Hiring Help

As it expands its breadth, Caribou Coffee ensures its visitors can always get their caffeine fix. As the chain grows, however, so does its need for more employees.

In addition to operating more than 400 locations in 19 states, Caribou Coffee sells numerous licensed products in supermarket chains nationwide. Its success in both areas helped the company go public last year.

“We’ve experienced explosive growth throughout the past few years, including among our employee base,” said Craig Heide, director of recruiting, Caribou Coffee. “Yet, we needed something to help streamline and simplify our recruiting and hiring efforts on a national level.”

While the company previously relied on paper-based applications, the retail industry began transitioning its hiring and screening processes to the on-line world. After evaluating the potential that on-line hiring solutions offered, Caribou was ready to follow suit. As a result, in November 2005, the retailer turned to Chelmsford, Mass.- based Kronos Inc. to better manage its hiring system.

Kronos manages information for more than 1.8 million employees across retailers such as the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Duane Reade, Finish Line, GameStop, GI Joe’s, Hannaford Bros. Co., Payless ShoeSource, Spartan Stores and Tully’s Coffee.

Kronos’ Workforce Acquisition solution runs on the vendor’s Web servers. The hosted configuration enables both applicants and hiring managers to access the application via a Web browser by typing in a specific URL.

For example, applicants who visit the career section on the Caribou Coffee Web site, www.cariboucoffee.com, are invited to complete an employment application on line. Upon clicking on the application link, applicants are prompted to answer a series of questions created by Kronos.

“These questions are very specific to the job and what qualities the retailer wants in an employee,” as well as the candidate’s education and work history, said Kevin Tate, VP, Kronos Talent Management Division. (This Beaverton, Ore.-based division previously operated as the workforce acquisition solution provider Unicru. See sidebar below.)

“We use a number of tools to help managers make hiring decisions, including skills qualifications, screenings and behavioral assessments, such as how someone could behave on job,” he added.

Joining Forces

Clearly, there has been a big shift toward on-line hiring since the late 1990s, especially as companies such as CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com continue to gain traction.

“And as more people use these on-line tools to search for jobs, online hiring and recruitment are becoming more and more of a trend,” said Kevin Tate, VP, Kronos Talent Management Division.

As more users get comfortable searching and applying for jobs on line, Chelmsford, Mass.-based Kronos is in a prime position to expand its technology solutions. The company’s recent acquisition of Unicru will also help Kronos achieve this goal.

The workforce management solution provider acquired Unicru, Beaverton, Ore., for approximately $150 million last August. The former workforce acquisition solution provider now operates as the Kronos Talent Management Division.

Kronos’ purchase will enable it to broaden its offerings in human capital management. By joining forces, Kronos offers retailers “an integrated workforce acquisition and workforce management solution, allowing them to plan, staff, schedule, measure and compensate their employees,” said Tate.

“By automating and integrating talent management and workforce management functions, retailers can close the loop on human capital management and customer service,” he added. “This enables each store to streamline and improve worker acquisition, scheduling and overall store performance.”

Upon receiving completed applications, the solution then conducts an assessment that evaluates the applicant’s customer-service skills and dependability. By linking to a dedicated URL, the managers review applicant flow, or responses, daily, and then choose which candidates to interview.

“We cast a really wide net so anyone can easily apply. But the selection process enables the retailer to choose the very best candidates,” Tate said.

The solution also enables Caribou to share potential employees throughout its enterprise. “We have over 100 stores in Minneapolis and some of those locations are only about a mile away from each other,” Heide explained. “Kronos makes applicant sharing easy for everyone.”

Since adding the solution in March 2006, Caribou is becoming more proactive in assessing its hiring needs. “It has significantly made store managers’ hiring duties more manageable,” Heide said.

In fact, creating an easy, consistent hiring process was the chain’s main goal when it chose to add an automated application-tracking system. “We wanted to be able to track applicant flow, the time it took from application to hire, and ensure that our process was consistent in all of our stores,” Heide said.

The solution clearly achieves these goals, as managers “log onto the store’s computer and review real-time applicant flow on a daily basis,” he added. “Since we implemented on-line hiring, we’ve been able to better track the number of applications for each individual store.”

The on-line job search: Clearly, more applicants are seeking jobs through sites such as Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com, as well as directly through retailer Web sites. And Caribou’s increase in on-line applications illustrates this point.

“We had almost 1,000 people apply in the last seven days,” Heide said at presstime. “There are peaks and valleys with applicant flow at our stores, but the system provides us with information to better streamline our recruitment efforts.”

Since Caribou Coffee is a fairly new Kronos user, the chain has limited prior-year recruitment history. While Caribou is unable to determine if its year-over-year applicant flow is better, the chain is excited about comparing year-over-year applicant trends moving forward, Heide said.

Based on the insight the solution provides, “We expect the software to reduce our turnover rate as we hire better-qualified employees. This will also keep our store teams together longer,” he said. “It has been a worthwhile investment for us. Our expectation is to hit a positive return on investment within six months.”

Heide said that Caribou hopes to use the solution as its foundation to take its hiring and recruitment efforts entirely paperless. At presstime, the chain was taking steps toward this goal as it instituted a similar process for hiring store managers and district managers.