Save Time With Automated Applicant Tracking
A talent management system enabled $26.3 billion Rite Aid to reduce time to fill open positions by 1/3.
Applicant tracking is crucial for drugstore giant Rite Aid. Indeed, the drugstore lists between 400 and 500 store-level job openings at any given time. Yet, Rite Aid's applicant tracking process was synonymous with manual data entry and paper pushing; talent managers (i.e. recruiters) struggled to keep up with high volumes of candidates, up to 100,000 each year. Adding to this concern, an acquisition of the Brooks and Eckerd pharmacy chains increased the number of Rite Aid locations from 3,300 to more than 5,000. With organizational changes looming, Tom Sheehan, director of talent acquisition at Rite Aid, knew current processes would not scale to survive the acquisition. Also, Rite Aid's thriving pharmacy intern program needed an automated talent management system to streamline the applicant-tracking process.
As it applies to applicant tracking, Rite Aid can be divided into two categories: store and pharmacy. Rite Aid handles recruitment and applicant tracking for its store-side positions (i.e. cashiers, vitamin specialists, photography specialists, and store managers) and its pharmacy-side positions (i.e. pharmacists and pharmacy interns) separately. This is because Rite Aid's pharmacy intern program is an ongoing effort specifically designed to coincide with the average four-year pharmacy school program.
Lack Of Automated Tracking Technology Creates Workflow, Compliance Problems
For many years, Rite Aid advertised store-side positions by placing ads in newspapers and help wanted signs in store windows. The drugstore also advertised open positions on the career page on Rite Aid's website. "Though we had a career page, it was far from extensive," says Sheehan. "The career page, which was powered by a homegrown system, listed basic information about the company and requested minimal information from applicants. Worse, the career page did not gather EEO [equal employment opportunity] information — a requirement for companies posting job listings online."
In order to track and store applicant information for store-side positions, Rite Aid relied on its proprietary applicant tracking system, which consisted of databases and spreadsheets. Eight talent managers and several HR representatives were responsible for tracking all applicants interested in the drugstore chain's store-side positions. Because they were powered only with spreadsheets, talent managers felt their efforts added little value to the organization. This is because the cumbersome paperwork forced talent managers to take on an administrator role, and the lack of technology hindered them from meeting compliance standards effectively and confidently. Indeed, Sheehan states Rite Aid's homegrown system lacked OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) data collection and reporting tools. "We lacked a systematic method to capture EEO data as required by OFCCP regulations," says Sheehan. "We always remained compliant; however, the manual workarounds we attempted were not efficient. Having candidates self-select their ethnicity in a confidential manner during the application process was paramount. But, applicants were unable to do so with our homegrown system."
The OFCCP ensures employers comply with nondiscrimination and affirmative action laws and regulations when doing business with the federal government. Failure to comply with OFCCP regulations may result in punitive penalties and may jeopardize existing and future federal contracts. From a best practices perspective, organizations such as Rite Aid should drive all online applicants to a career center for a uniform application experience, including EEO data capture, such as gender, race, and veteran status. EEO data capture is now required by online career centers. Organizations that rely on email or fax applications should be aware that these applicants, most likely, do not list EEO information in their submissions.
Automate Applicant Tracking To Absorb Additional Stores, Report EEO Data
It wasn't until the number of Rite Aid locations was on the verge of skyrocketing from 3,300 to more than 5,000 that Sheehan chose to implement an automated talent management system. "We were barely getting by in our recruiting efforts for 3,300 stores," says Sheehan. "Managing applicants with databases and spreadsheets is not what I consider to be a true applicant-tracking process. When you talk about a true applicant-tracking process, you should be referring to a system that can schedule interviews and conduct candidate evaluations and screenings. Our proprietary system was simply a repository of candidates' information. That's why talent managers felt like administrators, because they were forced to sift through our cumbersome archaic system to find the most basic applicant information. Clearly, we needed to look for a new solution."
Improve Your Image With A Talent Management System
Sheehan went through an extensive evaluation process to source and assess prospective talent management systems. He outlined Rite Aid's pain points and desired results in order to implement the right technology from the right provider. "We saw this as an opportunity to change the perception of Rite Aid recruitment from the inside out," says Sheehan. "We wanted talent managers to feel happier in their roles because of the technology, for management to feel we were adding value to the organization, and for candidates to feel Rite Aid was a great employer mindful of the application process."
Sheehan chose iCIMS Talent Platform, a hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) talent management system that allows HR professionals to automate their applicant- tracking and talent acquisition process. The program streamlines the applicant-tracking process from resume collection to EEO data reporting.
As of press time, Sheehan and talent managers access only the prehire segment of Talent Platform, and they do so via a secure login and password. Sheehan may implement Talent Platform's posthire segment in the future (see sidebar below). The prehire segment includes applicant career portals, which allow applicants to apply and input essential information — including EEO data — directly online. The talent manager accesses the Talent Platform database to manage those applications and bring those candidates to the point of hire. Finally, the hiring manager accesses the database to work directly with the recruitment and staffing team to fill positions, request additional positions, review resumes, and become integrated into the recruitment process. "Talent Platform is the backbone of our career website," says Sheehan. "When a candidate applies online, they go to www.riteaid.com/careers, at which point they are working within Talent Platform." Talent Platform does not require specific hardware for operation, just a computer and Internet access. Certain Rite Aid executives are trained on how to access Talent Platform's back end in order to update, post, and remove job listings, freeing them from dependence on iCIMS to make changes. Since Rite Aid implemented Talent Platform, the drugstore reduced the time it takes to fill store-side positions by 1/3. Also, the system has allowed Rite Aid to better accommodate high- volume recruiting. For instance, Rite Aid can now build and acquire additional stores without fear that its applicant tracking system will not absorb the increase in volume. The system automatically ensures Rite Aid collects EEO data and remains OFCCP-compliant, because the platform is set up to automatically collect EEO information for applicants who apply to jobs online via Rite Aid's website.
Parlay Talent Management Success To Other Areas Of The Business
Based on Rite Aid's store-side success with Talent Platform, the pharmacy side implemented the hosted talent management system to manage intern resumes. The pharmacy intern program, which began in 2003, is essential to Rite Aid's success because it is a feeder program for future pharmacy employees, and it provides interns with comprehensive hands-on access to the pharmacist position. Each year, Rite Aid has over 4,000 intern applications, rendering applicant tracking critical.
Like Rite Aid's store-side business, the pharmacy side used basic spreadsheets to track intern applications and resumes for years. Pharmacy intern applications are procured at career fairs, conferences, and Rite Aid's career page (the pharmacy career page is separate from the store career page). Prior to Talent Platform, pharmacy talent managers encountered a problem similar to that of the store-side's talent managers — the pharmacy's proprietary system was incapable of accepting comprehensive intern data, such as resumes and cover letters from its career page.
At career fairs and conferences, talent managers used paper applications to acquire interns' information (e.g. school attended, preferred geographic region in which to work, etc.) in addition to resumes. Talent managers were then tasked with manually entering this data into the proprietary database. The day after a career fair or a conference, talent managers spent up to an entire business day inputting data into the system.
Mobilize Technology To Ease Application Gathering
Once Rite Aid's pharmacy side implemented Talent Platform, managing intern resumes became much easier. Now, applicants who apply online may do so by posting their resume directly on Rite Aid's career page, and those resumes are automatically deposited into the Talent Platform database. Each morning, talent managers sign in to Talent Platform and send new intern data to 17 field recruiters who are based throughout the country. Those field recruiters, then follow up with the interns to schedule interviews, request additional information, etc. Talent managers and field recruiters use Talent Platform to send offer letters and informational emails about upcoming events. "Now when we exhibit at career fairs and conferences, we simply set up our computers and flat screen monitors, because we're wirelessly connected directly to Talent Platform," says Michele Belsey, VP college relations and professional recruitment at Rite Aid. "Students input their own information and apply for the internship right at our booth. The concern for manual data entry and lost paperwork is no longer an issue. Postconference data entry now takes 10 minutes as opposed to an entire business day."
Like store-side talent managers, pharmacy talent managers access Talent Platform via a secure login and password. "Some of the platform's requirements are different between the pharmacy and store sides, but for the most part, the processes are the same," says Belsey. "However, on the pharmacy side, we list more positions with the same job description than the store side does." As of now, Talent Platform is used strictly to manage intern resumes. However, Rite Aid will soon use Talent Platform to manage not only resumes, but also to aid in the posting of positions and will be used as part of the selection, offer, and offer acceptance process for both intern and pharmacist positions.
Only you know how much time you're spending each day reading and filing applications and resumes. How much time you save with applicant-tracking software depends on the volume of applications you handle on a regular basis. But consider this: Even if you read and file just 10 applications per business day, that adds up to about 200 applications per month, or 2,400 applications per year. As Rite Aid learned, the time saved entering data and searching for candidates can be used for more productive purposes — like filling open positions and enhancing your workforce.