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Foot Locker to roll out ‘best fit’ recruitment software after productivity hike

Sports retailer to adopt online software to identify best job candidates after its use led to double-digit rise in team performance in US stores

Sports retailer Foot Locker, which has 3,000 stores worldwide, is gearing up to use analytics technology to identify the best candidates applying for jobs.

The retailer, which specialises in sports shoes and clothing, claims that the software, known as Talent Science, has led to “double-digit” percentage growth in its US workforce’s performance.

The $7bn-turnover company is considering plans to roll the technology out to its first non-US stores within the next 12 months – a move it claims will give it an edge over its rivals.

“We have rolled out completely within the US, and we are looking at how this will impact our international sectors,” said Alexis Trigo, director of store capability.

The company, which operates in more than 20 countries, has cut the time it takes to recruit new staff in its US stores by replacing paper CVs with a web-based application form.

It has worked with a team of psychologists to design an on-line questionnaire that identifies candidates who show the “best fit” for its US outlets, from the 1.5 million job applications it receives in the US each year.

The software is claimed to measure 39 behavioural, cognitive and cultural traits of candidates, which it compares to “ideal” candidates for each role.

Trigo told Computer Weekly the project had led to “double-digit” increases in team performance in its US stores, and meant employees were more likely to stay with the organisation for the long term.

“We want to make sure that the people joining us are the right fit for us and that we are the right fit for them,” he said. “Ultimately, it impacts on customer experience.”

Psychologists have the capability to adapt the questionnaire for cultural differences in different global regions.

The software has helped store managers identify candidates who are more likely to work well with their existing teams, said Trigo.

“When a new member does join, those individuals behaviourally are a closer fit,” he said. “They are actually ramping up a lot faster than those that have come through without the tool.”

Store managers have more time

The software has freed up store managers from the time-consuming task of reviewing CVs, allowing them to spend more time on improving customer service.

“Hiring is a non-productive task,” said Trigo. “Their focus should be on the sales floor, developing their team and ensuring the store is operating the way it is supposed to be.”

Foot Locker began introducing on-line assessments for job hunters in the US six years ago to make it easier to manage the large volume of paper CVs that job hunters were handing in to its store managers.

The retailer looked at 10 software suppliers before choosing technology from cloud supplier Infor after a four-month tender process.

Trigo said the technology appealed to Foot Locker because it allowed the company to use the same on-line questionnaire for all the jobs in the organisation. The technology was also easily scalable.

Trial proved value of online assessments

The company conducted an 18-month trial of the software in 600 stores in the US during 2011 and 2012, before making a final decision.

The results showed that teams in the stores that used the software became more productive, and retained their employees for longer compared to those that did not take part in the trial.

“The recruits were better fits,” said Trigo. “They were enjoying their work and they really liked the people they worked with.”

Each person applying for a job with Foot Locker in the US spends 20 minutes completing 200 online questions. The system gives candidates a score of between 1 and 100, with 100 being an ideal fit.

Managers can log in to view a summary of the software’s recommendations and find the most promising candidates when they need to recruit.

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Rather than looking at 10 CVs each day, a typical store manager now needs to review only five to select candidates for interview.

The system not only tells managers whether candidates are suitable for a current opening in the store, but whether they are likely to be suitable for promotion once they join.

Managers inundated with paper CVs

Previously, Foot Locker relied on its store managers to assess hundreds of papers CVs that were handed in by job hunters.

With 1.5 million candidates applying for jobs with the retailer in the US alone, store managers were spending too much time away from their real work, said Trigo.

It was a challenge to persuade staff to take on a new piece of software on top of all the other tasks they needed to do in a store, he said.

“We had to convince our internal team that we are going to put in something that is actually going to have a return. It is going to be a layer that will eliminate other layers.”

But store managers liked the tool, and started recommending it to other store managers, helping to spread it throughout the organisation.

Foot Locker will not discuss the financial benefits of Talent Science because it doesn’t want to give too much information away to its competitors, said Trigo.

“We believe this has helped us find better-fit candidates who are assimilating better into our environment, hitting targets, and are already in line for top performance,” he said.

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