How Ocado Uses Data & Technology to Tackle Talent Challenges
We were delighted to present alongside David Brammer, the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Ocado Group, at the Gartner ReimagineHR Conference in London in September.
David spoke about the People Experience at Ocado, and how they are applying different data systems and technologies to solve people-related challenges, particularly around attracting and hiring talent. So what were the key takeaways?
The mission at Ocado is to make shopping easier and more accessible, and their systems, technologies, software and hardware are currently used across the grocery sector (with various global partners), but could be applied in any industry. The Talent Acquisition team sits at around 85 people, who will deliver around 14000 hires a year. The vast majority of those are for hourly paid roles, such as drivers and warehouse operatives. The business has grown very quickly, so they are hiring huge volumes of people, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
“We are the mechanics, if you like, for the systems, the data, the hardware behind automating retail.”
Challenges in TA
David outlined the following challenges for Talent Acquisition at Ocado.
- Data – Inconsistent data points or outputs for the hiring journey. With several different ATS platforms and recruitment platforms, which had grown massively, it was almost impossible for TA at Ocado to get useful, meaningful data.
- TA Capability – Their legacy approach to talent attraction had become outdated. During COVID-19 it was possible to post a vacancy and get tons of applications, due to the nature of the market and Ocado’s unique position within it! But that situation couldn't last forever. Systems – A huge range of integrations and unnecessary tech were slowing down the hiring process.
- Experience – The end-to-end hiring experience is too long (and is still sitting at about four to six weeks, over four or five stages) in a talent-short market. Candidate interaction has generally been minimal (too few recruiters for volume of hiring) and the experience was poor, not just from the candidate perspective but from an internal perspective too: candidates weren’t getting the time and the exposure that they need to learn about the business, so were less likely to accept an offer.
“Two years ago we could post a vacancy for a software engineer and get fifty or sixty applications. These days we can reach out to two hundred and fifty software engineers, and only manage to get maybe twenty or twenty five of them interested in a discussion. The dynamic has shifted significantly.”
Putting EVP at the center
Ocado decided it was important to really consider how their offer – what they do as a business – was reflected in their EVP, for two reasons. One, because what they ACTUALLY did was often misunderstood by candidates (many people were expecting Ocado to be a retailer when they applied). And, two, because Ocado tended to talk about themselves in the future tense – in an aspirational way – that wasn’t resonating with candidates particularly well. People were being hired then finding a disconnect between the aspirations and the reality.
For more effective people-led hiring, Ocado is now thinking about how they better utilize brand partners, localize their offer (using Talent Intelligence to activate in specific markets), and bring their vision, purpose and values to life through the candidate journey.
“As someone lands in the business, that experience should be absolutely what they've been sold throughout the process, and after 90 or 180 days in the business, everything that we've written on the website about what it feels like to work for Ocado should come true.”
A new approach to enhance the people experience
Ocado is in a relatively unique moment in time, where it has been able to essentially stop, assess, and start again, when it comes to technology.
“Without data, and without the right data points from each of our different systems speaking to each other, we can't learn. If we can't learn, we will continue to do the same thing, and expect a different outcome.”
From a candidate experience and data-driven hiring point of view, Ocado reset its approach and revised all system integrations and data points used in the journey. They now have a newly defined offer and EVP, a brand new ATS, new integrations, new careers site, new processes, and all new data points (capturing the data that matters), spanning the entire candidate journey.
The new data highlights where there is friction in the process; for example, if it appears to take 40% more time than it needs to to go between interview one and the offer stage, David and his team can then look at the data and see whether there’s a delay between hiring managers getting CVs, or TA getting the feedback they need. This has allowed Ocado to iterate and optimize the process – and ultimately improve the candidate experience, as applicants want to have as few steps as possible towards getting a job, while still feeling engaged and receiving the right amount of education.
Based on commonly asked questions from the business, they have used their new suites of data to build handy Talent Dashboards (a work in progress) in Workday, and are continuing to learn and refine their processes as time goes on.
New platforms for talent attraction
In terms of attraction and reach, Ocado has realigned its approach to talent intelligence, talent attraction partnerships, and training. Rather than 20 or so platforms, they now have a more streamlined view, with Workday at the center. According to David, Beamery is the second most important platform for TA in that ecosystem. Ocado is using Beamery to stay engaged with their ‘silver medalist’ population, alumni population, and current active candidate population.
“They will be invited essentially to stay with us for a couple of years, and to converse with us and understand… If this vacancy didn't work out, what about the next?”
They have limited the number of hiring platforms they are using, working with LinkedIn, Cord and (trialing) Fetcher, and building successful relationships with Indeed and Glassdoor. They are also working with Social Talent as a training tool for TA – this uplifts the capability and capacity within David’s team.
In terms of the overall tech stack – the different tools being used together, largely seamlessly, throughout the candidate journey – Workday is again at the center. Workday is all that candidates see and experience, but this integrates with Beamery, interview scheduling, document signing and so on. Of course, candidates will be asked if they're keen to be added to Beamery, as their file primarily is on Workday, so this is needed from a data protection perspective.
New forms of measurement
TA at Ocado is looking at a range of candidate experience-related measurements to assess the effectiveness of their revised approach.
- Feedback – Qualitative feedback from new starters, as well as from TA (and the wider People team), regarding the process.
- Click-through – As they can now analyze the full end-to-end process, from the advert to onboarding, they want to see a 25% increase in early stage engagement. They can look at where and why people dropped out, and make improvements.
- Attrition – If brand messaging is correct and articulated well, particularly at the start of the hiring process, it should be exactly what a candidate experiences. If that is the case, there is a higher chance of them staying. Ocado is targeting a 20% reduction in early stage leavers.
- Offer Acceptance – Due to the revised process, shorter hiring timeframes, smoother transitions and an improved experience, Ocado is targeting a 20% increase in offer acceptance.
- Timelines – Thanks to revised data & (localized) 2-way SLAs, Ocado expects to speed up the hiring process. With a commitment on both sides to SLAs, the TA team and the business can hold each other to account on timelines, which is unusual in business.
- Cost – Due to all the improvements (time and process efficiencies and improved capacity), Ocado would expect to see reduced spend on third-party agencies.
- Internal Engagement – Using Peakon, Ocado can look at feedback and measure improvements in internal engagement and onboarding.
- Capability – New platforms for recruiter training and automation are leading to improvements around capability in the TA team.
David discussed some of the early-stage outcomes of the recent changes, stressing that a few of the more challenging areas have not yet had a proper process review. Within Q1-Q3 (FY22), Ocado has seen a 30% efficiency increase in time to hire, through Hiring Manager development, and a 50% increase in trained interviewers in the company. David pointed out that there was no point having, for example, 200 software engineers waiting 2 weeks for an interview, when too few people could interview them.
They also improved the caliber of candidates at the top of the funnel, and that in turn has led to a 400% increase in first-stage candidate success.
They’ve seen a 20% month-on-month bottom line cost reduction, thanks to TA outperforming third-party agencies. Ocado is now 25% less reliant on agencies.