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Human Resources

Suited for Sales

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W hen the economy started tanking, JoS. A. Bank was poised to gain market share.

The affordable men’s clothing store offered suits and apparel that appealed to well-established professionals and recent graduates seeking interview suits. And while competitors were pulling back on advertising, JoS. A. Bank was purchasing broadcast spots vacated by bankrupt companies.

Before long, the 106-year-old company with more than 500 stores became a hot buy on NASDAQ; it saw profits increase 19.3 percent in the third quarter of 2011.

In addition to good products and smart marketing, the company’s hiring program is credited for its recent success.

Andrea Boling, vice president of human resources, was hired in 2004 to take the clothing chain’s hiring practices paperless. The Maryland-based company employs 4,000 sales professionals and wanted to replace the dated application process.

“We wanted to increase our compliance,” Boling says. “We wanted to be able to hire people quickly, and the way we had been doing it was paper and pencil and faxing, which was incredibly inefficient. We were doggy paddling to keep up, so we needed to find a solution that we could put into place that would use very little of our IT resources.”

The solution search
In 2008, JoS. A. Bank signed a contract with Kronos for the Workforce Talent Acquisition solution. “That was really the best thing for us, being with a bigger company with more resources,” she says. “What it has given us is [the] consistency you need in hiring.”

The Kronos Workforce Talent Acquisition Solution is a comprehensive end-to-end hiring platform that is used by many major retailers. According to Kronos, it takes the guesswork out of employee selection, using validated retail assessments and behavioral-based selection tools that help predict which candidates are most likely to be productive — best-fit employees who will perform better, stay on the job longer, provide great customer service and optimize the bottom line.

Kronos says the solution is much more cost-effective than shuffling paper for hiring procedures and standardizes hiring methodology across the entire company. But, perhaps most importantly, Kronos behavioral-based assessments help accurately predict a candidate’s likelihood of success in a given job role.

Boling says the questions built into the application system not only help JoS. A. Bank hire the right people, they’ve also given applicants a better idea of the job description. “Before you go through all the trouble of hiring them and on-boarding them, they realize they’re not interested,” she says.

And as most retailers know all too well, hiring the wrong people can have serious consequences. According to a CareerBuilder.com Harris Interactive poll, good hiring practices are even more important when the unemployment rate is high. The 2010 Harris study says two in three companies report that bad hires have negatively impacted business operations, while one in four managers said poor hires cost businesses $50,000. In 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employee turnover cost businesses $300 billion.

Improved applicant flow
Those were the types of statistics that JoS. A. Bank hoped to avoid by implementing the hiring solution. And, that they did — in fact, by deploying the system, the chain’s experience was just the opposite: It saw a 27 percent reduction in turnover of retail employees, increased employee productivity and a one- to three-day reduction in time-to-hire. Average sales associate tenure rose from 2.2 years to 3.4 years, and store managers who had been with the company for less than a year dropped from 22.2 percent to 16.9 percent. Net sales during this period increased 23.3 percent as well, Boling says.

Retailers in completely different segments have reported similar improvement using the Kronos hiring solution. Tire Kingdom reduced administrative tasks by 75 percent, and Raley’s has improved hiring and selection across 130 stores.

Implementing the system “has improved our applicant flow,” Boling says. “Prior to Kronos we had no idea how many applicants we had out in the field. A store would call us and say, ‘Oh, I’ve got an opening. You’ve got to run an ad.’ They could be sitting on 50 good applications, but had no idea. Kronos has also helped save money and target our advertising resources.”

In addition to saving money, JoS. A. Bank can update onboarding forms to reflect changes in state-level requirements. For example, Philadelphia recently passed a law called “Ban the Box,” which means prospective employers can’t have an applicant check the box that says “Yes, you can do a background check before you hire me.” It was designed to give ex-offenders a better chance of finding work. Now, companies must hire the candidate before running background checks. “You can always see the good intention in whatever law, but HR sometimes takes the back seat,” Boling says.

To make the system function more smoothly, JoS. A. Bank changed the entire applicant flow for its two Philadelphia stores. “It’s a constant battle to keep concurrent with what’s going on out in the world,” Boling says, “but there’s no way we could’ve kept up with the laws without an automated system.”

JoS. A. Bank’s three-year contract with Kronos is coming to an end. “Just like any other company, our CFO is going to say, ‘Okay, we’ve spent this amount of money. Was it worth it?’” Boling says. “And based on what we’ve got in compliance, consistency, turnover and sales numbers, I’d say yes.”

In fact, Boling is seeking to add another Kronos solution to improve efficiency in more areas of human resources.

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