Winning the recruitment race

Nike is one of the world’s largest footwear, apparel and sporting accessories brands. Earlier this year, it reported annual revenues of $10.7bn. At the beginning of 2003, the company employed 5,358 people in its Europe, Middle East and Africa region (EMEA), which accounted for 30 per cent of global sales. Rolien Hoogers, EMEA staffing manager, is based in the EMEA head office in a suburb in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The challenge

About three years ago, Hoogers and her team were over-stretched. “We were getting about 400 applications a month,” she says. “We have a firm policy that each applicant is a potential employee and customer and so we must respond appropriately, in an individual letter where possible. With only four people on the team, we were finding it harder and harder to do that. We were losing track of where CVs were in the company. I was concerned about how well we were protecting applicants’ personal information, and there were mistakes, such as us calling someone in for an interview who was already due to come in later that day.”

The solution

Hoogers made several attempts at improving the department’s manual processes, but eventually concluded that she needed to automate it. “We tried it ourselves at first,” she recalls. “We built databases on Microsoft Excel, but quickly found it wasn’t sophisticated enough to allow us to handle an operation of this scale and complexity.”

So when people management solutions provider, Job Partners, approached her, Hoogers agreed to see if it had anything to offer. She remembers the first meeting: “It was a Friday afternoon and we weren’t really expecting anything, but were immediately impressed. We liked the way it was well thought through and designed specifically for a recruitment team to use.”

The meeting prompted her to tender for an automated recruitment administration solution. Hoogers stipulated that it must be able to cover Europe and possibly the world, so that eliminated many contenders. From the five or six who remained, she eventually went with Job Partners’s Active Recruiter product. She liked its price, flexibility and the fact that it integrated easily with the company’s existing PeopleSoft programmes. It was also simple for line managers to use.

Job Partners offered to install it over three months, but Hoogers asked them to do it more slowly – over six months – and by July 2002, it was in place.

The outcome

Active Recruiter puts recruitment administration online. It posts requests for staff, prompts the authorisation of those requests, and reminds the recruiter to post the job internally and externally. It also collates all applications, builds a bank of information on each applicant, lets recruiters communicate with agencies and enables applicants to post open applications to the company.

Hoogers is very pleased with the results. Although unwilling to divulge the cost, she says the investment was returned within six months. Recruitment costs have fallen by 54 per cent and the average time to fill vacancies has fallen from 62 to 42 days.

The employee perspective

Susannah Sanchez Perez, now a recruitment consultant at Nike, applied for the job in May 2004. She remembers being impressed by how quickly the company responded to her application. “I received an e-mail straight away telling me that it would respond to me within three weeks. In fact, it only took four days for Nike to call me and invite me in for an interview. It took a long time to fill out the online form and that could be streamlined, but I was impressed by how professional the company seemed,” she says.

Now on the other side of the fence, Perez uses Active Recruiter as part of her job and has mixed feelings about it. “It’s good to have all the information about the job and the candidates to hand, but it is very time-consuming and complex. It’s a lot better than a paper-based system, but I think it could still be improved,” she says.

The future

Hoogers agrees that the system could be improved and is planning further customisation to do just that. She is aware of the danger of it appearing too automatic and is therefore introducing features that will allow recruiters to make more personalised responses to candidates.
She also plans to introduce the automation of all of the pre-start administration, such as arranging security passes and booking in orientation.
Finally, Hoogers will be exploring how to use the data more effectively, so that her department can be certain it is finding the best candidates.

Learning points for HR

– When automating recruitment administration, know what you want and let your needs lead the system, rather than the other way around

– Buy a flexible solution so you can easily customise it

– Don’t over-automate and always bear in mind that recruitment is about human relationships.

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