Focus on: Human Resources

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When it comes time to hire a new store manager or assistant manager, many retailers often rely on a tactic that industry insiders refer to as “raid-the-mall recruiting.” While this gets the job done, it usually results in hiring the first available rather than the best-qualified candidate.

But Canton, Mass.-based Casual Male Retail Group, which operates some 475 stores nationwide, was one retailer that found this approach did not end well, primarily because its customer is not a typical shopper. The company caters to the big-and-tall segment of male shoppers—who, for the most part, do not enjoy shopping—and it became increasingly evident that store managers needed to move from a transaction-based mentality to one of customer engagement.

“When our approach to customers shifted, the requirements for our positions shifted,” explained Dennis Hernreich, executive VP, COO and CFO of Casual Male. “Prior to this cultural shift, store management didn’t always take the opportunity to build customer relationships.”

Hernreich explained that customers who shop at Casual Male stores often need help putting together a wardrobe because the sizes are challenging.

“Customers tend to become impatient, and store managers have to read a customer’s body language and respond,” he added.

As the company migrated to its new customer-centric model, the challenge was determining how to identify and recruit professional managers with strong people skills. Casual Male turned to Headway Corporate Resources, a workforce solutions provider that utilizes technology-driven sourcing and customized assessment processes to recruit candidates based on a company’s personnel profile for top-performing workers.

The standardized, automated system provides an objective solution to what was previously a subjective, random process. Since launching in February, Headway has screened more than 15,000 applicants for the men’s clothing retailer.

Although Casual Male used an online application process previously, it did not incorporate centralized screening and behavioral assessment analytics to determine an individual’s suitability for management. Additionally, the recruiting process was time-intensive for district store managers (DSMs).

With the new, multi-level assessment program, applicants are fully screened online, and preliminary interviews are completed by workforce management professionals at Headway. The fully automated filtering process narrows a typical field of 1,000 applicants to roughly 30 of the most qualified, who then complete the interview process. From these interviews, Headway refers the top two candidates to Casual Male for final interviews.

In the first six months of relying on Headway, Casual Male hired approximately 232 store management personnel. The retailer also reduced the number of DSMs from 36 to 32, primarily because the more efficient recruitment processes allowed the number of stores in a district to be increased. Six of the current 32 DSMs were recruited through the new screening process.

Although it is too early to measure ROI, Hernreich stated, “We are very pleased with the results; our sales productivity this year is above the decrease in traffic, and comp sales are [trending] positive for the year.”

Additionally, the average time to fill a management slot was reduced by approximately 50%, and the program enabled DSMs to focus on revenue-producing activities rather than recruitment.

Initially, some of the managers were reluctant to accept the new system because they perceived it as a loss of control.

“Once they saw the flow of candidates we got through the new process, the DSMs realized these applicants were better than the pool of candidates previously,” acknowledged Walter Sprague, Casual Male’s senior VP HR. “It’s not a loss of control so much as a change of control. Any time a DSM finds a person who might be a good fit, all he has to do is put the candidate into the Headway process.”

Existing store associates who wish to be considered for open management slots go through the same analysis and evaluation in order to ensure they are the best-suited candidate for the position.