Cool Under Pressure – Hidden Talent Blog Series

Christmas 2018 at Costco was the busiest time of the year—real fir trees were selling for only $25 compared to $60 at a local competitor and they were selling fast. It took two people to carry one tree, leaving fewer staff to cover other positions. Luckily, Xavier had a game plan. He suggested to his co-workers that one person watch the carts while two others carry the trees, and then switch so that no one would get injured. “Everyone was working so hard, people just needed a sense of direction.” Xavier has only been with Costco for one year, but in that time he’s shown his ability to be a leader in high pressure situations.

Before Costco, Xavier’s first real job was at the Seattle Seahawks stadium, through a social enterprise called Juma Ventures. He was working while earning his GED, and learning about discipline and customer service each day on the job. One day, Xavier and his co-workers were assigned to staff a game suite where the dishwasher wasn’t working. In order to keep the food and beverage service efficient, they had to run the clean and dirty dishes by hand to a nearby kitchen without making a mess. Despite the added work, the customers in the suite never even knew that their suite had a problem, and Xavier learned what hard work in could accomplish in a pinch.

For Costco, getting employees who have support and real-world training from Juma leads to retention—a large number of the most recent hires are still there after a year on the job. Xavier loves his job; he’s worked in a few different departments and sees lots of opportunities to advance and learn new skills. He was recently put up on the Member Services bulletin board, alongside team members who have been there for 15-20 years. He has big plans, to “knock it out of the park” and “to be motivation for everyone.” His supervisors have taught him what he needs to move up, and to Xavier, it feels like home.

The Hidden Talent Blog Series tells the stories of highly-motivated, well-prepared employees who got their start at an employment social enterprise businesses. With unemployment levels at historic lows, traditional businesses struggle to find good employees. With the support of social enterprises, and their own determination to beat the odds, tens of thousands of men and women have turned their lives around. They are some of the best-trained, most loyal employees a business could hope to hire. Our intention is that this series sheds a light on their potential, and that employers consider social enterprises as a source for finding great people. Are you an employer looking to find an employment social enterprise in your area? Search a national map here. 

Claire Michaels is the author of this blog series, and Director of Workforce and Hiring at SFMade and Manufacture : San Jose, where she develops programs and partnerships to help people who have overcome barriers to employment find career opportunities at manufacturing businesses in San Francisco and San Jose. Claire has been a fan of REDF and part of the REDF community for many years.