Marlene’s Dilemma: An Interactive Case Study

Marlene was faced with a challenge. Twelve days ago she had been hired into a new company to work with a hiring manager who had about 200 call center requisitions to fill in a 90-day window. The positions weren’t unusual or particularly hard to fill. In fact, over the past few months new college graduates, several retirees who were youthful and had the requisite skills, and a handful of experienced former call center employees had been hired with varying degrees of success. Yet turnover is an issue for this company?? it runs to more than 50% each year. At first blush, Marlene felt confident she could meet the challenge and fill all the positions. After all, the skills she was seeking were basic and experience was not a requirement. The training programs the company had put in place were quite well received?? had even won some awards for creative e-learning?? and met the need to ensure everyone was capable. This training was supplemented with an excellent online support center with access to FAQs and other help. Marlene figured she could round up some recent college hires who hadn’t gotten their dream job but were smart and energetic. She could also get a few more of the retirees to consider returning to work. But now, twelve days into it, things look different. The hiring manager hasn’t liked anyone she has brought in and has complained to Marlene’s boss about her inability to meet his needs. She obviously feels this is completely unfair, since she has only been on the job for a few days. But her boss says, “Marlene is too focused on process and hasn’t even posted anything on the job boards. All she wants to do is dig into what the hiring manager’s requirements are.” He goes on to say that, as far as he knows, the hiring manager just wants her to “…find me good, smart people and I’ll train them what to do. I don’t need to have everyone psychoanalyzed.” This company has over 1,000 employees, all located in the United States, with annual sales of more than $1 billion. The average age of employees is around 35, with only the CEO and a few other top managers over 40. The hiring manager is close to Marlene’s age?? hovering around 30. There are a couple of recruiters who focus on other types of hiring needs, including IT, but they are not very friendly and stay on the phone almost all day. The company has a good reputation for customer service and is very proud of its high standards of service. Customers find that response times are reasonable and that their issues get resolved quickly. This is a big difference from many other companies that Marlene has worked for. She feels it is necessary for her to really understand the competencies needed and assess candidates against those competencies. This company has real time performance feedback for call center reps and they are always aware of how well they are doing compared to other call center staff. They get paid partially on how quickly and on how well they resolve customer issues. Those who have been at the company for more than a year make great pay and have a balanced work life. New employees, however, face the daunting prospect of meeting the time and quality demands of the position, and many leave. Marlene really wants to understand why some have stayed and what their profile looks like so she can look for others with a similar set of skills. The issue is, how can Marlene satisfy her boss and hire high quality people? Is it even possible to do this? Can she profile candidates without alienating them or her boss? If you were Marlene what would you do is this situation? How can Marlene succeed? I will collect your responses and discuss some of them (anonymously) next week. I will also provide an expert opinion about what Marlene should do. You can provide your comments by emailing me directly at I look forward to hearing your responses to this challenge!

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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