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Staffing Management: Sourcing and Hiring the Right Part-Timers

Stephenie Overman  1/1/2006
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Staffing Management, Oct - Dec  2005

 Vol. 2, No. 1

Help your company quickly find and hire reliable employees with flexible schedules.

Stocking store shelves and running cash registers may not require lots of hard-to-find skills, but these tasks do require reliable people willing to take on flexible hours or less-desirable time shifts, often with little supervision. Three companies in the busy retail food sales industry filled these types of jobs efficiently with the appropriate use of technology, help from consultants and a well-thought-out staffing plan.

Identifying Needs

Kellogg Co. is one organization that uses an army of part-time employees to stock its products on shelves at retailers and grocery stores around the country.

“We need reliability because these aren’t full-time jobs. It’s up to 20 hours a week, and there can be odd schedules. It requires people who can work autonomously,” says Cyd Kilduff, who was director of staffing for Kellogg when the company decided to hire its own employees to stock shelves, instead of relying on workers from a third-party vendor. The change came after Kellogg acquired Keebler in 2001.

“Our customers are large retailers and grocery stores. They need to keep fresh product on the shelf. We need people in the stores all hours of the day and on weekends,” she says, adding, “We tend to run very lean. We don’t have a lot of backup, so it’s important that we fill positions quickly and keep fully staffed.”

In addition to flexibility, Kellogg seeks part-time workers with strong customer service skills. “They have to be able to talk with people in grocery stores and represent Kellogg in a positive manner. They have to have interpersonal skills.”

Staffing Up

Kellogg hired about 1,700 part-time workers during an eight-week period, all done over the web, Kilduff says.

The company’s time-tracking system created special challenges when trying to entice some part-timers. “We’re talking about a population that may not be computer-savvy or have computer access. [But] once the people came on board, they would be reporting all their time online. To have one of these jobs, the person would have to have computer access. We worked hard at communicating all the ways people could get access,” such as using libraries and Internet cafes.

To find the right workers, Kellogg turned to The RightThing Inc. Kilduff praised the company for having good suggestions about where to find a flexible workforce.

“We typically don’t do part-time hiring. They brought a certain expertise. We need jobs anywhere there are grocery stores, and, [especially] in rural areas, it’s not easy to come up with candidates. The challenging thing was, we couldn’t say exactly where we needed people … there were hundreds of locations.”

The RightThing came up with a profile of the ideal employee that Kellogg was looking for, says Jaime Minier, vice president and project manager for the Kellogg account.

The company interviewed “retirees, moms and college students. They wanted people who are dependable, neat and orderly. They had to be independent and motivated,” he says. “They had to have flexibility in their schedules. Sometimes they have to work at 5 in the morning.”

Kellogg has hired an additional 700 part-time workers since it switched from using the third-party vendor’s employees, and the company has been “extremely pleased with the quality of the pool of candidates,” Minier says. “We can go to the pool quickly,” he notes, which is vital, because stocking the shelves is “a very critical aspect of the business.”

Kilduff notes that about 60 percent of the new Kellogg employees had previously been employed by the third-party contractor. “However, it was important to us that everyone be treated in an equitable manner. Everyone had to apply to be considered against the same criteria,” she notes.

Guiding Busy Managers

“There’s always a concern when you need to hire a lot of people in the field. There are a lot of hands in the process. [But the process] needs to be the same in Timbuktu as in Kalamazoo.” Managers around the country all need to be trained, Kilduff says, adding, “The key is to have the same process to follow.”

Kellogg district managers within the snacks organization are responsible for hiring new part-time workers, and “this project was layering a lot more work on top of their busy jobs,” she says. “We really had to work with The RightThing to get to a process that wasn’t overly burdensome.” Or time-consuming: “We need [district managers] out there selling product.”

So The RightThing developed a toolkit to walk the approximately 260 managers step-by-step through the hiring process. Managers received instructions via the Internet and a timeline for the project.

“One of the largest successes we had was making sure we had everybody on board,” Minier says. The hiring process was standardized, and “everything was real time. The Internet drove the process; it was the main tool for communicating with managers throughout the project. They could gain information when it was convenient for them.”

Managers reported back that the process worked well, Kilduff says. But was it cost-effective? “We didn’t have anything to compare it to. We hadn’t done this type of hiring before. But, on a per-head basis, it was very reasonable. We look at the overall value, not just one element of cost. The ability to get these people in and working quickly was really the core of the value,” she says.

Building Databases

For Robert Neveu, executive vice president of First Advantage Process Hiring Management Systems, the key to part-time hiring “is finding candidates who have availability for the shift you’re hiring for. It’s not necessarily skills-driven; it’s schedule-driven. You need to ask what days, what hours [the applicant] can work so you can score and rank the person appropriately.”

First Advantage, formerly Projectix, helps supermarket chains Food Lion and Hannaford Bros. Co. track applicants and hire part-time workers. Both chains are members of Delhaize America, the U.S. division of Brussels-based Delhaize Group.

Hannaford recently began working with First Advantage “to have the best processes in place for hiring. That’s no longer having an applicant walking in the door to fill out a paper application,” says Kevin Carleton, director of retail automation. “Our applicants fill out forms once, and the information automatically populates our database.”

First Advantage allows customers to track and review applicants in a variety of ways, according to Neveu. “With hourly workers, [companies] often want behavioral assessments. With salaried, it’s more interviews and personal-based assessment. The emphasis is on resumes and credentials.”

Finding applicants willing to work weekends or nights can be difficult, so “when a really good candidate comes in, the system can be set up to e-mail or page the manager. That way the manager can get to the candidate quick before he walks across the street and is hired by a competitor,” Neveu says.

At Food Lion, which has been working with First Advantage for three years, candidates can apply on the web or at an in-store kiosk.

“They key data in a user-friendly environment. It creates an application for them and captures and stores the document,” Neveu says. The company can ask screening questions about a specific job. “If it’s a cashier position, you can ask ‘Have you been a cashier before?’ You can have dynamically driven questions based on the job they pick.”

Sharing Vital Knowledge

There’s also a valuable “knowledge-sharing component” for Food Lion. In the days of paper and pencil, while an applicant might have been willing to work for several stores in the chain located near one another, only the store where the application was filled out would have had access to the candidate’s information.

“Now [the store] can search the database instead of advertising,” Neveu says, which saves time and money.

Stephenie Overman is a freelance writer and editor based in Arlington, Va. She frequently writes about human resource issues.

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 Walking the Walk


The RightThing practices what it preaches. The company’s staff is made up of 45 part-time employees and 57 full-time employees. Most are part of the company’s Candidate Care Center, which handles phone interviews with prospective job candidates. 

Part-time employees submit their availability to the master schedule on a two-week cycle. Job candidates are able to schedule themselves online, and the system links that candidate to an employee who has that time slot available, says Sarah Thigpen, a company spokeswoman.

“Part-timers choose their own days and hours, including evenings and weekends, which has proven useful for a variety of people, including stay-at-home moms. It’s a way for us to tap into quality workers who may not have 40 hours a week to give.” Because workers are able to choose their own schedules, “our turnover rate has been less than 2 percent since we opened our doors in 2003,” Thigpen says.


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