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Inward, Outward, Forward

Associates at VF Corporation’s world headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., have the best of both worlds: the fast-paced, challenging career opportunities that come with working for a Fortune 500 company, and a friendly, nurturing corporate culture that celebrates ingenuity and innovation.

“Everybody wants to find that balance,” says Ron Lawrence, vice president of Organization Development at VF Corporation. “Here, our associates’ contributions are appreciated, and they can have a real career where they can grow beyond the job they were hired to do.”

Lawrence describes VF as “opportunity-rich.” The world’s largest apparel company, whose portfolio includes outdoor companies such as The North Face® and Timberland®, along with contemporary, fashion-forward brands like Splendid® and 7 for all Mankind®, employs more than 52,000 employees on six continents. VF Corporation’s jobs range from design, marketing and communications positions to functional roles such as finance, logistics and supply-chain management.

Looking Inside: Home Sweet Home Ask any employee in VF’s Greensboro-based offices what makes working for VF Corporation so appealing, and you’ll find that the opportunity to build one’s career at a Fortune 500 company is only half the story. The other half is the city itself.

Lawrence, who has logged many hours in major metropolitan areas, such as Hong Kong and Washington, D.C., believes Greensboro’s intimacy and affordable lifestyle is one of the greatest draws for potential candidates.

“When I talk about the community, I talk about Greensboro’s quality of life and what you can have for the cost of living in terms of housing,” Lawrence says. “Greensboro is a beautiful city. It’s safe and fun, genuinely kind and as welcoming as anywhere in the country. This is a great place to raise a family.”

Guilford County Schools is the third-largest K-12 school district in the state, with more than 120 schools, including magnet schools and an International Baccalaureate program. Seven colleges and universities infuse the city with young, highly educated adults. And when it comes to outdoor activities, Greensboro lives up to its name – miles of winding trails and greenways connecting the city’s parks and neighborhoods welcome walkers and bikers.

Fran Mellette, director of Human Resources for Jeanswear North America and the company’s Wrangler® brand, adds that VF has much to offer potential recruits in the apparel business. “Because the company is so big and there are opportunities across our different brands, we can attract high talent because we’re poised to move our associates as they grow within their careers,” she says.

More than one VF entity hangs its hat in Greensboro. The company’s Jeanswear coalition, which employs 900 associates in its downtown building, is three miles from world headquarters and nestled in a hotspot for restaurants, museums and local theaters.

“It’s convenient and nice to be in the center of the city,” Mellette says. “There are great restaurants within walking distance, and when downtown events like First Fridays take place after work, they’re easy to get to. From the top floor of our office, you can even watch the Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball games.”

Where Function Meets Design To create world-class apparel, form and function must harmonize, Lawrence says. “With our products, it’s not just the functional utility that matters. There’s a fashion and style component, an art and beauty element.”

According to Lawrence, the opportunity to collaborate with talented colleagues who appreciate both the art and science involved cultivates a stimulating work environment for VF employees. “Our employees are passionate, good listeners who understand what our consumers want and value,” he says. “We have some of the most creative minds in the industry, but they also come to the table with data-driven insights.”

Working alongside creative professionals, associates solve innovative challenges, from the design of fabrics that wick away moisture, to the logistics of efficiently transporting products across the globe. “Every seven or eight seconds, a VF product is sold somewhere around the world,” Lawrence says. “That requires a highly diversified global supply chain.”

Like Lawrence, Mellette enjoys working with VF’s diverse group of motivated individuals. And the best part, she adds: “VF has an extremely high-performing workforce, but at the same time celebrates informality with a casual environment where associates are encouraged to wear jeans and take time to socialize with their peers.”

VF’s relaxed culture contributes to its sense of community and family, adds Lawrence. “We have a very low attrition; people come to VF and they stay. You can have a good career here, be well-paid and do interesting work.”

Lawrence says the corporation respects what makes each brand unique and appealing to the consumer and reflects those values in the brands’ individual work environments. VF brand diversity opens the door to nearly any personality type, because, as Lawrence points out, VF associates often embody the lifestyle of the brands they represent.

“Our employees are enthusiastic about their work because they are invited to follow their passions,” Lawrence says. “Our Reef® brand is actually managed by surfers and outdoor enthusiasts who are committed to improving the natural world work for The North Face®. Designers who love high-fashion can create products for 7 For All Mankind®, Lucy® and Splendid®.”

Looking Out: Community Giving VF cultivates a deep appreciation for its vision and values, and one of those is looking outward and giving back to the community – emphasizing its associates’ roles as good civic stewards.

“There are lots of opportunities to volunteer in Greensboro,” says David Andress, director of Human Resource Administration. “We are very engaged in the United Way campaign each year and we partner with Habitat for Humanity, both as a builder and a sponsor. We also sponsor a large team at Tanglewood’s annual National MS Society bike ride. And that’s just to name a few of our community-based pursuits.”

While the company nurtures relationships with multiple community organizations offering volunteer opportunities, VF also encourages associates to follow their own passions. At the company’s annual VF Day breakfast, the top 100 employees who have logged the most volunteer hours are honored with a $1,000 donation to the organization of their choice.

“Last year, our associates registered more than 27,000 hours of community service,” Andress says. Since the VF 100 program began in 2005, associates have volunteered 187,000 total hours in their communities, and the VF Foundation has donated $700,000 to non-profit organizations across the world.

Looking Ahead: A Sustainable Future, Together At VF, camaraderie is essential to sustainable business development, and events such as ice cream socials are commonplace.

“When you’re working at your desk, it’s easy to put your head down and not get out of your department,” Andress says. “But it’s important to develop a network within the company because what you’re doing in your role always has an impact on what other people are trying to accomplish in their areas.”

Providing associates with a rich social network is so important that a committee reaches out to new employees after their first few months to get feedback on how their work is going, how their experience has been thus far, what the company can do to take their experiences to the next level or to make new employees feel more welcome in the future.

Hiring a talented staff and then working to foster a culture of innovation is just the beginning of achieving VF’s goal of shaping the future of apparel. But keeping that workforce committed and engaged means listening to associates’ feedback on a regular basis.

“Every 18 months, we send out a worldwide engagement survey,” Andress says. “We compile results and report back at a corporate and brand level.”

By understanding what employees like about working at VF, the company can make each associate’s work experience better.

“We want to be competitive, not just with competitive wages, but other factors as well,” Andress says. “We want to be sure people feel like they have a good relationship with their supervisor and with management. We want people to feel like their ideas are being utilized when they’re offered. And we want our associates to know that they have a clear path for growing their career within VF.”

For potential VF job candidates, the opportunity to contribute to a Fortune 500 company that looks within to take care of its employees; around to give back to its community; and forward to ensure a profitable and sustainable future is even more enticing when that company is growing quickly and showing no signs of slowing down.

“VF has a history of fast-paced growth and is always looking forward for new acquisitions and opportunities,” Andress says. “The last eight-to-10 years have been the most exciting time of my career. And you see the excitement and hear the passion of fellow associates who have been involved in helping us to grow. We’re going to continue to grow and move at that pace. Our story speaks for itself.”

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