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Foot Locker improves its candidate experience and hiring

Foot Locker has upgraded its talent management systems to improve its candidate experience, automate some functions and sharpen its hiring process with data.

Foot Locker gets about 3 million job applications a year and hires 200 people a day, so the firm wanted to simplify its applicant tracking system and establish a single platform for all its stores globally. It also set the goal of automating HR processes, improving its mobile experience -- particularly for younger applicants -- and making better use of corporate data.

The changes, which have delivered some cost reductions and hiring improvements, are being spearheaded by Robert Perkins, VP of global talent management at the footwear retailer. The work began less than three years ago on what may be a four- to five-year project.

Candidates and internal employees "want the same automation and capability that they get in their personal lives," Perkins said at the recent HR Technology Conference & Expo and in an interview. This included making the candidate experience personalized and transparent. The firm is using iCIMS, a talent platform acquisition vendor, for its talent management upgrade.

Foot Locker gives job candidates visibility

For candidates, this new approach meant providing visibility into the recruiting process. For example, if the retailer doesn't have an immediate position available for someone it is interested in someday hiring, the company will tell the candidate, "Hey, we love you; don't lose interest," Perkins said. "That's made a huge difference in terms of the candidate experience."

The previous talent management system wasn't fully automated, but Perkins said the new applicant tracking system (ATS) was costlier than his existing system. Quick wins were needed to prove the ROI to the business leadership, he said. Foot Locker is an $8 billion firm.

This goal was accomplished by automating candidate systems, ending the need to enter data from PeopleSoft into the ATS. This automation reduced administrative time on this process by more than half, Perkins said. Another new benefit was electronic onboarding, which decreased the time needed to get a new hire to work. New hires now have access to all the necessary employment forms prior to their start date. There is also access to training videos, Perkins said.

The retailer also has made it easier and inviting for candidates to apply on smartphones, something that wasn't easy to do previously. "Our candidates can go through an entire application now on a mobile device," Perkins said.

Behavioral assessments deliver results

Another upgrade to its talent management system involved the use of Infor Talent Science, an employee assessment platform. This is a predictive analytics platform used to help hire and promote employees. In Foot Locker's case, the predictive analysis was built on the profiles of existing store associates. Data was assembled from some 40 competency categories, including sales per hour. Foot Locker used this data to create a custom profile for store employees.

If I like Foot Locker, I like shopping there, I liked sneakers -- that's the type of person that Foot Locker wants applying for the job.
Trevor WhiteAnalyst, Nucleus Research

Foot Locker then did a nine-month pilot at a group of control stores. It compared the results of new hires, who were selected with the help of the analytics tools, against another group that did not use the this assessment. The stores that utilized the tool had a more than 30% increase in sales per hour and an equal percentage decline in turnover, Perkins said.

Candidate experience is a critical consideration

There is a general trend to provide a good candidate experience in onboarding to try to increase employee involvement before they start, said Trevor White, analyst at Nucleus Research. The goal is: "You're not starting from zero," White said. "You already know who your co-workers are, who your manager is, what's expected of you."

Employers want a good candidate experience because many applicants are also customers, White said.

Employers want to hire people who enjoy a firm's product. "If I like Foot Locker, I like shopping there, I liked sneakers -- that's the type of person that Foot Locker wants applying for the job," White said. They can find those people either through their experience or with the help of personality assessments, he said.

Studies have found that employers can cut turnover rate with a good candidate experience because they get prospects "that fit better for them," White said.

Observers generally have noted that, in cases such as Foot Locker's, people who are rejected for jobs but have a positive candidate experience during the application process may still think highly of the company.

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