With nearly 2,000 team members working through its office here, Clayton Homes is one of Blount County’s largest employers.
“This is the nerve center of a lot of things that go on at Clayton,” explained Bryan Hayes, director of technology and corporate people operations. Nationwide the company employs almost 18,300.
A nearly 48,000-square foot addition to the Alcoa campus is designed to better handle growth the company has seen over the past seven years. Some employees work remotely, and just finding space for a meeting can be a challenge.
“Part of what we wanted to do was ensure that our people have comfortable spaces to collaborate,” Hayes explained.
Working well in teams is one of the characteristics Clayton looks for in hiring, along with the ability to communicate. Overall, Hayes said, the company looks for a “servant leader attitude.”
“We want people that are really customer focused,” he said. “When we talk about wanting to open doors to a better life for people, that’s our drive. We want people who are driven to serve other people. The way we serve people, among other ways, is helping them get into better homes.”
“So whether it’s building them, selling them, financing them, insuring them, we want people that want to help other people,” Hayes said.
Clayton also is dedicated to providing opportunities for its team members.
“Particularly in Vanderbilt (Mortgage and Finance), but in all parts of the company, we enjoy getting people that are towards the beginning of their career and bringing them in positions and helping them grow and watching them find their way as they figure out what they really enjoy the most as they enter an office atmosphere,” he explained.
The jobs at Clayton range from creative to highly technical.
Of course there are business and finance jobs, but information technology also is important to Clayton. The needs range from data analysts to cybersecurity to developers, including people who are good with customer-facing technology.
“We need people that can take all these complicated things and make them really feel good for our customers,” Hayes said.
Working with educators
Through the Blount Chamber, Clayton is one of the businesses that have worked with educators from the high school through postsecondary level to ensure the county develops its workforce.
“As fast as technology moves, if you blink you’re teaching classes that may not be as relevant as they were two or three years ago, or even six months ago,” Hayes noted.
So Clayton and the other employers talk about what classes the educators may want to offer, even which programming languages are growing in demand.
The Vanderbilt division hosts high school students who come in to job shadow and participate in mock interviews, and at the college level the company offers paid internships.
Clayton sees its role not only in building the workforce but also giving back to the community.
Last summer Clayton and the Clayton Foundation each pledged $250,000 toward the $16.5 million Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center, scheduled to open next fall on the Friendsville campus of Pellissippi State Community College.
“As we continue to evolve and grow and develop and try to be a leader in an industry, that goes along with developing the next generation that we’re going to need, but also building that brand of who we want to be as well,” Hayes said.
Clayton’s Guiding Principles start with passion for being the best housing company. Second is: “Our strength is our people … we attract those who make us better.”
With today’s low unemployment rate, Hayes noted, “right now it’s an employee’s market.”
When attracting workers, he said, “because of who we are and who we aspire to be, it’s not all about the money.
“If it’s all about the money, then who you’re attracting is all about the money. Then as soon as someone else offers them a little bit more, they’re gone,” he said. “We want people that are dedicated to what we do.”
Clayton also offers a range of benefits, from parental leave to an onsite bistro and a gym that looks more like a spa, with yoga, barre classes and meditation.
“We’re trying to do those things that make sense for our workforce and not only build a better life for our customers but build a better life for our team members,” Hayes said. Not only is it the right thing to do, he said, “happy, content people give better service and are more pleasant to be around. Our customers will pick up on that.”
That also leads to longevity. Hayes has been with the company for 15 years and said he still feels like a newcomer. “We’ve got some really sharp people that could go anywhere, and they choose to be here.”
His career path has included being an English teacher and a lawyer. Like many Clayton employees, first his family decided to live in East Tennessee, and then he researched the best places to work.
He encourages others to be open in their career paths. “Don’t paint yourself into a corner,” he said. “Be open to changing direction when an opportunity arises.”
Whatever the person’s career interests, he said, “There’s tons of opportunity if you’re willing to work hard, treat people the right way and be honest.”