot of times that tells a recruiter that may indicate a physical thing that would disqualify you from service. We also would look at the grades and how well you are doing. And then finally we would look at whether or not there are reports of problems that you had in getting along with others. For example, if you have been suspended for fighting or had been having problems in school, your conduct; then, I don't think I would want to give you a gun in security forces. So those are things we would look for. How well you have worked in high school."

2. What elements put an application in the "call back" file? What elements put an application in the wastebasket?

"An application that has incorrect spelling, incorrect grammar, subject/verb usage is put at least to the back of the list, maybe not in the wastebasket, but to the back of the list. We need people that can communicate both orally and in writing. Because if they are going to respond to one of my customers regarding an account or a loan it needs to be done properly with correct grammar and spelling. So those would be things I would look at immediately," Wells responded. "If there is a gap in your work record, if you've been out of school for four years, and we can only account for two years of that, I would look at that very carefully and say where were you those two years. So those are two of the main items."

"Neatness is very important when you're handling other people's money. When you are dealing with figures, numbers, and math like we do. The other thing is, I look at someone who maybe isn't a high school, but an adult applicant. I look at the list of previous jobs," Babbs explained. "Certainly like Gordon mentioned, it's a good point about the gaps in employment… what was going on there? The other things I look at is if they had a job for three months, another job for eight months, another job for four months and if they're going from job to job to job to job. That concerns me a little, because that tells me that maybe they are only going to work for us for three months. We invest all the time and effort into training, and then they are gone for some reason. When we put effort and time and money into training someone we like to hope that they are going to stay with us a little while."

Shaw said, "I would add just simply blank lines. I want to see a complete application. If an employer goes to the trouble to ask the question, then you should go to the trouble to answer the question. Now, as far as students go, you may not have a very extensive work history, but you can take advantage of that space to fill with some volunteer work that you've done, to at least show that you've given it some thought. I would also add briefly that a felony conviction will kick you out most of the time with just about any employer."

3. How important is a good attendance record in high school? How do you define "good attendance"?

"As we mentioned earlier, I think good attendance is something that is something that is seldom missed. It may be a day or two or three a year. Missing more than 10 percent could be a real problem," Wells said.

"We have folks that have worked for us over the years, and so we kind of have a pattern, and we have some people that work for us that miss maybe one or two days a year, Babbs mentioned. "When I see someone starting to miss like one or two days a month, a little bit of a flag goes up. A poor attendance record at school usually indicates that at work there is going to be a poor attendance record, and that's something we don't want."

4. How important is punctuality in the workplace? Why? Can you give any examples?

"Punctuality in my business, and I'm a two-career veteran, I worked in the school system for 27 years and the last 15 in banking. In the school system, punctuality was everything. We had to get bus routes on time, school had to start on time and so on and so forth," Wells noted. "In the banking industry, we are regulated very heavily by FDIC and other agencies. I have auditors there right now from an external auditing standpoint. Punctuality is vital. We have to open the doors on time so that Rob can get change to run his store, other businesses can get their coin and currency to run their businesses. So, it's expected that we'll be there; we'll be open. Punctuality is very important."

Babbs added, "In our business, where we are open seven days, 24 hours… we're talking about relieving shifts. Someone has been at work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., when that four o'clock comes, they expect to be able to leave their station and go home, and it's very important that the person relieving them on duty is ready to go at four o'clock. That's not coming in the door and clocking in, putting your tie on, brushing your hair, putting your things in your locker; that's ready to go at your assigned time. The responsibility of being prompt is paramount because our customers, in order to keep a good customer service level, we have to have our store staffed per our work schedule that we write. When people are late or tardy or failed, they not only let our customer down, they let their co-workers down."

"Most employers look for reliability in their employees and most jobs that any of us would take are entry-level positions, and those entry-level positions are not always the funnest jobs in the place. But if you have your sights set on a better job within that company, you are not going to get to that better job unless you are punctual." Shaw said. "Integrity does what's right no matter who's looking, and integrity is always right on time."

"Being on time is extremely important to the military," Greenwell explained. "The military has the responsibility of guarding this country and our way of life. Being punctual is extremely important to the success of the mission. It's a mission that is done by being on time, and everybody relies on everybody else to be there. So being on time is extremely important. It's a quality that the military cannot do without."

Wells added, "Recently my son took a job and the culture of his workplace is described like this… If you get to work on time, you're late; if you get to work early, you are on time."

5. Sometimes schoolwork is accepted if it is half-done and full of errors. How important is quality work in the workplace?

"I can address that from the standpoint," Wells said. "Would you want me to send you bank statement that was half finished… that didn't have all your deposits in it, or somebody else's check written out of your account? It's obviously very vital in our business that we take care of each customer accurately."

Babbs added, "When you get home with your groceries and your pie or your package of ground beef is still at the store and wasn't sacked in your bag, that's not good. When you reach to the shelf to pick up a box of Raisin Bran that is supposed to be $1.49 on sale and there is another item stocked there that rings up $3.06, and the sign says $1.49. When customers are paying their money for goods, they deserve to get… if there are supposed to be a dozen in the package then there better be 12 in there, not 11.

"I recall a situation that I heard of… a person who was actually looking for a publisher to publish a book, and they had had some written correspondence with the publishing company. The letter that they received back from the publishing company had two grammar errors and a misspelled word. That person did not use them for publishing," Shaw said. "If the secretary can't get the spelling right, what kind of quality are they putting out in their finished product?"

"I don't know of any pilot who would want to fly an aircraft with missing bolts or not enough fuel or flight plans that sent them in the wrong direction, paperwork that did not record how much experience they had. Everything is extremely important. We practice attention to detail in school, and it is carried on throughout your life."

6. What should a student know about managing time and materials in order to be a good employee with your business?

"I think management of time and materials goes back to being a good servant, taking care of items that are entrusted to you," Wells said. "In my business, where we're dealing with cash and currency a lot of the time, people have to deal with that. It goes without saying… we want it accounted for. So if you start out with x-amount of dollars in your cash drawer, at the end of the day your transactions need to be added up and subtracted to equal those dollars and cents that you were entrusted with during the day. So I just think it is very important."

"You talk about materials and certainly we have a lot of equipment at the store. And the proper use of that equipment… for safety and productivity," Babbs noted. "I'll use bagging again as an example… If someone comes in and buys a small loaf of bread, you're probably not going to use one of our big paper sacks. That would be a misuse of materials. Misuse of materials equates to higher operating expenses which can hurt the overall profitability of the company."

Greenwell added, "In the military, managing your time is so important that they begin teaching it to you in basic training. Materials… each one of you will at some point pay for the military because you pay for taxes, and you have a right to know that the materials and the equipment that the military uses is used for the right thing and that it is not wasted. It's extremely important for an individual to be able take care of the materials, no matter how small.

"Concerning time management… I'll just briefly address that," Shaw said. "Whenever you are on someone else's payroll, they are paying you for your time. Most of those employers are not going to be too happy to pay you for time you might be text messaging your friends or spending time on Facebook if you have access to computers. Those things need to be left to your personal time either on your personal breaks or at home".

7. How important is a positive attitude in the workplace? Why? Why does it matter if you have a little smile on your face all the time, if you get your work done?

"It depends on what you are smiling at I suppose… A positive attitude goes a real long ways - whether you're in school here or working someplace down the road," Wells said. "Number one, I think a positive attitude gives you better production for that day of life. Number two, a positive attitude will be putting you miles ahead in getting along with others. Nobody really like to sit around and listen to someone grumble and growl. When you can talk about yourself and how you messed up something and smile about it, it makes your attitude come out way ahead. So, start out happy and end up happier."

Babbs said, "When you have a good attitude and you smile, and present yourself that way… you come into contact with people, you are going to have a little more control over that situation. People like to be around folks that are generally happy. Like I said… you'll have a little more control over that situation. Whether it's in your personal life or your business life or your civic life, believe me, the more you can do to have a little more control and say and direct how things go, I think the better off you are going to be."

"If you have two employees that are equally productive and it's time to promote someone… if you have one that complains all the time and the other one that always has a smile on their face, that one that always has the smile on their face is always going to have the advantage for the promotion," Shaw noted.

"A positive attitude is contagious," Greenwell said. "If you come in with a positive attitude then those people around you will also catch that. That's the theory anyway. So a good leader… and certainly in the military that's what you have - leaders and followers. A good leader and a good follower are going to have that positive attitude and share it with others. So, the mission, the job, gets done faster, more efficiently, and then the team can take on additional responsibility."

Wells added, "Another thing I like to look at when we're looking at future employees… the interview process, once you've gotten past the application, is just absolutely vital. I take the responsibility, if I'm interviewing somebody to make sure that we have good eye contact. But it's my responsibility to have that person engaged and by engaged I mean… we are on the same wavelength. I can ask questions that relax them. Once I feel like we've engaged ourselves to a point where we are communicating, then I may want to ask more challenging questions."

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