Overcome Stubborns

How a Giant Retailer Is Transforming Its Talent Strategy to Stay Ahead of the Competition

13,000 company-operated and franchise-operated stores, plus two store support centers, a direct-support team and indirect support: that’s the company Treasa Bowers was recruited to.Bowers is the executive VP and chief HR officer for 7-Eleven. Her original plan was to work in finance, but as she has learned in her years in HR, things are always evolving. “It’s a very complex environment,” she said. Bowers spoke about her experience during a fireside chat at From Day One’s Dallas conference. Will Anderson, editor in chief of the Dallas Business Journal, interviewed her. Founded by Joe Thompson over a century ago, 7-Eleven has the philosophy of giving customers what they want, when they want it, where they want it, Bowers says. Store manager Johnny Green realized people wanted milk, eggs, and bread on the weekends, since grocery stores weren’t all open on the weekends. Thus began the company’s path to responding to customer needs.“We’ve been innovating ever since,” Bowers said. “All of that innovation is ongoing, it has to be and how we continue to galvanize and be relevant to our customers, is what we get to do and in human resources. [We’re] finding that talent that enables that.”Attracting Talent in a Competitive MarketOne of the biggest challenges any HR manager faces is attracting talent. 7-Eleven employs about 80,000 people, so they’re always looking to hire. There is a serious battle for talent, especially post-Covid, she says.“Whoever gets to the candidate first has the best shot at bringing that candidate onto the team,” Bowers said. “So we had to innovate. Our talent acquisition team has done a great job of leveraging AI to help us get to that workforce very quickly. Now, around 85% of the candidates are able to apply and be scheduled for an interview within an hour. And it takes about three days from the time of the interview to the day they’re able to start working.”Treasa Bowers, Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer of 7-Eleven was interviewed by Will Anderson, Editor in Chief of the Dallas Business JournalNext comes training in the way they prefer to be trained: whether that’s leader-led, a facilitated conversation, learning on their own, or if they want a menu of options. That aspect of HR is constantly evolving.“We’ve had to innovate, and we're going to continue to have to,” she said. The key is to try to anticipate what’s coming so you can stay ahead of the curve. But it also means doing the right thing, whether or not it’s in vogue. Bowers is grateful that 7-Eleven has always viewed diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential, not just a trend. “It’s been really important and core to our business, because it’s who our customers are, it's who our franchisees are, and therefore, absolutely, who our employees are. It's a business imperative for us.”A big part of that is building trust within the organization—always doing what you say you’re going to do. Because otherwise, employees leave, Bowers says. “There are too many choices in today’s economy for them not to,” she added.Always AdaptingOne part of diversity at 7-Eleven is what they offer in their stores. Products vary from store to store to store, reflecting what the locals want. That’s how we bring it to life in the stores. They know that not every customer wants the same thing at every store,” Bowers said. “It’s different for everyone. And that’s part of the diversity message.”Understanding the values of different generations, particularly Gen Z, is a priority for 7-Eleven. The company actively listens to its employees to shape its value proposition, acknowledging that they still have work to do in this area. Bowers shared that their talent acquisition campaign, “I am 7-11,” highlights diversity and personal stories from employees, attracting new talent and showcasing career growth opportunities within the organization.The best piece of advice Bowers has received over her career? In every situation, you have an opportunity to be a student and a teacher. In other words, educate others but also be educated.It’s about understanding what’s going on in the world, in the company, and with the team members. “Then being able to educate others about what we’ve learned doing that in a way that they can digest it,” she said, “but also doing it in a way that compels action.”Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.

BY Carrie Snider | June 04, 2024

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The From Day One Newsletter is a monthly roundup of articles, features, and editorials on innovative ways for companies to forge stronger relationships with their employees, customers, and communities.

Overcome Stubborns
By Mary Pieper | May 29, 2024

New Voices: Bringing a More Inclusive Approach to Workplace Belonging

When D.L. Morriss, the diversity, equity, and inclusion partner for the Chicago-based Hinshaw & Culbertson law firm was leading a team debriefing on a case, he asked a female attorney to take notes.As he ran quickly through the agenda, he realized he had assigned a woman this stereotypical role. “And I said, ‘Hey, you know what? I didn’t realize that I just did that,’” Morriss told moderator John Pletz, senior reporter for Crain's Chicago Business, during a recent panel at From Day One's Chicago conference.Morriss reassigned who would be taking notes during the meeting. “As leaders, you have to be willing to be vulnerable,” he said. “You’ve got to be willing to be wrong, and call yourself out on it. That authenticity is what I hope my team resonates with.”DEI is a Learning ProcessOne of the joys of working in the DEI space is that “you’re able to help people, understand what their values are, what they stand for, what their biases are, perhaps what they were raised with,” said Ekpedeme “Pamay” Bassey, chief learning and diversity officer for the Kraft Heinz Company. “They need to learn and unlearn and go through that process to become a more inclusive version of themselves.”DEI is not a destination but a continuous journey, says Melissa Healy, senior VP, employee belonging and participation lead at Leo Burnett.“There is no end game to diversity, or end game to belonging, or end game to inclusion,” she said. “I hope that everyone can start from a place and say, ‘I am a lifelong learner. I am continually curious.’”John Pletz, Senior Reporter for Crain's Chicago Business, moderated the panel of industry leaders Jeanette Kilo-Smith, vice president of diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging for Zurich North America, says that giving people grace is crucial, as they will inevitably make mistakes when it comes to enhancing workplace inclusion.“You can’t expect folks to go through whatever training or experience and then walk away with all the answers, because they won’t,” she said. “You’d be surprised by the common phrases that people say, they didn’t realize could be offensive to a group, or to a person. If I said some of them, I’m sure many of you would say, ‘Oh, I didn't realize that.’”Including All Generations of EmployeesToday’s workers span five generations, from the Silent Generation to Gen Z. “Whether or not you choose to learn how to engage in a respectful manner, there are people with different lived experiences, characteristics, backgrounds, of different ages,” Bassey said. “And if you want to have a community or an organization where there’s less friction and more productivity, there’s a reason to learn how to be a more inclusive leader.”Andrea Cooper, Talkspace's chief people officer, says that different generations can learn from each other. For example, Gen Z is “leading the way with mental health and therapy,” she said.“They’re talking about something that has always been kind of hidden or not allowed to be discussed,” Cooper said. “I think this new generation in the workforce is not willing to accept the silence on it.”The Importance of IntersectionalityIndividual factors such as age or gender are only a portion of someone’s overall identity, says Healy. “I’m not just a woman, right?” she said. “There’s so much more to who I am and what I bring to the table.”Intersectionality is “less about segmenting groups and more about recognizing those intersections,” Cooper said. “If I think about myself, I identify as a woman, as a mom, as a lesbian, as a sister. There’s so many different things, and being able to talk about all those things is a lot more multidimensional than the way it was 10-15 years ago.”Cooper says these conversations may not be easier, but in the long run they are more beneficial.Pushing the Work ForwardThe 2023 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action programs has caused some concern within organizations, says Kilo-Smith. However, “We’re not taking our foot off the gas,” she said. “What we’re continuing to focus on is creating that inclusive culture where everyone feels that they can grow and that they can thrive.”Despite the Supreme Court ruling, “The sky is not falling” when it comes to DEI, Morriss said. “I think it’s only going to continue to grow. We’ve already identified numerous studies that show the power that comes from diverse teams only increases when you add other diverse demographics. And that innovation leads to higher revenue and product profitability that many of our corporations appreciate on a regular basis.” Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa. 

Overcome Stubborns
By Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | June 05, 2024

Excellence in Hiring: Designing the Optimal Frontline Employee Selection Process

If a job application takes more than 15 minutes to complete, more than 70% of job seekers say they’ll bounce, according to a 2022 survey reported in HR Dive. This barrier is particularly germane to companies that employ frontline workers, often working against a narrow time-to-hire. Those recruiters have to scale operations quickly, efficiently, and often with little notice. Time matters, and even a small amount of friction can be enough to convince a job seeker to look elsewhere.“Going from three business days down to a one-second communication timeframe was huge for us,” said Carlie Lockey, the founder and CEO of Remarkable People Solutions, a recruitment firm based in coastal North Carolina. Lockey’s business had reached a tipping point: she needed to scale operations quickly, but couldn’t forfeit speed or efficiency. She shared what she learned from the process during a recent From Day One webinar on the optimal employee-selection process for frontline workers.What was she looking for? First, a high degree of automation–Lockey’s staff needs to stay nimble. Second, a high degree of customization–all her clients deploy different recruiting processes. “We needed something that would take a lot of the mindless work off of our hands, provide the best applicant experience, as well as serve each of our clients individually,” she said.Communication, and the speed of communication, was also high on the list for Remarkable People Solutions. The company needed to get its clients communicating with applicants immediately and provide consistent updates on their position in the process.She chose Fountain, a platform for frontline workforce management. It used to take the firm five business days just to notify applicants that they weren’t being sent to the next round. After adopting the platform, Remarkable People Solutions was able to invite top candidates to schedule a phone interview within an hour of applying. As Lockey put it, “the maximum amount of time is saved.”Carlie Lockey of Remarkable People Solutions and Nico Roberts of Fountain were interviewed by Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza during From Day One's webinar (photo by From Day One)Fountain was engineered to be flexible, said the company’s chief business officer Nico Roberts. “We made a decision really early on to allow a ton of customization, so [clients] can hone in on the exact flow that they’re looking for, the experience that they want to tailor, and the target applicant they’re trying to find.”There’s also the matter of bottlenecks that inevitably arise in recruitment cycles, those impediments that prompt so many applicants to abandon the process.Roberts likes to look for opportunities to grease the wheels, breaking it down “day to day, season to season, position to position, state by state, and city by city.” At other times, it’s worth slowing things down. “There might be some markets where you’re getting so many applicants that you want to figure out where the quality is and have those applicants rise to the top,” he said.One way to speed things up is to incorporate text messaging into the application and recruitment process. Roberts said 85–87% of applications that Fountain handles come in via text message or mobile device. The rest are email. “Our number one request is to add more WhatsApp capabilities, so that’s coming soon, and we’re currently building Facebook Messenger capabilities,” he said.It’s not only popular among young workers. Before Covid arrived, Roberts said, text message application users were usually aged 18–40, but that’s changed. There’s no single demographic over-indexing for their text messaging tools. He credits the popularity of delivery apps during lockdowns. “A lot of [people] had to download apps to get groceries and became very proficient on mobile devices.”The trend indicates a frontline worker on the go. “They don’t want to sit in front of a laptop or wait until they get home for a desktop. They want instant communication,” Roberts said. “These folks are applying on lunch breaks or after work. They’re tired, most likely they’re frustrated.  There’s a reason they need another job or a second job or a fourth job. The more barriers you can remove, the bigger success you’ll have with hiring these folks.”Another barrier often overlooked? Talent acquisition isn’t always available when applicants have questions. Fountain has been developing AI bots that keep the recruiting engine running even when recruiters have clocked out for the day. “More than 60% of all applicant questions happen in non-business hours, and [applicants] typically have to wait for recruiters to log back in to help answer,” said Roberts. “But if you have an FAQ bot trained, they can start answering in real time, whether it’s 10 o’clock at night or one o’clock in the morning.”But for every click tech feature one could add to their recruiting cycle, it’s worth asking whether  it should be added. If it isn’t a reflection of your employer brand, skip it or tailor it to suit your employer identity.“The folks that are crushing it have an authentic side,” said Roberts. Where there’s opportunity to connect more personally with applicants–like by sliding in videos of current employees giving advice to prospective workers–employers should do it where it feels natural and true to their brand.“The authenticity piece I think is most crucial, whether you’re scaling up or not,” Lockey said. “If you’re just trying to hire warm bodies–that’s not authentic. You want to hire people for a purpose, to be on a team and make an impact both on your team members’ lives and your clients.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Fountain, for sponsoring this webinar.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the Economist, the BBC, The Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.




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