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August/September 2010

Diversity/Careers August/September 2010 Issue




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Diversity In Action

From legacy to Web-enabled, Nationwide has IT jobs to fill

Job opportunities range from early career/entry-level positions up to consultant-level work requiring six to nine years of solid experience


Rocky Parker, VP: “The future is about our use of cutting-edge technology.”Nationwide's roots go back to the early 1900s. The company has researched and implemented many systems and technology solutions over the years. The focus today is on combining conservative legacy systems with cutting-edge Web-enabled applications to meet the current demand for instant information, says Rocky Parker, VP of talent acquisition.

"We have legacy systems at Nationwide that still use languages like COBOL. But the future will be about our ability to use cutting-edge technology to more effectively interact with our customers," he says. "Think about what Web MD has done for the medical community! We believe that's the route we will take, so we're looking for people with Web experience, which may include Java or other Web 2.0 technologies."

In its eighty-plus years Nationwide has grown from a small mutual auto insurer owned by policyholders to one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world, with more than $135 billion in statutory assets.

The company currently employs some 5,000 IT pros in nine areas: project management, application development, analysis, business consulting, process management, risk management, architecture, infrastructure and engineering and, of course, operations.

Obviously there are plenty of career-track opportunities for IT professionals, Parker declares. "People who come in at the analyst level probably have one to three years of experience. Some may be just out of college, but we prefer to see some experience. We also hire talent at the consultant level, which require six to nine years of experience."

In 2009 Nationwide hired some 400 IT pros. "It will be more than that in 2010," Parker says. For example, the company's new development center at its Columbus, OH HQ is expected to add seventy-five to a hundred new associates in application development.

To tap into a diverse talent pool, Nationwide has strong ties to many HBCUs, and uses websites that focus on diverse IT talent. It also works with the Black and Hispanic MBA associations, Parker notes. "Some of the people who are involved in the IT profession also follow an MBA track."

New hires complete a course of online learning or classroom instruction on diversity and inclusion. Some courses are offered in depth for leaders; others are designed for groups to share in the diversity and inclusion learning experience.

Candice Barnhardt, chief diversity officer: an opportunity and a promise.Candice Barnhardt is Nationwide's chief diversity officer. Her diversity and inclusion advisory board is made up of senior executives, and each of the company-wide diversity and inclusion unit councils is also tied to a regional executive.

Nationwide has eighteen associate resource groups across the country, for people of specific affinities and their allies. They are focused on business results, Barnhardt says: in addition to networking and personal development opportunities, each group identifies one or two business objectives it will attempt each year.

The groups are aligned with recruiters on Parker's staff and help them find diverse talent. The original groups have been around for about seven years; the most recent group is the mature associates group. "The Baby Boomers wanted to come together because their experiences are unique to their generation," Barnhardt says.

The groups have been used by the talent-management team to test learning opportunities that help employees progress in their careers. Nationwide is "very attentive" to the need for a diverse workforce in succession planning, says Barnhardt.

Mentoring is also important. Several years ago Nationwide started an inventory of mentoring programs: thirty-two at the time, some informal, some formal. "We look to individuals to manage the process of identifying the best mentor for themselves," Barnhardt says. Nevertheless the company is testing an online process for qualifying mentoring programs, and Barnhardt's office is happy to consult with any group that wants to start one.

One of Nationwide's "proudest stories" is about its employee volunteers, Barnhardt says, including many from the resource groups. An associate volunteer network provides online tools for finding opportunities.

Nationwide provides more volunteers than any other employer in Columbus, OH. Many help out in the city schools; some mentor students across the country. There's also an on-site facility for Red Cross blood donation.

For work-life balance, Nationwide's policy guide provides for telecommuting, mobile offices, job sharing, compressed workweek and flextime, as long as business needs allow it. Parker adds that the technology helpdesk can set up home offices for people who want to telecommute.

Ultimately, Barnhardt says, Nationwide wants job applicants to know that diversity is both an opportunity and a promise at Nationwide. "We say we're 'on your side,' and unless we have a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment, we can't deliver that."

D/C



Nationwide
Nationwide
www.nationwide.com

Headquarters: Columbus, OH
Employees: 33,000
Revenues: $20.8 billion in 2009
Business: Insurance

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