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By Mehgan Belanger
OMAHA, Neb. -- As the recession causes unemployment figures to rise ever-closer to double-digit numbers, the pool of applicants applying for work at Sapp Bros. 18 convenience stores has grown accordingly. Fortunately, finding those people who make good employees is like having the right ones delivered right to the doorstep, thanks to the chain's implementation of Kronos' Workforce Acquisition selection and hiring solution.
"The workforce for us was very tight for several years. It was hard to fill positions when the unemployment rate was at 3 or 4 percent," Mary Eriksen, human resources/safety manager for Omaha, Neb.-based Sapp Bros., told CSNews Online. "Now there's a lot more people [applying] as companies cut back employees or their hours."
However, just because there are more applicants doesn't mean there are more high-quality potential hires, she explained.
"While the number of applicants has increased, the number of qualified applicants has not gone up a bunch," she said. "So we have to wade through a greater number" to find the right ones.
Helping Sapp Bros. in this process is the Workforce Acquisition system, which the retailer installed in January 2006.
"We wanted to streamline our hiring, and make our hiring process more uniform across our 16 locations in eight states," said Eriksen. "We had 16 different systems with varying results, from very good to very poor."
The company looked at several vendors, but selected Kronos for its first-rate assessment system, easy integration and user-friendly interface, she said, adding the support team has also proved very helpful.
Through the Kronos system, potential workers digitally apply to the company via an online application on Sapp Bros.' Web site, or through kiosks at its stores. Sore managers then log onto the system to review applications, which are divided into three categories—green, yellow and red—based on the person's answers to character-revealing assessment questions.
Sapp Bros. uses six qualities to assess its applicants, some of which are safety, customer service, dependability, reliability and behavioral characteristics. The questions are developed by a department at Kronos to tap into applicants' personality. Because the test is administered through a computer system, Eriken said it seems applicants are more honest due to the anonymity.
"We will not interview an employee unless they score a green on the application," said Eriksen. "We may look at a yellow in desperation, but they are yellow and red for a reason."
A green candidate would be safe, treat customers right and comply with what Sapp Bros. considers a good applicant to be, while a yellow applicant will be a risk-taker or less likely to follow safety procedures, she outlined.
The assessments can be tailored to the business using it, and it can be changed as the business evolves. For example, Sapp Bros. wasn't seeing the right range of applicants for positions in its restaurants, so it was able to change its measurements. "It's a minor thing [to do] when you want good people," Eriksen said.
Sticking to the stringent assessments does reduce the number of applicants managers can hire, but the upside is it means less time spent by management on interviews and telephone prescreening.
Moreover, Sapp Bros. is reaping knowledge and benefits from Kronos reports that detail which job advertising sources refers the most applications, and which provide the greatest number of hires. Through this, Sapp. Bros. can tailor its job posts to the outlets that give the best results, she said, adding while newspapers seem to provide the largest volume of applicants, it is active recruiting efforts, such as job fairs, that provide the highest percentage of hired applicants.
Another added benefit of hiring quality people is a reduction in turnover. In the first year of the system's use, turnover dropped 18 percent for the chain, and continued to decline last year.
"A little bit of that is everyone is doing the same thing now," said Eriksen. "When managers aren’t flying by the seat of their pants, they can screen out those who will be problems down the road."