Discover’s Customer Care Center and technology hub in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Chatham has quickly become a point of pride for the financial services company.
The tech hub serves as an extension of the customer care center. It allows current agents with an interest in technology to join an apprenticeship program that has four tracks: robotic process automation, ServiceNow, Salesforce and cybersecurity.
Once apprentices complete training and graduate, they transition into applicable full-time roles, Joe Mills, director of transformation strategy and automation at Discover, told CIO Dive. Only two apprentices have progressed to full-time roles as of now, but that number is expected to increase as time goes on, Mills said.
Since the grand opening last August, the Chatham call center and technology hub has become a model for site selections, hiring procedures, customer service experience and community development.
Upskilling is a tried-and-true way for businesses to level-up talent and get the skills teams need to succeed, but the execution of those strategies isn’t simple. At Discover, teams feel like the technology hub has cracked the code — so much so that the company is looking to do it all again in Whitehall, Ohio, just east of the state’s capital.
“What we have found is that the Chatham technology hub has been something special,” Mills said. “And we’re going to keep growing.”
Discover plans to employ more than 1,000 people in the Chatham call center by the end of next year. The company also wants to expand the number of teams and grow apprenticeship programs within the tech hub.
Currently, 14 team leads and 15 apprentices are progressing through the program. The ServiceNow track educates tech talent on how to support IT tickets and some of the automation that occurs within the service. The Salesforce track focuses on customer relationship management.
The RPA team, which includes one lead and three apprentices, automated 46,000 hours of work within eight months, Mills said.
“A team of four was able to produce that while they were learning on the job and coding,” Mills said. “Those processes are in production now, so every year we maintain production, we save those hours.”
Mills credited some of the success in upskilling to Discover’s tech academy, which serves as a platform to combine best practices, knowledge and standards in a collaborative way.
“It improves all of us as an organization when you can provide that opportunity for us to document how we work, improve it continuously and be able to open the doors to collaboration,” Mills said. “What that creates is this continuous investment in learning … and that’s how we’re all succeeding together.”
Discover used local, diverse suppliers for the construction and maintenance of the facility and developed community partnerships, creating a hyperlocal strategy that the company wants to replicate.
“We know talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” the company said in its 2022 environmental, social and governance report published in May. “Generating job opportunities in this region of Chicago gave us access to experienced candidates in need of employment.”
Around 80% of hired employees reside within the five-mile radius of Chatham, Mills said.