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Chief Operating Officer of Signature Worldwide: Becky Wolever

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''If I had to hire for a single trait, it would be curiosity,'' says Chief Operating Officer of Signature Worldwide Becky Wolever.

“Where there is curiosity, there is learning. Where there is learning, there is knowledge. Where there is knowledge, there is understanding. And from understanding, there are infinite, powerful forces that unite people...This type of employee engagement is key to our success.”

Suffice it to say then that Wolever is a curious individual who fell hard for HR after her first job as a manager. Hiring well and matching people with the right job were two things Wolever recognized as important.

“I ...felt great loyalty to the people I selected,” she says, “and they in turn returned that confidence in me. This is what led me to specialize in human resources as part of my bachelor’s in business. I believe this way of approaching business is how my brain and personality are wired.”

Receiving her bachelor’s degree in business from The Ohio State University, Wolever received the 1992 Ohio State University Pacesetters Award and joined Signature in 1994 after taking some time off to care for an ill family member. During that time, Wolever was able to asses her career goals.

“I began helping my husband and his partner, who had started Signature. I later stayed at Signature because I saw it as an opportunity to help create a really great company from the ground up.”

“Up to that point,” Wolever continues, “I had worked with some really great people and some not so effective ones. I learned a lot from all of them.”

Signature Worldwide, located in Dublin, Ohio, began in 1986 and “has helped more than 5,000 companies develop employee training programs proven to enhance customer delight,” says its website. The company also offers “instructional design services tailored to [clients’] unique needs, a wide range of training delivery methods, and continuous reinforcement programs that include ongoing training, employee coaching, and performance measurement through mystery shopping services and web-based management tools.”

And Wolever adds, “Our business is centered on helping clients communicate their mission and vision to their staff and helping their employees adapt to the constantly changing business environment.”

Now the company, praised by employees for a caring team and a good working environment, is run by President and CEO Steve Wolever—Becky’s husband and mentor.

“I learned business from him. He took a personal interest in my professional development and encouraged my desire to learn,” says Wolever, who, after applying what she learned, helped Signature properly utilize its HR department.

Q. What do you like to do outside of work? Any odd hobbies/interests? Do you have children? Can you explain a little about your personal life outside of your company?

A. Ah, the constant quest for work-life balance! I haven't always done this well, but I think women are particularly hard on themselves in this respect. I have learned that interesting people do interesting things. Again, [this] goes back to curiosity and desire to learn new things. I play golf and tennis. I love the competitiveness of sports, and the physical activity is good for me. When I feel I have the least time to exercise is really when I need it most. I also read a lot. I am extremely fortunate to be able to travel around the world for my work, and I seek out all things and people new and different.

I have long-term friends and family to keep me grounded. I am one of eight children; my husband and I have five children - yours, mine, and ours; and we have six grandchildren. I am blessed with good work, good health, and good family, but my life is never perfectly balanced. It is something I constantly work on. I have tried very hard to remove the word "should" from my life. I think "should" is a detrimental way of looking at things. I prefer to think, I "want" to do this, rather than I "should" do this. I see this as a positive perspective, rather than the perspective of a victim of an extremely busy life - which we all have. That one thing, in and of itself, is empowering.

Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?

A. Probably Dan Fogelberg or Mamma Mia! My age is showing! I like music that makes me happy - either brings on a peaceful smile or makes me want to get up and dance.

Q. What is the last magazine you read?

A. Either Travel and Leisure, T&D, or Golf for Women.

Q. What is your favorite TV show?

A. The Amazing Race!

Q. Who is your role model?

A. I have so many for so many different things. I am never content, so I am always looking at how to do better, be better, and learn more. This is both my strength and my vice. Given that nagging voice behind every achiever personality, I seek out role models who help me keep peacefulness in my spirit. There is nothing like a grandchild to show me that.

“If HR departments are not included in decisions and changes, they can unintentionally become part of the problems in a company, and everyone losses.”

Communication, therefore, is key.

“Our HR department works hard to maintain a unique company culture that allows us to be straightforward and direct at all times. This type of communication allows us to be nimble and demanding, as well as celebratory and fun.”

But lack of communication is inevitable and problems—like communicating constant changes in business—will most likely occur. However, like Wolever says, it’s the company’s ability to lead through change that is the key to success. “This is a constant in our company,” notes Wolever with pride.

Another challenge Signature faces includes hiring the right kind of employee, a common hardship with companies that are selective like Signature. Rather than hiring a seat-filler, Signature desires to hire the right person, no matter how long the wait. After all, “the work involved with a bad hiring decision, and the cost of that wrong decision, can be very damaging to company culture, morale, and our reputation.”

Years of experience have helped shape this HR star into who she is today; however, Wolever gives accolades to her parents for influencing both her character and values, and to her first HR boss, John Jerke, who taught her the importance of “being a good person to work for and with.”

“My only regret,” adds Wolever, “is not having had a female professional mentor. I spent a good deal of my early career thinking I had to ‘think like a man’ in order to become successful in business. It was quite an epiphany when I learned to appreciate and have confidence in my own unique perspective.”

“I think self-awareness is the most important part of growth,” she continues. “That is the best part of being in my forties—the confidence that comes with experience and the humility of recognizing how much I do not know yet.”

What Wolever does know, however, ranges far and wide. And to eager individuals interested in HR, she offers this advice:
  1. Choose an organization in a business you enjoy and believe in. HR must be tied into the business, or you will operate outside the company’s goals just doing the HR “stuff.”

  2. Choose an organization that values its people as one of its greatest assets and treats them as such.

  3. Seek out mentors, and learn everything you can about your company. HR should be the business of connecting people to find the best and most creative solutions, not controlling who can do what, when, and how. Sadly, there are some HR professionals who have grown disillusioned and bitter with their companies because they do not have a “seat at the proverbial table.” We must all be brave enough to ask ourselves and others why this is. If we are truly offering value, we will be “at the table.”

On the net:Signature Worldwide

The Ohio State University

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