Why I Only Hire High-School Grads
What a difference a few years makes. In 2007, FCi Federal, a company that provides back-office support for federal agencies, had less than $2 million in revenue and only 35 employees. Today, the company has more than $70 million in revenue and 1,400 employees. A number of factors have played a part in the company's success, but FCi Federal's CEO, Sharon Virts Mozer, credits her work force for a large part of it. Her hiring secret? Don't overestimate the power of a college degree. Ninety-five percent of her employees don't have one, and things seem to be working just fine.
"My philosophy is that if you take an average work force and give them a great process, you can accomplish tremendous things and make them feel really good about what they do," says Virts Mozer.
That has been the case for Alicia Aldridge, who was a new mother with a high school diploma when she started out as an administrative clerk typing documents and entering data. Thirteen years later, she manages a staff of 23 and travels the country getting new FCi employees settled at the roughly 100 offices, mostly within federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, where FCi operates.
Much of FCi's work consists of verifying the details on federal documents, including U.S. visa applications and Freedom of Information Act requests. It is repetitive work, and repetition can make workers sloppy. Virts Mozer has addressed that by creating a records-management process that stresses patience and strict attention to detail. New employees who are willing to work hard can learn it quickly, apply it to their current work, and then carry it with them as they progress in their careers. As they move up the ranks, FCi employees can even earn credentials like Six Sigma or Project Management Professional certification. Those can be as highly valued by future employers as a college diploma.
By the end of 2013, Virts Mozer expects to add another 600 employees, and she has no plans to stray from the formula that has worked so far. "Most of my people want to do a great job," she says. "I want them to feel happy and proud of what they do, because it is hard work, and it is not easy. They have made me proud."