Honing a Talent Experience with Dick’s Sporting Goods

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Ty Abernethy:

Hello, and welcome! Thanks so much for joining us today. I’m excited to present our guest, Rick Jordan, from Dick’s Sporting Goods. Rick, say hello.


Rick Jordan:

Hey Ty, thanks for having me. Thanks everyone, pleasure to be here.


Ty Abernethy:

Rick is the Senior Director of TA at Dick’s Sporting Goods. We have a lot to dig in on. I’m really excited about spending some time with you, Rick.

Real quick, I’m Ty Abernethy, Co-Founder & CEO of Grayscale. Grayscale is a texting and automation platform designed for high volume hiring.

But today we are here to talk all things Dick’s Sporting Goods. There’s a lot to dig in on, so I’m excited to jump right in here. Rick, why don’t we start off with talking through your process. I know you’re no stranger to the problem of candidate ghosting.

I think ghosting is sort of impacting all of us universally right now, dealing in low volume and high volume and retail and healthcare. It’s a universal problem that we are all grappling with and trying to solve in unique and creative ways.

I’d love to hear what candidate ghosting looks like there at Dick’s, and things you’re thinking about, things you’re implementing. Talk to me about candidate ghosting for a sec.


Rick Jordan:

When you think about candidate ghosting, it’s the market versus how engaging your process is, or how engaging your experience is.

And right now we are all competing for talent. When I think about someone ghosting us, I have to imagine they’ve found it easier to do business, and when I say do business, meaning opt in to be selected at another organization.

And I think the more engaging, the more streamlined your selection process is, I think that’s when you’re gonna see less ghosting. I think about when I drive down the street and the amount of signs that say ‘now hiring’. And if I am someone looking for an opportunity, what’s gonna be the easiest one for me to say, ‘Hey, I’d like to work for you.’

And then I think they follow through. And if you’re gonna start putting candidates through a really extensive process right now, I think your ghosting definitely goes up.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah. I read a report recently that highlighted three causes of ghosting and the first was speed, right?

You’re not moving fast enough to get candidates through your process. The second was experience. So they’re not having a good experience in your process, or there’s too much friction in your process that is creating a bad experience to the candidate. And the third was compensation.

Those three things all play a component of it. But I think the two that you have the biggest influence on oftentimes are the experience, right? Back to that candidate engagement – just creating a great candidate journey.

And then two, just making sure you’re moving as fast as you can possibly move to get candidates through your process. Because typically it’s the first offer that wins, especially in retail. If you’re not first, forget about it. Thinking about for you, those first two pillars of speed and candidate experience, talk to me. I’d love to unpack some things you’re thinking about or implemented in either of those categories.


Rick Jordan:

Yeah, around speed, we actually did some work. We benchmarked how long it takes someone, and the complexity of it, to put their name in the hat – to go through the application process.

We went through over 25 companies and we went and applied to see what it’s like for them. We timed it, we talked about the complexity of how much information I have to share, and then we said, ‘how do we rank against that’? We thought about it as when you’re online shopping and you get to the checkout and I can pay with Apple Pay, my shipping address is already populated, my information is there, it’s really easy for me to buy.

But when I get to that shopping cart, and I gotta type in my credit card, and my information wasn’t pulled, I don’t have time for this. And you abort the sale.

I think the same thing about an employee application. That’s been our first focus. How many folks do these people really need to meet with as they go through our process?

What’s absolutely necessary? And then the mechanics behind that, how can we automate so that it’s done efficiently and fast? Let’s automate and just continue the momentum that we created from a fast application process.


Ty Abernethy:

That’s so interesting. You identified 25 companies worth emulating, you audited their candidate experience, what that journey looked like, you timed it, and then you scored your process against theirs to see how you stacked up.


Rick Jordan:

Yeah, and we’re not perfect by any means, but we already have pulled two pieces out of our application process.

We’ve got feelings that they weren’t adding a lot of value, and we saw at every step, what is our drop off looking like? And we were able to already eliminate two pieces of that process, and we’re just continuing to refine. What do you need to know upfront, versus what can I learn when I meet you in person? What can I fill in when I’ve been given the offer? So really looking at it all throughout that candidate journey.

And so it used to be where you could really demand a lot upfront and you could demand to spend, goodness, 45 minutes to an hour on an application. So it makes it easier for us, the talent acquisition people. That is flipped, it has to be what is easiest for the candidate. If you’re not approaching it that way, you’re gonna lose talent, and you’re for sure gonna see more people ghosting you.


Ty Abernethy:

How do you think about automation and its role in helping underpin candidate experience and speed in the process?


Rick Jordan:

I keep tying a lot of this back to consumer experience, and the work we’re doing around athlete centricity in our stores.

So even when people shop with dick’s, we want it to be really simple and easy. But when there’s moments where I want to talk to someone about the technical aspect of this product, or I want to try on a garment and run on a treadmill in your store to see how it fits and moves, I wanna have as much time as I want during those experiences.

If it’s scheduling that golf fitting, I want that to be super simple. So think about that in the application and the candidate selection process. We believe people are the core of our business, between the athletes in our stores, the folks in our community, and our teammates. That’s core, and our goal is to build really solid relationships with all of these different groups.

You can’t build relationships through an automated piece of technology. However, I can automate how we find time to connect. I can automate how I remind you when we’re connecting. I can automate when it’s time for you to sign on the dotted line. But we’re gonna protect the time that we use between us and the candidate to start to build and cultivate that relationship.

We don’t ever want it to become this transactional experience.


Ty Abernethy:

So finding that blend where the human element is really woven throughout, and then you’re leveraging automation to really help enhance what your recruiting team is capable of doing.

It’s those things like scheduling and the touch points throughout the process that need to happen that are always gonna be the same.


Rick Jordan:

A hundred percent. I was thinking about this a little bit recently because through our benchmarking, we’re seeing some organizations go to where you actually never talk to a human live until someone is calling you and saying, ‘Okay, when can you start? We want to make you an offer’. I think there could be a place for that, I’m just not there yet. I think that’s far.

I just think that’s a place that we’re not ready to go to because of the lack of the relationship component there. If you’ve met a hiring manager, you’ve come in, you’ve had a good experience, you’ve connected, I think it’s gonna be harder for you to take a counter offer.

I think it’s gonna be harder for you to decide, ‘Ah, maybe I’ll go somewhere else’. But if it’s been completely transactional, it’s really easy to abort the transaction and not show up on day one. Because you have no connection to these people behind this business. You’ve just been put through a robot experience.

That’s not somewhere we’re willing to go. We wanna build those relationships and make those connections because we hope that this is a long-term relationship with us.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, Totally. That’s a great way of thinking about it. It’s almost like the secret sauce is having that human element in the process. Even though you could move a little bit faster if everything was soup-to-nuts automated, keeping that human element throughout is critical to foster a relationship.

And you’re less likely to ghost if you’ve built good rapport with the recruiter or had a good experience with the brand. All these little things really add up. And in the world that we’re in I think there’s been a lot of hype with AI, and maybe there’s a place for that.

But are you automating out the human element? And if you’re faking the human element, that almost can be worse sometimes. People crave meaningful connections, and it sounds silly to think about that in the context of an interview process, especially for volume hiring, but it’s so true.

I think it’s more important now than it’s ever been, right?


Rick Jordan:

Yeah, it’s all about this balance, right? I 100% am gonna lean into automation. That allows more time for our team to focus and plan on those in-person conversations. It allows it to happen a lot faster.

Then when we get to you, we have a meaningful time. Then perhaps there’s an automated thank you with some next steps. Perhaps once I send you to a step it triggers and tells you, ‘Hey, some good news is coming, can’t wait to talk to you’.

There are gaps where that automation will help, but it will still feel somewhat personalized, and it’ll still feel like I’m not just connecting with a robot on the other end of this.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, that makes total sense. You mentioned SMS as a channel, I wanna drill in on that. How do you think about leveraging SMS vs Email? What does the role of SMS have, and how are you thinking about scaling it across the team?


Rick Jordan:

We’re definitely leaning into it. It’s not something that we’ve done a ton with. And then I started hearing from my recruiters that they’re all texting via their corporate cell phones, and they’re hearing responses back faster and it’s driving more engagement. And that’s fantastic, but that’s not a great use of your time in the way that we’re doing that.

A hundred percent leaning into texting someone to get them scheduled, or texting them to say, ‘Hey I’ve got good news’. Text them saying, ‘I got your application, I’d love to talk to you’. Or even, ‘Hey I see you’ve applied to this, but I have something else’. And we’re seeing the faster response, we are seeing less candidates drop out of the process.

I do think we’re moving in a space where calling someone is maybe a little too much for some people right off the bat. But they feel much more comfortable responding on their time, and be able to backspace, edit, whatever they want to do in that text message, versus that live conversation.

The audacity to call me first, or even the audacity to try to FaceTime me. Are you kidding – no way.


Ty Abernethy:

You’re probably gonna have a few different camps. I remember a decade ago doing recruiting myself and you pick up the phone and call, that’s like what you do. And then to think about how things have come so full circle that now the phone is seen as more invasive.


Rick Jordan:

If I get a call and I don’t have the number in my phone, I normally don’t answer it. And then I feel like so many of my team members are spending time calling, leaving voicemails, it’s like this back and forth.

Now having said all of that, It’s multi-pronged. We will still email, we will text, and we’ll still pick up the phone and call. Use all your tools, and know when to use them.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, totally. I think an omnichannel approach right now is what is going to win. But yeah I wanna keep moving.

I know a big stakeholder at Dick’s is your many hiring managers, and I wanna spend a few minutes there, just what you’re thinking about, what you’re working towards, and just the importance of supporting that manager in this total equation.


Rick Jordan:

So we think about our hiring managers as, we bring 50% of this equation and you bring the other 50%, true partnership. I can’t hire without you, you can’t hire without me. So I think the first thing for us as TA professionals, we have to make it really easy for our hiring managers.

And then when it is easy, we expect them to show up. But you are a partner, you’re side by side with us. And then we strategize. I think our brand gets the candidate’s interest. You love sports. You played sports, your kids play sports. So the brand gets us in the door, but then we join and stay with a company because of the people we work with and work for.

That all starts with that hiring manager. We are in this together and one of the things we look for, and then what we expect is building really dynamic teams.

It’s part of your job as a leader. And we’ve got hiring managers here that really get it, and we look at them like, ‘You are an asset to us as we’re trying to recruit talent’.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, making clear the importance of hiring, and their role in that. And so making sure that experience. Isn’t just great from the TA team and then stops once they get to the store. So that continuity-


Rick Jordan:

Ty, specifically for our stores, we’ve been working on this journey where we’re changing that mindset. Your role as the head coach of our store is always thinking about your team, and recruitment has to be a priority.

Now, we have phenomenal support at our most senior space at the organization that talks about talent all the time, and building inclusive, diverse, engaged, inspired teams. That’s one of their top priorities. So it takes a shift that recruiting might not be your day job, but it’s gonna be a solid piece of your day job.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, that makes total sense. And when you’re thinking about supporting those store managers effectively, I imagine you probably have a whole other set of challenges to implement technology to help support those stores from a recruiting standpoint, because all the stores maybe do things a little bit different.

Is that then a factor here, or is it more about just meeting the store manager where they are or, more about standardizing everything and making sure they just are brought up into the fold?


Rick Jordan:

We do understand all the dynamic pieces of running these massive Dick’s Sporting Good stores. We never take that for granted that there’s so much going on in that store, that we can’t just push technology. We can’t just say, ‘Hey guys, tomorrow start doing this’. So it does make you really empathetic, really in their shoes.

So when we go out and spend time in stores and realize, wow, there are a lot of competing priorities, so we think about that quite a bit. And anything that we do out in our field organization, we’re gonna test, we’re gonna pilot, we’re gonna get feedback from people that are doing it in that space, before we would take something out to our entire chain. It’s not as simple as rolling something out to a recruiting team of 50 people.

We’re talking 850+ stores that we wanna change the process. And it does go back to ‘just make it really easy for the hiring managers’. Help them build their teams, don’t overcomplicate processes. Don’t overcomplicate systems you have to click 13 times just to get the candidate’s resume.

How easy is it for them to bring their 50% to the table?


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, it’s almost like you’re doing the same type of work for the candidate journey as you are for the store manager journey, right? Ease of use, eliminate friction, keep it simple, it’s just like a mantra over and over.


Rick Jordan:

It’s the story of life in recruiting, and people that have done it know it, you’ve got so many stakeholders. You want a great candidate experience, but you need a great hiring manager experience.


Ty Abernethy:

You gotta have ’em both. They’re the two pillars of-


Rick Jordan:

It’s so true. And neither one is more important, everyone has to feel the love from the TA folks.


Ty Abernethy:

Rick, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. It’s been an education. I’m sure everyone listening in has learned a lot. Rick, thanks so much. We appreciate you taking some time.


Rick Jordan:

Thanks Ty.


Ty Abernethy:

Take care.


Rick Jordan:

Thank you.