Feedback: January 2022

by Jodi Amendola, Henri’ Dawes, Guido de Koning, Vicki Etherton, Veronica Franco

Q: In retaining your employees, what have you found they value most about your company? Is this the same or different for attracting new employees?

Jodi Amendola

CEO and Co-Founder
Amendola Communications
Sector: Media

Employees tell me they enjoy working with innovative, smart health tech visionaries who have MDs, MBAs, PhDs. They find it stimulating to constantly learn about new health tech products and services and be part of a fast-paced agency that is working with so many mission-driven companies making a difference in healthcare. Our clients represent the best of the best in all areas of healthcare, health tech and life sciences, from startups to Fortune 500 organizations, including locally based Equality Health, e-Visit and Tesis Biosciences. 

It’s a bit different for attracting new employees. Surprisingly, I have observed recruits really prefer working remotely. I, personally, would have predicted that most employees would want a hybrid option to experience the best of both worlds — allowing them to work from home three days a week and come into the office two days a week. We decided to accommodate our employees’ request and, after 18 years, we sold our Scottsdale office condo last month. This allows us to attract health tech PR and marketing talent from across the country. 

Jodi Amendola is a healthcare/health tech PR, marketing and communications strategist and thought leader. A 30-year industry veteran, Jodi is CEO and co-founder of Amendola Communications, a Phoenix-based, national, award-winning public relations, social media, content marketing and marketing communications agency serving healthcare, health tech and life sciences organizations. 


Henri’ Dawes

Senior Director
Freedom Financial Network
Sector: Financial Services

We hire leaders who believe in employee development and who are committed to facilitating personal and professional advancement at every level of Freedom Financial Network. We’ve put things in place, starting with our entry-level positions, to provide opportunities to learn the technical, leadership and soft skills necessary for employees to advance their careers. Our various lines of business each maintain their own development programs to meet their specific needs. Then, at the corporate level, we layer on additional training and resources that are applicable throughout the organization. This equips our employees with transferrable skills that enable them to pursue career advancement throughout the company.

When the pandemic first started, the majority of our leaders had never managed remote workers and most of our employees had never worked from home. We educated employees and their leaders about navigating this new environment and took steps to empower everyone to communicate their needs and get the support they needed to be successful. Even now, with some people returning to our offices, we’re developing new training and tools to help leaders and their teams adapt to blended work environments.

Henri’ Dawes is the senior director of Learning and Development at Freedom Financial Network and has more than 20 years’ experience in corporate training, leadership development and continuing education. Freedom Financial Network is a leading digital personal finance company with offices in Tempe, Ariz., and headquarters in San Mateo, Calif. Freedom uses innovative technology and personalized support to help everyday people control expenses, manage debt, save money, plan ahead and make better financial decisions.


Guido de Koning

Senior Vice President
Upgrade, Inc.
Sector: Financial Services

Upgrade, Inc. is a high-growth fintech company. Our growth rate, in fact, positioned us as the fastest-growing company in the Americas, according to the Financial Times. This growth has come with tremendous opportunity for our team members, which I believe has been key in retaining our talent. Naturally, organizational growth opens up career opportunities, allowing people to grow their skillsets, experiences and responsibilities, at times quite rapidly. But it does more. At Upgrade, we deliberately look for opportunities to engage team members in building up our processes, technology and systems. What better opportunity to ask for input from someone who does the actual work every day? What this does is give people a chance to have an impact on making things better. It gives them purpose and elevates them beyond just doing a job.

I believe growth, culture and purpose are highly attractive for external candidates as well. That’s harder to convey, at times, yet important to experience when you come in for interviews. When attracting new employees, it suits to include the easier-to-communicate aspects of the role, such as our competitive pay, generous 401(k) match, stock options for all team members, and an open workspace and breakrooms filled with snacks and free lunches. 

Guido de Koning is senior vice president of People Operations at Upgrade, Inc. Upgrade’s founding team pioneered fintech 15 years ago. Our innovative Upgrade Card combines the flexibility of a credit card with the low cost of an installment loan. Our latest offering, Rewards Checking, gives customers access to no-fee checking accounts with 2% cash back rewards on common everyday spending.


Vicki Etherton

Landmark Title Assurance Agency
Sector: Real Estate 

At Landmark Title, we have been able to attract and retain a highly knowledgeable and dedicated staff. We are in hiring mode and recognize that, while salary, benefits and flexible work schedules are valued, it is intrinsic factors that help us attract and retain employees. I attribute it largely to creating a company culture that fosters and focuses on a team approach to work and having leaders who are accessible and responsive. In addition to supporting and serving clients, our top priority is supporting our departments and team members. We strive to cultivate an environment where everyone is considered a leader and their input is valued. Our managers take time to get to know our employees, recognize their goals, and try to empower them to succeed.

As a title and escrow firm, we compete for employees in an industry where collaboration and a team approach are not the norm. It’s a big reason people come to work here and stay.

Vicki Etherton is an Arizona native and has more than 30 years of experience in the title and escrow industry. In 2013, Etherton was named president of Landmark Title. Under her direction, the company has grown from 14 to nearly 100 professionals with expertise in handling complex commercial and residential transactions.


Veronica Franco 

Assistant Vice President of Talent Management
Desert Financial Credit Union
Sector: Financial Services

Retaining employees, especially in today’s market, has been a challenge — one which we’ve made a top priority. We have found three things to be true when surveying our employees: Employees want to be respected, valued and recognized for their contributions. People, in general, want to be inspired by the work they do. Our culture at Desert Financial Credit Union starts with people helping people — it’s the core of the credit union movement. Our mission, vision and values are all about giving. We believe in giving back to our community, our members and our employees — and we provide opportunities for employees to give back in many ways. We’ve built programs such as Random Acts of Kindness where employees can give back to individuals in our community. We also provide paid time for employees to participate in charitable activities for causes they believe in. We trust that a company’s purpose, if aligned with a person’s values, will sustain employees through the ups and downs; and we find that sharing stories of triumph and success are especially important when attracting new talent into the organization. 

I’ve interviewed many people throughout my career, and I have found that belonging to an organization that truly cares about people is one of the most important factors when determining their employer. That factor coupled with the ability to make a difference — an impact — motivates people’s decisions. Here at Desert Financial Credit Union, that is who we are; it is our foundation. The market today may be different, but the shift is welcomed, as we have grown to recognize that what we have offered all along takes precedence for most today. 

Veronica Franco has more than 20 years of Human Resource experience and is the assistant vice president of Talent Management for Desert Financial Credit Union. Desert Financial is the state’s most trusted local credit union with more than $8 billion in assets, mor than 380,000 members and 46 branches. Membership eligibility is open across most of Arizona with contactless solutions via eBranch, making it easy to click, call or come in. As a not-for-profit cooperative, Desert Financial takes pride in sharing success. In 2021, members received $14 million in dividends via the Member Giveback Bonus, and Desert Financial gave back an additional $4 million through donations, scholarships, random acts of kindness and more. 

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