Home De­pot bat­tles tight la­bor mar­ket with easy ap­pli­ca­tion

The Oklahoman - - RETAIL - BY MATT TOWNSEND

Home De­pot says it has an edge in the bat­tle for hourly work­ers in a tight la­bor mar­ket: mak­ing ap­ply­ing and sched­ul­ing an interview re­ally easy, with only a smart­phone.

The world’s largest home-im­prove­ment re­tailer al­ways faces a hu­man re­sources dilemma this time of year — when it brings on thou­sands of tem­po­rary work­ers for its busy spring sell­ing sea­son — but the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment is es­pe­cially tough. Home De­pot is look­ing to fill more than 80,000 po­si­tions, the same amount as last year.

The com­pany has learned that a lengthy ap­pli­ca­tion can limit the num­ber of po­ten­tial can­di­dates. Last year, it made start­ing the process as easy as send­ing a text. A mo­bile web­site then finds open­ings based on the user’s lo­ca­tion.

Home De­pot also re­duced the amount of in­for­ma­tion asked. In all, ap­ply­ing was cut to 15 min­utes, from about an hour, and ap­pli­ca­tions surged 50 per­cent. Now, this spring, peo­ple can com­plete pre-screen­ing and choose an interview time through Home De­pot’s mo­bile web­site. A dig­i­tal map even shows them how to get the interview.

“Most Amer­i­cans to­day have an ex­pec­ta­tion that they can seam­lessly do some­thing on their mo­bile de­vice re­ally quickly, no mat­ter what it is,” said Eric Schelling, Home De­pot’s se­nior di­rec­tor of tal­ent ac­qui­si­tion. And now they go through the ap­pli­ca­tion process “them­selves, with­out di­al­ing a 1-800 num­ber or re­turn­ing a phone call.”

The com­pany’s strat­egy comes as the U.S. un­em­ploy­ment rate held at a near 17-year low of 4.1 per­cent in Jan­uary. That’s caused worker short­ages across in­dus­tries, putting pres­sure on wages and forc­ing com­pa­nies to start in­creas­ing ben­e­fits. Cor­po­rate tax cuts, cham­pi­oned by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, have also given firms more money to spend on la­bor.

Schelling has been in­volved in seven pre­vi­ous spring hir­ing sea­sons for Home De­pot, and said this is one of the tight­est la­bor mar­kets he’s seen, call­ing it a “war for tal­ent.” That’s pushed the re­tailer to try to stand out by in­te­grat­ing tech­nol­ogy into the hir­ing process, he said. While smart­phones are part of many as­pects of con­sumer life — whether or­der­ing din­ner or book­ing a va­ca­tion — the job ap­pli­ca­tion has largely been ig­nored, he said.

Com­peti­tor Lowe’s is also try­ing to sim­plify the process.

On Wed­nes­day, the chain an­nounced it would hold its first na­tional hir­ing day on Feb. 21 — part of a plan to bring on 53,000 work­ers for the spring sea­son. Can­di­dates can visit any of the re­tailer’s more than 1,700 U.S. lo­ca­tions on that day, get an interview and pos­si­bly be of­fered a po­si­tion.

[PHOTO BY VIC­TOR J. BLUE, BLOOMBERG]

A cus­tomer ex­its a Home De­pot store in New York.

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