New recipes for self-sourcing

by 19 Aug 2008

When competition for talent is fierce and quality candidates are not knocking down your door, what can be done? Teresa Russell talks with two organisations that have used innovative low- and hi-tech sourcing strategies to solve their recruitment woes

There’s been lots of talk about the war for talent. It certainly is tough if you are still doing the same things now [in recruitment] that you were five years ago,” says Amanda Wilson, national recruitment manager at Salmat. “Now it’s all about: ‘What can I do for that candidate to make me appeal to him or her?’”.

With in excess of 7000 employees, Wilson says the organisation recruits about 330 new people each month, many for short-term projects. The company operates a communications business, providing targeted advertising and media via online and letterbox channels. About 5000 of its staff are employed in its Salesforce business, an outsourced call centre service provider.

“People don’t bring up their children hoping they will aspire to work in retail,” says Kay Hammond, national human resources manager at Estee Lauder Companies, where about 30 to 50 new employees are recruited each month. The company has about 2000 people in Australia, many of who are employed via association with retail partners.

Estee Lauder Companies is an international leader in the marketing of skincare, colour cosmetics, haircare and fragrance, with diverse brands including Estee Lauder, Clinique, M.A.C, Bobbi Brown and Aramis, to name a few.

The company has experienced strong growth in the last 18 months, thanks to the introduction of new brands and organic growth in existing ones.

New e-recruitment technology

Salmat and Estee Lauder each introduced PageUp’s e-recruitment system in 2005 and 2006 respectively. This technology was the catalyst for changing sourcing strategies. Prior to that, Wilson says Salmat used to use the “volcano recruitment system”. “We would marvel at this massive pile of paper CVs and would just know that we’d never get through all of them and call the people,” she admits.

Hammond says that Estee Lauder used to get a lot of unsolicited applications. “Someone might drop their CV into the Clinique counter in a department store in Maroochydore. Once we received the CV, we’d send them an application form and decide which of our 50 field managers might have a position in their territory,” she says.

With the introduction of the PageUp system, all recruitment traffic was directed online and both the recruitment processes and philosophies changed at both companies.

SalesForce changed its process from using selection criteria based on specific industry experience to having a three-part interview assessment process that determines skills and aptitude. The company started developing a home-based pool of recruiters who now do the initial telephone screening of all applicants. In the last 12 months, Wilson says her 12 in-house recruiters have been targeting the passive job market.

Hammond was able to introduce specific qualifier questions for specific roles. She says it was like including a mini interview on application. “We also knew there was a lot of quality in the unsolicited job market, so we used the system to build a candidate pool and allow applicants to register their interest for specific roles, should they become available,” she says. Estee Lauder has not recruited outside its website for well in excess of the last 18 months.

Sourcing initiatives

“Most ideas are not new ideas.,” says Wilson. “You need to listen, look at what others are doing and decide what applies to you.” She no longer advertises in metropolitan newspapers, because they are cost prohibitive.

Salmat’s recruiters focus efforts on online sources. They have succeeded using Hippo, a job board with full-time, part-time and casual roles that appeals to Gen-Y and have also had great success with Link-Me and Linked-In for higher-end roles. People post their CVs against their profile and prospective employers can perform keyword searches to locate appropriate talent.

Salmat has built a one-page corporate profile on FaceBook and YouTube using a video to provide insight into what it is like to work for the company, including the culture, environmental initiatives, charities it supports and career opportunities.

Another video had a manager describing a specific position, the department a new employee would be working in and the sort of person he was looking for. Wilson says that this approach is good for jobs that are unique, where volume is not required.

They have started advertising on FaceBook and are able to target potential candidates by location, age range, gender (not used) and university attended. They send an ad to all those fitting their profile and then “pay per click” for those who choose to be directed to Salmat’s career site. For those readers who think this borders on invasion of privacy, Wilson counters that Gen-X and Gen-Y “just love being contacted”.

Print media has not been completely abandoned and is in fact preferred for regional recruitment. A recent full-colour ad in the Geelong Advertiser profiled a staff member who had been working there for 12 months. “This ad surpassed Seek in the number of applications we received and resulted in complaints from other local businesses who felt it was unfair advertising, so future ad runs have said: ‘This is paid employment’ in fine print,” says Wilson.

Everyone at Estee Lauder who has a FaceBook page now has a “Come Work With Me” icon directing people to its careers website. The company has also purchased an alumni module to stay in touch with employees they are very sorry to lose.

“About 10 per cent of our people are ‘boomerang employees’,” says Hammond. “They are the best advertisement for a company. Gen-X and Gen-Y often come back at the next level up.”

Some low-tech strategies have also worked well for Estee Lauder. A $1000 employee referral bonus paid in two parts has been operating well. Another successful initiative involved printing business cards with all the brands on one side and the words: “Looking for an opportunity? Apply online,” on the other.

These were dropped into shopping bags of all customers in an area where a recruitment need existed.

Hammond says the company’s field managers are particularly innovative, citing the example of one manager who successfully recruited a whole new team by setting up a small table in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall one Saturday morning. She had two laptops, one with information about the new brand and the other with internet access so people could immediately apply directly online.

Return on investment

Recruitment is one area where ROI and effectiveness is readily calculated. Wilson says that Salmat’s average cost of agency placements is commercial-in-confidence, but the current average cost per hire using the new sourcing strategies has realised almost 90 per cent savings on previous agency placement fees.

The recruitment team has also taken up a more consultative role within the business, now managing the 30, 60 and 90-day reviews with new employees. This consultation has allowed them to alter their strategies according to feedback, making the recruitment process more efficient. Salmat’s retention rates have also been increasing since this new process began.

“These new strategies have also allowed us to sell our brand and build a talent pool, which is incredibly cost-effective,” adds Wilson.

Hammond tracks time-to-fill and compares her current sourcing strategies to the past costs of using headhunters and newspaper advertisements. “If we can fill a retail job via our website in such a competitive market, we’re a long way in front,” she says, citing a recent example of hiring a brand general manager via SEEK Executive through to Estee Lauder’s career website.

“We are the first country in the Estee Lauder world to have a website dedicated to recruitment. Our new international VP HR has now seen it and I believe it will be rolled out around the world,” says Hammond, who is justifiably proud of her team’s role in being world leaders in HR best practice.