NEW YORK - At 35, Orlando Montan is one of Verizon's youngest vice presidents, overseeing customer relations nationwide for the communications company. A year ago, Montan was a director supporting the company's wholesale organization. Based in Irving, Texas, he now leads a team of nearly 200 employees who focus daily on customer service.
Montan's promotion came after he participated in an aggressive new Verizon initiative aimed at developing the leadership potential of the company's ethnic and minority employees. The program, called the Development and Leadership Initiative (DLI), supports Verizon's goal to recruit, retain, develop and advance talented ethnic and minority candidates for leadership roles at Verizon. Hispanic employees were the first to go through the program, which began in February 2001.
The initiative seeks to help employees understand their professional and personal goals, and provides high visibility access to top Verizon executives. Participants have discussions with company executives, receive assistance with career planning and benefit from ongoing contact with their mentor, an executive assigned to work with them. DLI candidates are identified and selected by their supervisors when they consistently exceed performance expectations, demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and have at least five years experience with the company.
"Verizon strives for diversity at every level within the company, from the top down," said Oscar C. Gomez, vice president - Office of Diversity and Business Compliance. "The Diversity and Leadership Initiative enables us to tap into a diverse pool of talented employees who can help us better understand and meet the needs of our customers."
According to the 2000 U. S. Census, the minority community is growing at a faster rate than the general population, and Hispanics are leading the way. The annual purchasing power of Hispanics is estimated to approach nearly $1 trillion by 2010. More than 50 percent of the Hispanic population in the U.S. lives in Verizon's service area.
"Because we serve millions of Hispanic customers, we launched our new leadership initiative with Hispanic employees last year," said Gomez, whose office oversees the program. "Our goal is to have all qualified diverse candidates go through the program."
Three hundred employees have already taken part in the initiative, and the results are impressive, according to Gomez. The number of vice presidents who are Hispanic has more than doubled from seven to 16, and the number of executive directors and directors has increased from 84 to 94.
Citing Verizon's Development and Leadership Initiative as a successful strategy for improving the representation of Hispanics in the work force, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility named it a Corporate Best Practice for 2002.
Verizon's Montan agrees that the program opens the door to job opportunities, but it's up to the individual to walk through.
"The DLI squarely places the responsibility on you to be the best and most knowledgeable in meeting your job responsibilities and the company's goals," said Montan. "The program also stresses the need to mentor others as you move forward."
Another first-year participant was Eric Walloga, northern New Jersey regional vice president - Sales for Verizon. Walloga credits the initiative with making Verizon's senior leaders aware of his talents and skills and keeping his name in the forefront as promotional opportunities became available.
"The DLI offers visibility and a platform for individuals to demonstrate their leadership abilities," said Walloga, who was a director when he began the program. "During the DLI, the company stressed that Hispanic employees bring a lot to the company in terms of diversity, skills and knowledge and that we are valued. That really makes a difference."
Jeanmarie Milla, vice president - Sales Operations Support for Verizon, and a DLI participant, agrees. Milla, located in Smithtown, N. Y., heads a team dedicated to developing customer-satisfaction programs.
"The DLI was an invaluable experience that gave me an opportunity to network with my Hispanic peers and talk one-on-one with the company's top leadership," said Milla, who was a director for Consumer Sales when she joined the program. "It also stressed the importance of teamwork, ensuring that everyone had the proper coaching and development to be successful and recognizing each of us for our accomplishments. Now, I make sure that my team and others that I work with receive the same benefits and are recognized for their contributions."
In addition to helping Verizon mine the talents of all employees, the Diversity and Leadership Initiative also helps ensure that every employee has a fair opportunity to achieve career objectives on the merits of their contributions, Gomez said.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 133.8 million access line equivalents and approximately 29.6 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and nearly 248,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.