Kristin Skiko Fuels Growth, One Person at a Time
Kristin Skiko’s journey with Working Solutions began in Omaha, Nebraska in 1999. While working in Human Resources with Mutual of Omaha, Kristin got to know one of her colleagues, Kim Houlne. Not long after, Kim approached Kristin and asked about joining her new, on-demand contact center company, Working Solutions. With the condition that she could work from home, Kristin, who is now vice president of Talent Management, accepted Kim’s offer.
“Our goals were very ambitious,” Kristin said. “We had to scale up our operations quickly and recruit agents who could truly add value for our clients.”
This meant building a virtual recruiting operation from the ground up–first across the United States, and years later, into Canada. The undertaking expanded into today’s 150,000+ network of sales and service agents, all remote.
From the Beginning
“We selected candidates and put them through a series of online assessments. Our goal was to inform them about Working Solutions, as well as get information from them,” Kristin said. “We also employed some personality tests and brought in actors to run customer-service scenarios.”
Agents are self-selected in or, in some cases, out for client programs. “We’d then look at them as a match for certain contracts.”
Working Solutions believes a key to good recruiting is to speak with candidates live. “We do this as much as possible,” Kristin said. “Of course, there are times when we need to scale up so quickly (like right now for a tax-preparation client) that we need to substitute in videos. But we always aim to connect live with our agents during the process.”
And this personal touch equals retention. The company’s agent attrition is less than the industry’s brick-and-mortar call centers, where agents work crowded together. “The freedom and flexibility we offer our agents attracts top talent.”
The company has quite a few versatile agents who move from one account to another, applying their skills across diverse industries.
Changing the Game
Kristin is particularly proud of the technologies Working Solutions has either developed or adopted over the past two decades-plus.
“We went from using Access databases and Excel spreadsheets to a customized applicant-tracking application called CATS (Centralized Agent Tracking System), which we created in 2004. It’s a real game changer that tracks everything about each of our agents,” she said. “It makes it much easier to align agents with the right accounts.”
Working Solutions also partnered with the University of Texas to develop a speech analytics program, which was used between 2012 and 2014, that enabled it to identify which agents are most likely to excel. And, just last year, the company initiated an agent advisor program to better prepare agents for onboarding before they engage with a client’s customers.
Engaging Remote Agents
The company’s education and development programs, run by Tamara Schroer, are also some of the best in the industry. “We only hire certified teachers. We feel that if they can wrangle students in a classroom, they can connect virtually with adults,” Kristin said.
Emphasizing a point made by other company leaders, Kristin attributes Working Solutions’ success to its culture. “Our agents know we care about them, and they know that we are like a second family. This philosophy was, and is, the foundation of what Kim wanted to build at Working Solutions.”
Before the pandemic, Kim held regional luncheons with agents to enable them to get to know one another. These meetings, occurring throughout the country, normally include business and fun activities. “They build a sense of togetherness and are very popular with our agents and employees,” Kristin said.
Balancing Work and Life
The daughter of an IBMer and born in New York, Kristin never imagined ending up in Omaha. “I went to college at Creighton University in Omaha. It was a great choice—‘go Bluejays.’”
Not long after, Kristin started a family, having two boys 11 years apart. “A lot of my free time has been spent shuttling my kids to sporting events.” That’s left Kristin with little spare time. “I play tennis and so does my younger son, so that keeps me on the move.”
As one of just a handful of professionals who’ve been with Working Solutions since the early years, Kristin has seen a lot of growth and changes over the company’s first quarter century. And her leadership is among the reasons Working Solutions stands apart from its competitors—creating an on-demand workforce in a client’s own image.
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