Nichole Fletcher’s introduction to working in customer service was borne from necessity. “After high school, I was looking for a flexible job that paid more than minimum wage and would work with my schedule,” she recalls.
A friend thought Fletcher would enjoy helping CVS Health customers on the phone, and despite not having any experience in either customer service or healthcare, the company took a chance on her. “At the time, I didn’t view this as a long-term career,” she says.
Fourteen years later, Fletcher has moved beyond her initial role as a customer care representative, first taking the “really, really” escalated calls before pivoting to the HR business partner team, where she’s currently a senior advisor.
“Gaining the valuable experience in assisting escalated member situations helped me prepare for a leadership role,” she says.
Here, Fletcher shares why CVS Health is a great place for internal mobility, what she loves about working in HR, and how candidates at CVS can stand out.
How did you know that CVS Health would be a good fit?
I immediately knew CVS was a good fit based on a couple of factors. All of my coworkers were so helpful and really modeled the company values. I know there are organizations where the company values are just words on a paper, but that’s not the case at CVS. They are a true part of our culture here. We are all here to help. We are all here to join forces for the greater good. We put our people first.
That became obvious to me even from the very first day in orientation. Working in customer care isn’t easy. Empathy, active listening, and understanding healthcare are all essential parts of helping every member. Early on when I was overwhelmed with trying to learn medication names and all things related to the different RX plans, there was always someone ready and willing to help. Over the course of the last 14 years while at CVS, that has been the one constant.
In what ways did the company help and encourage you to learn and grow?
In the beginning it was my immediate leaders, trainers, and peers that helped push me on my path forward. There were many people who encouraged me to apply for the next role. Having one-on-one conversations with my managers regarding my own growth and development was always a priority. I participated in our tuition reimbursement program, was able to work flexible schedules for school, and had true leaders and mentors there cheering me on every step of the way.
While in my customer service leadership role, I expressed interest in HR to my immediate manager. I was given the opportunity to participate in an interim stretch role in HR. I loved it and when an opening came available, I jumped to apply. I have now been in the HR business partner role for almost three years.
How is your internal mobility emblematic of the culture at CVS Health?
Working for an organization with 300,000 colleagues means there is no shortage of opportunities for growth and career change internally. We are great at promoting from within and providing colleagues with stretch roles and interim assignments.. The ability to try other roles, support different business units, or make a leap from operations to HR are all possibilities here. Developing talent and having strong bench strength is top of mind for our leadership team. The ability to learn about different divisions through our mentoring programs, colleague resource groups, and stretch assignments create a culture that is supportive of true internal mobility and growth.
What are you responsible for in your role as a human resource business partner?
I support roughly 1,700 customer care colleagues within the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) division of CVS across the Southeast. I am based out of Knoxville, TN, where we have one of our main hubs. I also support all of customer care hiring to prepare for our busiest time of year known as “welcome season,” which starts in early November. I support all of our sites as we hire, train, and retain new colleagues in preparation for open enrollment and new benefit plans starting over.
What do you like best about working in HR?
My favorite thing about working in HR is the impact we have on others. Helping people, lifting them up, advocating for them, having difficult conversations, and holding them accountable are all things that wake me up every day. People rarely come to HR when things are rainbows and sunshine, so being a true problem solver and thought partner for the business excites me. I see a shift in society starting to be more people-focused after COVID and that really excites me, too. Data and numbers are important, but at the end of the day the people are driving those stats. The people should always be our focus. How do we help them be the best version of themselves? That is a question I ask myself every day.
What do you look for in candidates applying for positions at CVS Health?
Not to sound cliché, but I always go back to our core company values when interviewing candidates and assisting leaders in making hiring decisions. Yes, experience and education are important, but is this person willing to put people first? Are they collaborative and willing to join forces? Do they shy away from challenges or face them head on? Do they embody integrity?
Some of these things can be viewed as teachable soft skills, but in today’s world they are essential for success, in any field. For member-facing customer service roles, we are looking for candidates who are empathetic and have the ability to put themselves in our members’ shoes. People reach out to us for help, and we are looking for those who are able to rise to the challenge.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“You are always on your next interview” when interacting with others. This phrase came about as I was accepting a job offer. The hiring manager told me that while I did interview well and was their top pick for the role, it was all of the interactions we had prior to the interview that stuck out to them.
You never know what opportunities are going to cross your path. You never know what roles people will move into. You never know who your new boss could be. Treating everyone with respect and compassion is something I strive to do. By treating each interaction as though it could be my next interview, I have been able to have a long and meaningful career at CVS.