Meijer partnered with EG Workforce Solutions to find -and keep -talent in new and challenging markets.
By Debbie Bolla
When it comes to the retail industry, growth is always a good thing, but it can present business challenges. Such was the case for Meijer, the nation’s 19th largest privately held company with headquarters in Michigan. The retailer operates more than 220 stores in six states, including Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. In recent years, growth has driven a succession of new store openings, presenting several hiring challenges for SVP of HR and CHRO Michael Rotelle.
“We have an aggressive growth strategy in the number of new stores that we’ve opened for the last few years,” says Rotelle. “This required us to rethink how we go about the hiring process.”
The old process wasn’t working for Meijer’s estimated 50,000 annual hires: Rotelle says the retail organization had to pull managers from surrounding stores to attend job fairs and conduct mass hiring events. Adding to the complexity, the distance to the new stores opening in Wisconsin was considerable, making it quite inconvenient and costly to send management for hiring exercises.
There had to be a more effective way.
“We felt like we needed a partnership in order to get that accomplished. Draining resources from other parts of the Meijer system was not the most productive use of time and energy,” Rotelle says.
But it took a leap of faith to change processes and engage in a partnership. The retail organization had never outsourced a core part of its hiring, which would also require a new line item on the budget. What drove the relationship forward? Expertise. Rotelle says that Karen Browne, COO of EG Workforce Solutions, demonstrated that the company’s recruiters understood how to be successful at high-volume retail hiring. They could provide the service, the quality, and a candidate experience to help Meijer achieve its hiring goals while being viewed as an employer of choice in the retail market.
At the beginning of the engagement, Meijer was opening four stores in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas, requiring 1,400 new hires. Browne advised running a full social media strategy campaign -Facebook ads, job boards, retail blogs -since Meijer was basically an unknown store and brand in Wisconsin. Today’s candidates have a strong interest in understanding an organization’s employee value proposition before going through the interview and hiring process. According to CareerBuilder research, only 36 percent of candidates report they don’t do any research before applying. On the other hand, 76 percent are curious about what their day-to-day job would be like.
“What’s really important in the hiring approach is having a timely call to action and a multi-pronged engagement approach,” says Browne.
EG Workforce Solutions is also helping place candidates in current stores that were previously staffed by Meijer resources. The provider is building qualified candidate pipelines for Meijer by keeping candidates engaged, showcasing the company’s employee value proposition, and having meaningful next steps. EG Workforce Solutions’s expertise also comes in handy in markets that Meijer historically struggles in due to competitive labor markets and low unemployment rates. The lakeshore area also experiences peaks in the summer with tourists, requiring Meijer to ramp up to accommodate extra traffic. The provider also handles this seasonal, high-volume hiring.
“The quality of hires that come through EG has reduced our turnover fairly significantly,” says Rotelle. In fact, in the first five months of the partnership, new hires coming through the EG Workforce Solutions program showed a 25 percent improvement in attrition -a huge gain for Meijer.
The hiring process now includes key touch points under the Meijer Cares program. EG Workforce Solutions provides an enhanced candidate experience through timely touch points on pre-screening, interview preparation, confirm calls, and orientation scheduling. There is a huge focus on engagement in order to drive down attrition: EG Workforce Solutions recruiters call new hires five times in the first 120 days. They follow up with candidates to get insight into several different considerations: Were they treated professionally? Does leadership have a positive attitude? Are they happy with their decision to join Meijer?
What does this offer? Browne says they track candidate responses to specific questions each time they call so they can measure how the new employee is doing. This makes it possible to spot any red flags so that Meijer can address any challenges that may become problems.
“This allows us to identify where we were need to course correct to prevent turnover,” says Rotelle. Happy employees equals retained employees equals improved attrition.
Browne provides an instance when the recruiter calls produced employee feedback that helped correct a problem. An employee reported that a store director wasn’t engaging with them -this led to a poor environment and daily work experience. That manager was addressed. Studies show that managers who convey their appreciation have an impact. In fact, according to Globoforce research, 78 percent of workers report being recognized motivates them in their job. Motivated employees are more likely to deliver a better customer experience -and this makes a big difference. CareerBuilder research finds that 41 percent of customers are loyal to a brand or company because they consistently notice a positive employee attitude.
Meijer Cares is a way that the store is investing in its own brand. This approach is allowing the organization to retain people, which saves on attrition costs and allows them to deliver the customer service needed to succeed in a retail environment. Browne shares that early in his tenure at Meijer, Rotelle pulled an “undercover boss” moment by visiting a store and asking for a Lazy Susan. The worker couldn’t help him, and Rotelle knew this needed to change. In retail, it’s pretty basic: Poor customer service drives shoppers into the hands of competitors.
Improving the Candidate Experience
Recent research shines a spotlight on the importance of the candidate experience. In fact, according to LinkedIn, 83 percent of professionals say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role.
Rotelle says Meijer was looking to streamline its candidate experience. Having too many cooks in the kitchen can be confusing for candidates and cause unnecessary delays. In a retail environment where competition is fierce, candidates are looking to apply, hear back from the employer, and get an offer rather quickly. Rotelle says their previously process had multiple touch points, leading to multiple interviews and a long lag time in communication with job seekers. EG Workforce Solutions streamlined it to four simple steps:
Candidates are screened by EG Workforce Solutions;
Candidates then select from static interview slots featured on an online calendar;
They are interviewed by a store director; and
Candidates join the Meijer team or move forward in their search.
“The available talent has lots of options, and this drives the necessity of very timely engagement that also connects on multiple points,” says Browne. “Having flexibility in your solution is critical: some candidates want an email, a phone call, or a text message. Once candidates are sold on the employee value proposition, if there isn’t timely follow up, they will be gone.”
This process also closed gap between when the offer is made and when employees start. Quality retail workers are not going to wait around for weeks; they simply can’t afford to do so. Previously, in a few stores, it was taking 30 days total from offer to employee orientation. The EG Workforce Solutions team reduced that to 10 days. Meijer also improved their candidate experience with an updated career site. Job seekers can now search and apply by zip code. There is also special attention on new stores where the most opportunities are available.
Meijer is measuring its engagement on many levels. The store conducts a new hire survey and has seen improvements in candidate experience metrics and onboarding as well. “Anytime you measure something, you can drive change,” says Browne.
Meijer’s hiring process hasn’t just changed -it’s been transformed. “They provide an alternative that produces a very good quality candidate and streamlines the process so not only does it help the candidate, but it certainly helps Meijer,” concludes Rotelle.
By The Numbers
Meijer has experienced many positive improvements through its engagement with EG Workforce Solutions. They are tracking many points through metrics and analytics. “We organize and present the data so that Meijer can make meaningful changes to their business,” says Karen Browne, COO of the provider.
• 25 percent improvement in attrition
• 79 percent interview-to-offer rate
• 40 percent quality improvement in hires
• Time-to-orientation rate of 10 days
• More than 98 percent of candidates agree and strongly agree they were treated in a courteous and professional manner during hiring
41% Of customers are loyal to a brand or company because they consistently notice a positive employee attitude.
EG Workforce Solutions is building qualified candidate pipelines for Meijer by keeping candidates engaged, showcasing the company’s employee value proposition, and having meaningful next steps.