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July 2024
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Matching Missions

An online club and its corporate sponsor mirror one another’s core values.

By Stephanie Darling

Group of people on Zoom meeting including avatars

What better place to charter a corporate Toastmasters club than within a company that champions employee growth in its mission statement?

That logic, and the pandemic, led to the launch of the online Qualfon Toastmasters club, supported by Qualfon, a global business process outsourcing provider. The company is passionate about nurturing employee growth as a workforce investment, reasoning that superior employees deliver superior client service. Qualfon even has a mission office that supports various employee enrichment programs, including the Toastmasters club.

Marisol Sanchez, a Toastmaster since 2019 and a former Qualfon employee, was the founding President of the Qualfon club, which chartered in 2021 during the COVID pandemic crisis. As many of the company’s 15,000 employees began transitioning from in-office to remote work, she saw the club as an ideal way to help employees nourish existing connections, make new ones, and continue to achieve the personal and professional growth advocated by the company.

Not surprisingly, Qualfon leadership quickly signed on to fund and support the club.

“Toastmasters’ mission seamlessly aligns with Qualfon’s core values,” says retired executive Mike Marrow, who was the chief executive officer when the club formed, and still sits on the company’s advisory board. Qualfon prioritizes its employees’ “continuous improvement,” just as Toastmasters does through ongoing speaking and leadership training, he noted.

The Qualfon club was not only a mission match but a much-needed connection to colleagues isolated by the pandemic, says Christie Connel, the club’s Vice President Public Relations. The club has allowed her to maintain longstanding relationships, along with the opportunity to meet a cadre of new, intriguing co-workers.

“In one meeting I went from feeling isolated to making connections with colleagues from around the world,” she says. “It really made a difference in my outlook and gave me something fun and exciting to look forward to.”

“What we learn by exchanging cultures, accents, rituals, knowledge, and friendship is incredible.”

–Anand Nagare

Sanchez agrees. “In a diverse company like Qualfon, it isn’t always feasible for employees who work on different projects or lines of business to get to know each other, especially when so many are working remote.” The club is a bridge across those kinds of disconnects.

Club President Anand Nagare adds that the club thrives on its diversity.

“We have members from the U.S., India, Philippines, Guyana, Mexico, and Columbia, and from every segment of the business, including supervisors and directors. What we learn by exchanging cultures, accents, rituals, knowledge, and friendship is incredible.”

Connel agrees that the free-flowing cultural exchange, especially when it comes to language, is a hallmark of the club and a benefit to everyone, regardless of where they’re located or the nature of their Qualfon work.

“English is not the first language for some of our members, so club meetings let everyone practice their speaking skills and listen to native English speakers,” she explains.

Three years after chartering, the Qualfon club has 31 members. In that time, it has earned Select Distinguished and President’s Distinguished Club status, and is on track to earn President’s Distinguished status again for 2023–2024.

Nagare is just one example of a member who embraced the Qualfon club’s can-do culture. He jokes that he had to Google Toastmasters, as he’d never heard of it before joining. Once he realized what membership offered, especially since English isn’t his first language, he “grabbed the opportunity with both hands.” In his first year of membership, he won the Division level of the International Speech Contest, became Club President, and was invited to speak at Qualfon’s annual leadership meeting.

Nagare and his officer team have created a club culture that values both fun and fundamentals. He kicks off meetings on a light note, with tongue twisters, silly riddles, and other fun activities that quickly engage attendees. Prepared speeches and practicing functionary meeting roles simply elevate the experience. The bottom line: Everyone grows from club meetings.

“For every five-minute speech we give, we spend 10 times more listening to others’ stories and encouraging one another,” Connel says. “And everyone leaves the meetings smiling.”

Qualfon’s management seems to be smiling, too. Current CEO Doug Kearney says, “Toastmasters has been a powerful addition to the programs we offer to help our employees learn and grow.”


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