Educating Employees in a Dynamic Industry by Safeguard Properties Director of Training John Gonos

In the October Issue of DS News, Safeguard’s director of training John Gonos discusses what mortgage field services companies must do to keep employees current with changing industry regulations and guidelines.

EDUCATING EMPLOYEES
IN A DYNAMIC INDUSTRY

Field services companies must provide on-demand learning to
keep up with changes in regulations and guidelines.

No one will dispute the fact that mortgage servicing is an ever changing industry.  From investor guidelines, new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulations, False Claims Act provisions, Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act rules (PTFA), and the Service Members Civil Relief Act guidelines (SCRA—just to name a few—the cost of compliance is increasing for servicers across the country.  But they are not the only ones impacted; maintaining a high level of quality and compliance trickles down to the servicer’s vendors, including field services companies, which serve as partners in keeping properties, and the servicer’s assets maintained and secured in anticipation of foreclosure or sale to a potential homeowner. 

From there, the onus is on the field services company to have processes and procedures in place to communicate and train employees on current guidelines and regulations.  At face value, creating an ongoing training program can seem like a difficult and daunting task.  But if you consider the benefits reaped, such as increased productivity, increased compliance with rules and regulations, effective use of new technologies, and increased job satisfaction, the time and costs involved are well-invested.

But to ensure compliance and quality of work both in the field and internally, field services companies must think outside of the box and invest in multiple methods of training for their employees.  Traditional learning methods are no longer enough; field services companies must commit to eLearning and ongoing, innovative training techniques.

TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT IS IMPORTANT

According to the 2013 State of the Industry report, released in December 2013 by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), companies in the U.S. spent $164.2 billion on employee training and development in 2012.  That amount equals $1,195 per employee, up from $1,182 in 2011. According to the report, employees averaged 30.3 hours of training, and technology-based delivery of instruction rose to 39 percent of formal hours up from 37.2 percent in 2011.

The report found that the top three areas of training content in 2012 were:  managerial and supervisory (13.5 percent); mandatory and compliance (10.8 percent); and processes, procedures, and business practices (9.9 percent). 

Regulatory scrutiny, process changes, production demands, and client-specific customization of tasks are on the rise.  These factors can increase the stress an employee feels as they work to meet their customers’ needs while keeping up with myriad changes.  Traditional training techniques and eLearning are helpful in getting an employee up to speed, but ongoing and active learning methods are required for them to remain successful and up-to-date.

BLENDED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Traditional classroom, hands-on, and eLearning training methods still produce the needed results and remain widely-used in many industries across the country.  However, research has found that these are the best ways to teach big picture concepts, meaning they are most effective for new hires but not workplace veterans.  One size does not fit all, and a strict adherence to traditional classroom and eLearning models can oftentimes leave employees wanting and needing more as these methods become less effective as the depth of information increases.  Employees need a better way to get the information needed to do their jobs effectively as the rules and regulations evolve.  They also need this information quickly and presented in ways that will minimally disrupt their daily job activities.

In the training and development world, the paradigm that provides employees with an on-the-job learning platform is called “performance support.” This model is not a replacement for new hire or new position training, but a supplement to it.  Material is made available online and on-demand to employees in concise and digestible amounts.  Examples of performance support include online tutorial videos and step-by-step instruction lists to accomplish a particular task.  Similarly, if an employee gets into a “knowledge bind,” they must have immediate access to the material needed to stay on-task and work through the problem quickly.  It also eliminates the need to interrupt a coworker for assistance, thus maintaining the productivity of other employees.  The material is highly specific to a single process—or is more likely part of a larger process—and is presented in a way that allows users to control the flow of information.  They can stop, go back, and start at their own pace. And because the information is task-specific, the user is also able to get to the answer quickly and without having to wade through unnecessary material.

With the sheer volume and complexity of information being generated, field services companies can benefit from this training and development model.  The loss of productivity from employees hunting for the right information to do their jobs has been well-documented.  While it is necessary to have an extensive library of lecture-style training classes and eLearning courses to guide employees through large amounts of information related to their roles, it is just as important to provide to employees an on-demand library of recorded simulations whenever they need it.

KEYS TO CREATING A SUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCE SUPPORT PROGRAM

Easy access to these simulations is key to effective usage.  Ideally, it should be electronic and accessible through just a few clicks of the mouse.  Employees must be able to search the library for the needed content and watch some or all of the simulations as necessary.

A comprehensive and ongoing process for creating simulations needs to be put in place. The goal is to create simulations that cover every area of the business and all of its systems as quickly as possible. Additionally, a “practice mode” in which the software walks the employee through the necessary keyboard strokes or mouse clicks to finish the transaction is an essential tool in training.  This way the employee gets a feel for doing the transaction in a safe environment.

Lastly, there must be a “test mode” in which the employee does the transaction from start to finish with prompts if they make a mistake.  This tests their ability to perform the transaction, but the results are not tracked; it is strictly an opportunity to verify their learning.

The software must be simple to use, and it is helpful for the field services company’s business partners to create some of the simulations, as they are the experts on how their transactions should be processed.

One of the most challenging aspects of the servicing industry and the field services business is educating people on ever-changing processes, guidelines, and regulations.  Servicers need field services vendors that can uphold the highest levels of quality and compliance.  Those same companies must relay messages about new rules and regulations to their employees in an effective and efficient manner to properly protect properties and neighborhoods, and to keep their servicing clients in compliance with investors and governmental entities.

An on-demand learning library coupled with classroom initiatives and an extensive eLearning catalog create an effective blended learning environment for employees in a highly scrutinized and regulated industry like mortgage servicing.  It helps to keep employees updated and provide them with a source of ever-present information; giving them answers when needed, reducing frustration, and keeping them productive while they continue to learn.

John Gonos is the director of training at Safeguard Properties.  He can be reached at john.gonos@safeguardproperties.com

Please click here for Educating Employees in a Dynamic Industry article in PDF.

About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders, and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally.
Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.

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Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.

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CHEIF INFORMATION OFFICER

George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.

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General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.

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Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.

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AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.

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AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.

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AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.

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AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

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AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.

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AVP, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.