Unearthing diamonds in a tough recruitment market

Much like buying a diamond ring, recruiting for the jewellery trade is not a
black and white affair. You need individuals with top-notch people skills who
can quickly build a relationship with customers, since every person who steps
into the shop could potentially make an ’emotional’ purchase.

Signet Group employs more than 6,000 staff across its well-known brands,
Ernest Jones, H Samuel and Leslie Davis. Like many retailers, staff retention
has been a problem for the organisation and the sector is known for its high
staff ‘churn’ rates. Added to that, competition for candidates among retailers
is fierce, and a high-street presence and popular consumer brand name is not
always enough to attract the best people.

Signet knew it needed to raise its profile if it was to stand out and
introduced an HR strategy under the banner, ‘Employing and Developing the

"We tried to pull all of the elements together from the beginning, so
as well as improving recruitment methods, we made sure we were offering the career
path that recruits would need," says Sheena Macdonald, resourcing manager
at Signet.

On the recruitment front, one of the first decisions it made was to
implement online recruitment technology from PeopleBank (part of Workthing) – a
provider of recruitment management systems and corporate career portals.

Following research, Signet identified key criteria that should be
incorporated into the hiring process, including above-average rapport-building
skills, which are necessary for a sales environment where each transaction is
deemed an emotional purchase. Candidates also needed to be comfortable working
within tight security and procedural constraints, due to working with
high-value goods.

PeopleBank designed corporate career sites for the three brands. Each now
acts as the hub for recruitment and screening and an online advertising
strategy was launched to drive jobseekers directly to the sites. Print, and
even store window advertisements, also encourage candidates to apply for jobs

At the same time, Signet reviewed its store roles and created new candidate
profiles. With the help of business psychologists Kaisen Consulting, a
motivation questionnaire was compiled, designed to ‘screen out’ rather than
‘select in’.

Called ‘Are we right for you?’, it looks for a match between the candidate’s
motivations and Signet’s working environment. It is now embedded within
PeopleBank technology, forming a seamless part of the online application

"We hope that we’re actually doing the candidate a favour by helping
them to opt out or opt in at an early stage," says Macdonald.
"Although we’re still evaluating initial results, we strongly believe this
screening tool is playing an important part in improving retention."

Signet is now screening out around 40 per cent of applicants via the
questionnaire before a shortlist of candidates with the best motivational fit
is forwarded to field managers.

Since it has been working with PeopleBank, Signet’s HR cost per employee has
decreased and cost per hire has been a major contributor in this. There is also
a reduced reliance on recruitment consultancies, generating savings in
consultancy fees, and time-to-hire has been reduced.

"From the feedback we’ve had, we’re also starting to see labour
turnover come down," says Macdonald, who, as a next step, wants to build
an online talent pool to keep track of potential recruits.

The technology is also helping candidate communication, which PeopleBank
commercial director Bill Shipton cites as a vital when dealing with future

"Online recruitment is not just about money. How you deal with people
says a lot about your employer brand," says Shipton. "The generation
that is at school now and the one coming out of university does everything
online and expects fast response times."

Searching for information about prospective employers on corporate sites is
already becoming standard practice for interviewees, and Shipton says
organisations must ensure that their sites work hard for them to attract future

"There are still a lot of poor offerings out there, and companies must
look at what their careers sections are saying about them," Shipton adds.

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