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Fitness club goes digital to recruit new staff quickly

Equinox turns to digital technology from SmartRecruiters to speed up hiring employees

Equinox, a luxury health and fitness club chain, has turned to digital technology to allow it recruit employees quickly, following a period of rapid growth.

The company runs 80 fitness clubs in the US, UK and Canada, and has almost doubled in size over the past year, from 7,000 to 13,000 employees. It expects to expand rapidly in 2016.

Until now Equinox has relied on paper filing systems to manage its recruitment process, but its human resources (HR) team found it challenging to hire the volume of new employees it needed.

Growth in applicants

The company has seen an 80% growth in the number of people applying for jobs after investing in a digital recruitment portal and applicant tracking system.

The number of people visiting the Equinox job site has grown by 40%, and the company is able to cut weeks off the time taken to hire new people, according to Yannick Riveti, senior manager for regional recruitment, east.

The technology, developed by SmartRecruiters, has made it possible for the company to keep track of job candidates more effectively, he said in an interview with Computer Weekly at the HR Tech World conference in Paris.

“Yes we have accurate record-keeping for paper, but when it comes to researching those applications, with documents in a box, it does not matter what the filing system is, it's difficult,” said Riveti.

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The health club chose SmartRecruiters, after evaluating other suppliers, because their startup ethos gelled with Equinox’s own. It also offered the ability to review candidates from phones and tablets.

“Their willingness to develop their platform alongside their customer needs, was very unique. They have a startup mindset in an industry where that is typically not the case. They iterate very quickly and user experience design is critical,” said Riveti.

Creating an organisation of recruiters

Equinox has used the technology to change the way it recruits so that its club managers, rather than the central HR team, are the first port of call for people applying for jobs.

“Now instead of having a team of five specialised recruiters creating a bottleneck, we have created an organisation of recruiters,” said Riveti.

Managers, who are frequently on the move during their jobs, are able to review applications from their mobile phones and tablets. The HR team works jointly with the managers as advisors.

“The recruiters are much more hiring partners – connecting with hiring managers is a much more a bipartisan conversation,” said Riveti.

The system has given the company an overview of the hiring process, giving senior managers daily intelligence on the progress of recruitment.

It has also made life easier for applicants. In the past they would apply for jobs by searching for the location of their nearest health club using Google, and delivering a written CV and covering letter.

Now they can apply online, and club managers can review the application and forward it to another club, if they would be a better fit elsewhere.

“A lot of our clubs are very different and some have different tools for personal trainers that require certification,” said Riveti.

Technology shock

Club managers were keen to take on responsibility for hiring new staff, said Riveti but some had a feeling of “technology shock”.

Equinox ran a training programme to teach managers how to use the new system and how to recruit successfully. “There was a lot of excitement at having a tool that empowers them to manage hiring process,” said Riveti.

The company is beginning to see a return on investment (ROI) on the project, he added. “We have doubled the volume of applications coming in. As our relationship with SmartRecruiters matures, I expect we will see a full ROI in one or two years.”

Next steps

In 2016, the company plans to integrate the SmartRecruiters system into its Human Resource Information System, developed by Ultimate Software, and its Grovo learning management system.

This will eliminate the need to re-type data from one system into another, said Riveti, who advised other companies embarking on similar projects to involve hiring managers at a very early stage. “The user teams should be the ones to assist in the roll-out and the integration,” he said.

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I can see how it can be used to trim down the list of potential employees. Setting the parameters on a application to move the candidate along is where the trick can be. What weight does each application parameter hold? There may be some candidates who lack in your number one or two application parameter but exceeded in all others. Do you drop them for the next phase of recruitment because of this over someone who has those but lacks elsewhere?
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It's not clear to me how the new system is related to the increase in applicants. Is it easier to apply? Is the company more responsive to applicants? How are potential applicants finding out?
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@Sharon - Your questions are spot on. The increase in applicants is due to a single-click application process, job ads that are better placed and found, and a system that makes it easy for the company to be more responsive to candidates.
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