Employer Branding Key to Whirlpool’s Talent Retention

By Douglas Vaira Jun 12, 2009
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Throwing a dart at a stack of semi-qualified resumes? That’s not exactly Kristen Weirick’s style. In fact, Weirick, the director of talent acquisition and global human resources for appliance giant Whirlpool Corp., prides herself more on driving a combined internal and external effort to deliver a holistic employer brand than she does on keeping people in their jobs.

Such an approach is considered necessary at this global organization, which regards its 73,000 employees as the labor pool’s cream of the crop. “It’s all about being a strategic partner to meet the business’ needs,” says Weirick, “and employer branding is a big part of that.”

In this series of questions and answers, Weirick, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), offers her thoughts on Whirlpool’s global hiring processes, the critical nature of identifying the “right” employee, and the importance of creating a culture of company loyalty.

Question: What are some immediate changes that an organization can expect to see by hiring the right talent?

Answer: At Whirlpool Corp., our leadership model helps define what “the right talent” means for our organization. We have deep assessment methodology in place that builds our capability to assess candidates against those competencies to ensure we’re bringing the best talent to stay competitive.


“…We continually look for talent not only with functional expertise but also with the leadership capabilities required for future roles.”

-- Kristen Weirick, director of talent acquisition and global human resources, Whirlpool

When an organization hires the right talent, it can expect:

  • Increased capability and output. A high-performing employee will be able to achieve more than an average employee.
  • Increase in perspective and innovation. New talent brings fresh perspectives and innovative thinking gleaned from experiences with other companies and industries. Leveraging those perspectives helps to drive innovation and new methodologies.
  • Competitive differentiation. The increase in capabilities and perspectives differentiates our talent and our company from the competition. The right talent improves our ability to compete and win.

Question: How much of what you do is process, and how much is fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants?

Answer: Due to the speed and nature of our business, we sometimes have to quickly react to changing business requirements. At the same time, my team has a strong focus on driving operational excellence through clearly defined processes, consistent metrics and analysis.

In order to drive operational excellence, it’s imperative to have clear processes with defined accountabilities and ownership. It’s also critical to measure how well these processes are being delivered to stakeholders, including both candidates and hiring managers.

We believe that these defined processes—ranging from candidate management to system management to onboarding—gives us the capability to quickly react to business needs, both planned and unplanned.

Question: What is the biggest challenge that you have come up against?

Answer: Whirlpool Corp. has a very high bar for talent. With a clearly defined leadership model and assessment methodology that’s embedded in our interview processes, we are clear about the type of talent we need to drive our business and stay competitive. Finding individuals who meet or exceed that high bar and can keep pace in a globally competitive marketplace can be challenging.

For example, we may find a candidate with deep functional expertise who can do the job today. However, we continually look for talent not only with functional expertise but also with the leadership capabilities required for future roles.

Question: Does a struggling international economy make your job easier or more difficult?

Answer: It’s not easier or more difficult; it’s simply different. My team’s focus is on continuing to deliver value to our stakeholders regardless of the economic conditions. Changing conditions help drive new innovation by challenging us to re-evaluate what we’re doing and how we’re doing it to meet and exceed expectations.

Our analysis may drive us to change some of our processes, the resources we need or the scope of our roles to deliver results that we hadn’t previously considered. It also forces us to be much more flexible, which, in turn, increases our capabilities to be nimble. In either case, economic conditions that impact our business present us with opportunities.

Question: At the end of the day, is your mission to ensure that each and every Whirlpool employee loves the company?

Answer: “Loving” the company is a by-product of building the right type of relationship with employees. When employees trust leadership, are engaged in the strategy and receive reward for their execution, it builds company pride and loyalty—sentiments that are clearly based on both trust and reciprocity.

It’s every leader in the company’s job to ensure we are delivering on our promise, or value proposition, to employees, and it’s every employee’s job to deliver his or her best thinking and performance to reach our objective of being the leading consumer brand products company.

Douglas Vaira is a freelance writer living in Charles Town, W.Va. Reach him at douglasvaira@hotmail.com.

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