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High-tech apps versus the human touch in hiring


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A hiring party at Taco Bell puts the brand culture out front to entice prospective employees to sign on.

It’s no secret hiring is a slog these days with low unemployment and intense competition. Concepts of all kinds are paying much more and offering up any perk they can to get people in the door.

While there are lots of tests and emerging best practices around hiring, some operators are getting back to age-old hiring events and others are leaning on new technology.

Both Taco Bell and Two Men and a Truck are using hiring events to get people in the door to share a little glimpse of the company culture and what the job will look like.

Bjorn Erland, vice president of people and experience at Taco Bell, is incorporating such events after a successful test showed they could be much more valuable than the typical job ads.

“In four restaurants in Indianapolis we hired about 40 people and had close to 80 applicants that came to the parties to learn about the brand. We were able to hire one of two people, which was really fantastic,” said Erland.

He said there were strong ripple effects for days after the parties as potential employees thought more about the opportunity and talked to their friends. The restaurants “received almost 400 applications during this time. That’s a large applicant flow for three to four days,” said Erland. “I can tell you, 100 applicants in a store in a week is a lot.”

After the test, they rolled out the program to the entire Taco Bell network. The company hosted nearly 600 hiring parties nationwide as part of a grand effort to create 100,000 new jobs by 2022.

Two Men and a Truck tapped into the power of hiring parties years ago. Well before the intense labor pressures really hit everyone, the moving franchise began hosting job events at the beginning of the busy summer moving season.

“We talked about what are things we could do to get some attention for the brand and what it’s like to work at Two Men and a Truck,” said Sara Bennett, chief talent officer at the company, noting in one day they attracted more than 100 applicants.

Fountain

Applying is as easy as texting in Fountain.

‘Gigified’ hiring

Other operators have embraced technology as a new way to meet potential employees, and there are plenty of companies to choose from that claim to make the entire process, from advertising positions to onboarding, easier.

Fountain is one of many companies helping on the hiring front by taking care of sourcing, screening and actually hiring people. The only thing the software doesn’t take on is training.

Micah Rowland, COO at Fountain, said the company began as a way to help with the high-turnover world of the gig economy, sourcing more than 100,000 employees for an app-based delivery company, but it’s carving a niche in the restaurant and service business.

“You need to be able to hire them in volume across many locations and usually they are going to be high-turnover workers, so you’re always going to be hiring,” said Rowland. “Our software helps them do hiring mobile-first, the way a candidate wants to be contacted these days.”

He said a large Taco Bell franchisee is rolling out the software platform right now, in an effort not to save manager hours, but to keep the hiring stream strong because turnover isn’t going down.

“Hire rates are going to be better when you’re following a consistent process and nobody falls through the cracks,” said Rowland, and it’s especially helpful at the screening end.

“Our software puts a layer of abstraction between the hiring team and the sources. If you’re the GM of a Taco Bell and you want to hire someone, it’s, ‘How do I find people who are going to apply?’”

Other companies are also “gigifying” the hiring experience. ShiftPixy is working toward a pool of employees from which operators can pull, essentially matching qualified, trained people looking for hours with locations looking for help. Right now, it’s in a broad test within an operator’s locations, sending the right labor to the right location with gig-like ease. But the company aims to put a huge number of employees in the pool to share labor across restaurant and service brands while taking care of the payroll and insurance functions.

“You’re going to get a certain skill set and a knowledge base, so we’re at the right point for our operators,” said founder and CEO Scott Absher. “Now they’re out of the hiring business, they’re able to access an on-demand workforce. Because we’re curating at the operator level, every time they come on board, we’re picking up another 50 people that are already in the work vein that any other operator would be looking for.”

So what works best?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. For every company, every market and every location, there are important hiring nuances. For high-turnover concepts with a young, hustling and tech-forward labor pool, platforms like ShiftPixy may serve to capture those folks that create a patchwork of gig jobs or want to eke out full-time employment without signing on for a standard 40-hour workweek. But it also means sharing those employees, something many operators get wary about.

In concepts where managers are especially stressed, software options such as Fountain help managers get away from the constant hiring process and the guesswork that comes along with it. Rowland said that’s a boon because it allows managers to get a job posting out in fewer clicks with fewer decisions about where to post, how much to pay and then skipping the busywork of communicating around the final interview.

“There are a lot of job boards to use. Which ones should I use and how should I spend is a big question. That’s one question that our software removes entirely. When you go find candidates, you can choose ‘I want to hire two cashiers at two locations,’ and our system says, ‘It will cost $120.’ That’s one thing they love, making sourcing easier,” said Rowland.

While the software taps into a young, tech-savvy workforce, hiring parties can be valuable to demonstrate a brand’s culture and make an authentic connection with potential employees.

Erland said there are two big reasons Taco Bell is embracing hiring parties: “Just having the party and Taco Bell-izing it so to speak is part making it creative and trying the food.

Then secondly is just meeting the team and being able to interact with them and seeing the culture from their standpoint, why they joined, why they stayed and what do they love about it and how do they have fun when they’re working there. That’s the best way to demonstrate the culture.”

He said it’s important to have seasoned managers on hand who moved up through the ranks, showing real career development or who tapped into the educational perks the company offers.

That’s a central piece of the Two Men and a Truck hiring parties as well. A large number of managers and franchisees started in the truck.

“It was interesting how many people said, ‘I’m looking for somewhere where I can grow and develop some skills.’ That message is getting out,” said Bennett.

And while it’s not exclusively 6-foot-5 musclemen in trucks, the company is realistic about the job.

“We try to be as upfront as possible, if you’re not up for that, it’s a waste of time and money for everybody. Some events it will be showing what kind of equipment they use, furniture dollies. And we have people who are on the truck to talk about it,” said Bennett. “There’s a whole world of people who don’t want to be stuck in an office, and we highlight those things. You can meet different people, go to interesting places.

“It’s hard but you can help people do something they can’t, so you can be a hero to them and that speaks to a lot of people,” Bennett said. “Certain people take pride in being able to do this kind of work.”

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