The Secret to Building Dream Teams

Problem: Reebok retail had high-volume recruiting plans to open more stores, but the process was manual, which limited candidate pools, was time-consuming and added pressure to fill staffing needs without ensuring fit.

Solution: Using pre-hire assessments, Reebok is able to identify the behavioral attributes that support the company culture and individual job requirements. The candidate workflow is automated so the recruitment and hiring process provides better, more consistent hiring decisions and gets new employees on the job faster.

As recently as 2010, when prospective candidates wanted to apply for a job at a Reebok store in North America, they stopped by and filled out a paper application. Then hiring managers flipped through stacks of applications, searching for candidates who looked like they might fit. The process was subjective, slow and the candidate pool was limited. Sometimes hiring managers needed to fill positions fast, so they hired the first candidate they could find without analyzing whether the person was the best fit.

In 2011, Reebok was in retail growth mode. While still focused on wholesale to major accounts, the Adidas subsidiary had plans in 2012 to add eight Fitness Concept stores — a partnership between Reebok and fitness company CrossFit — to the 121 Reebok outlet locations in the U.S. and 17 in Canada. Hiring managers needed more contemporary recruiting and hiring practices and predictive systems to speed up and simplify the recruitment process. They wanted to hire better people more consistently.

Science Improves Decisions
Reebok managers knew they needed qualified, intelligent and product-focused people who could answer customers’ fitness questions with credibility. They also wanted employees with passion for fitness.

The new Fitness Concept stores are branded as being the experts on training and fitness, and Reebok wants customers to know this value proposition every time they walk into a store. Each location needs a staff interested in and knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition to deliver this. Reebok leaders knew some employees embraced the brand and provided great service, but they needed a way to find more people like this across all locations.

Reebok leaders knew that automating their paper-based hiring process wouldn’t achieve their goals. The process was too subjective and labor intensive. Instead, the company looked to its peers and found most used assessment technology to improve customer service and hire better people.

Reebok used assessment software from PeopleAnswers to understand the behaviors most relevant to real-world performance in these customer-facing roles. The technology collected behavioral information based on existing employees, which served as a benchmark to help Reebok hire new staff who were better fits for each role, more productive and lived the brand.

Today Reebok sees 3,000 to 5,000 candidate applications per month for its retail stores, and it has achieved its goal to hire better people and lower turnover. In the most recent 20-month study including hires and terminations from January 2011 through October 2012, new hires who completed the assessment during their application process had a 32 percent lower turnover rate. During mid-year employee reviews, these employees also achieved 13 percent higher average performance ratings than those who had not completed the assessment.

During the same study period, the new hires ranked by the software in the top two recommendation categories had a 20 percent lower turnover rate and 11 percent higher average performance rating than new hires who scored in the bottom two categories. These employees generated more sales and were happier, and more productive employees lead to more engaged customers.

Better People, Better Performance
Now when a candidate applies for a management or associate position at Reebok or Fitness Concept stores, he or she goes to the company’s website and completes the employment application and a one-time assessment, a process that takes about 30 minutes. Instead of being restricted to hours when stores are open, candidates can apply online 24/7.

Candidates complete a questionnaire on a computer or mobile device that evaluates more than three dozen cognitive, behavioral and cultural attributes such as energy, flexibility and ambition. These traits are the most difficult to uncover in a resume or traditional interview. Whether someone is applying for an associate or management position, he or she completes the same comprehensive questionnaire that measures more than three dozen attributes. The software then compares the attributes — behavioral DNA — with custom performance profiles unique to each Reebok role to determine how well each candidate will fit with the company and role.

Ultimately, the software verifies the presence of similar behavioral traits in every new hire and recommends the best-matched candidates. This way, hiring managers can focus on the candidates recommended to be the best fit. And, with no right or wrong answers, each candidate response is evaluated instantly and ranked, and the software provides a comprehensive report that guides the interview, hiring and on-boarding process.

Early each year, Reebok brings its store managers in for a weeklong business review meeting. During last year’s meeting, managers had a short training session to learn how to use the new technology. Reebok started by using the software in hiring strategic leadership roles and added sales associates soon after. Hiring managers appreciate moving from a paper-based system to one that provides on-demand access to their candidate pool, real-time reporting and helps them automatically track metrics related to the hiring process. Now store managers lean on the software for more effective interviews and more informed decisions. They expand on behavioral-based interview questions to gauge candidates’ capabilities to meet the expectations of the role and fit into the unique environment and culture.

Judy Luevano, a Reebok area manager, said her teams are noticeably stronger and more competitive. “The culture fit recommendations for candidates have been accurate in predicting successful personalities and behaviors needed for individual profile positions,” she said.

Further, Reebok leaders now have a map of possible career paths for candidates based on these qualities. This allows hiring managers to immediately view candidates’ behaviors against multiple positions, not just the one they apply for.

Time for Change
In some cases, habits are hard to break. District and store managers were used to their old process. When they felt a candidate was right for the business but the assessment indicated otherwise, it was sometimes difficult for them to trust the tool’s value. However, after using it a short while, many hiring managers determined the software’s recommendations were accurate and beneficial in guiding hiring decisions.

“[These assessments] give me the ability to zone in, probe and question on very specific strengths and weaknesses that my potential candidate possesses, which helps me make my hiring decision versus relying on generalities,” said Todd Corrente, a Reebok district manager.

Similarly, some hiring managers viewed the assessment as an obstacle for candidates, even though overall candidate volume actually increased by moving the process online. In time, the group found they needed candidates who truly wanted to work for Reebok and, regardless of the required time, would complete the process to be considered. In both scenarios, seeing how the tool worked and the results it yielded in increasing the quality of hires led to team-level buy in.

Combining science with technology takes the guesswork out of hiring decisions for Reebok. And linking recruiting and retention to business objectives transforms HR from an administrative function to a strategic business process. The evidence shows improved retention and cost savings that allows Reebok to build strong teams made up of people who will project its brand essence and deliver service that will keep customers coming back.

Ira Grossman is chief operating officer at PeopleAnswers, and Bill Holmes is senior vice president of human resources at Reebok International. They can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.