How We Built Talent Acquisition From the Ground Up: 5 Steps

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Jan 26, 2017
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

No job is perfect. However, once in a lifetime a job comes around that has everything you could ever desire.

I had the opportunity to step into a role that would be considered the holy grail for many in the TA space. The opportunity was to completely build a talent acquisition organization from the ground up for a $4 Billion, 50-year-old, publicly traded company. The stars aligned to have an established organization, with a decent budget, and a real need for transformation. The opportunity was too great to pass up.

This company, a specialty retailer, had over 5,000 stores and multiple warehouses in multiple countries. While the company was successful, the TA organization was not providing the support, strategy, technology, or capability to find and hire the best employees. Because it was in the retail industry, the turnover was extremely high and the TA organization provided zero support for any of the stores. The stores are the lifeblood of any retail organization. Without a standard recruiting process and tools the stores would continue to rely on walk-ins or craigslist to get its resumes. Of course, each store manager was left to their own devices so the hiring was hit or miss. Mostly it was a miss.

Warehouses were in the same situation, with the hope and prayer someone would see the little “hiring now” sign out in front of the warehouse. The only place that was getting any support was the corporate office. Even then the standard recruiting challenges plagued the small team … hiring the wrong type of employee, taking too long to hire, no visibility in total number of requisitions or where they were in the pipeline. There was limited use of a national recruiting site for corporate, and corporate was using an online ATS. As you can imagine, no one knew if the recruiting site worked or not. There was not employer branding, so potential candidates had no understanding of what the company offered. The corporate career site was antiquated and not particularly attractive.

On the surface, most TA professionals would probably not touch the situation with a 10-foot pole. However, the CHRO wanted talent acquisition to be transformed and would gave a blank canvas to completely design it the way it should be. What an opportunity to try new technology and ideas. I was not being hindered by the way it was, because no one liked the way it was … no one in the company, not even the folks in TA. So a once in a lifetime opportunity opened up. What to do?

Now, I didn’t have an unlimited budget, so I could not go completely wild. I needed to build out a strategy first and then a roadmap that would get us to the end state. While I created a long-term strategy, I ultimately simplified it to five critical steps that would build out the foundation and get the organization on track to be highly effective for the company.

Step 1: Build Employee Value Proposition

This step was important for us because we didn’t really know what was special or unique about the organization. It took a while for us to figure out our secret sauce, but once we did, it became a powerful tool that permeated the rest of the TA buildout.

Step 2: Select and implement an ATS that supports every role in the company

We needed a cost effective solution for managing and tracking our jobs and applicants. We wanted it to be easy to use for the candidate and push the boundaries on what we really necessary. The ATS landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years, so it took a while to figure out what was right for us. The key was a tool that would not require the candidate to spend hours filling out information that was not necessary until they got to the offer stage. Simplicity and efficiency was key for us. It needed to also be so easy, the candidate could apply from their phone.

Step 3: Get our message to where the candidate are

While craiglist is good for buying and selling stuff, it is not ideal for finding qualified candidates. So we decided to make sure we were on the top five recruiting sites. Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn, Career Builder, and Glassdoor were selected to make sure we had the broadest coverage possible. Our plan was to pilot each of these, concurrently, and select the ones who had the best ROI.

Step 4: Build a career portal that engaged the candidates

Research suggests someone spends 5-7 seconds on a site to make a determination if they want to learn more. So we decided to completely redesign our career website and incorporated our EVP.

Step 5: Try out cool new technology

We were open to trying a number of new ways to find and attract the candidates. We used Twitter and Facebook Ads. We used Text to Join so the candidate could text us their info and get the link to the job directly to their phone. We also explored virtual interviewing technology and pre-hire culture fit surveys using gamification technology. The key was to pilot different items in short three to four month trials to see what worked.

After implementing these five steps in about a nine-month time frame, we found the following benefits.

  • Reduction of time to hire: We went from 90 days average to closer to 45 days.
  • Reduction of employee turnover with better employer branding: We went from 100 percent turnover to closer to the industry average of 78 percent
  • Cost reduction: We were spending a lot of money on agencies and other sources which were not providing the quality of candidate. By taking the steps above, we were able to find better candidates who fit our culture. It reduced our reliance on outside agencies and increased our ability to attract and hire the right candidates.

It was a great opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper and build out a TA organization the way we are told it should be. Every organization is different; take the pieces that will solve your organization’s issues. There are certainly items I would do again and some I would stay away from. However, overall the results were better than expected and the adventure was extremely satisfying.

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
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