Collaboration leads to recruitment success

Yorkdale Shopping Centre reaches out to retailers, local residents to find 1,000
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/05/2012

Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto recently took a different approach to recruitment in collaborating with its tenants and the nearby community — with considerable success.

The 250-store mall, one of the oldest in Canada, was keen to help retailers recruit about 1,000 employees both for seasonal work and for a planned 145,000-square-foot expansion. So it organized a job fair and invited the retailers to attend.

“As opposed to everyone duplicating efforts, (we thought) ‘Let’s put something together that will be for candidates as well as recruiters. It just seems so logical, why didn’t we do this before?’” said Anthony Casalanguida, general manager of the mall.

This kind of collaborative approach makes sense, particularly in large centres such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, said Daniela Mayol, divisional vice-president of recruitment services at the Hudson’s Bay Company in Toronto.

“We’ve found that over the years, particularly in malls like that with a number of other retailers, it really helps to do that concerted effort with everybody together.”

The mall also wanted to attract potential applicants from the surrounding community, so it asked Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) to help screen and prepare nearby candidates for the event.

“Because the community south of us is not necessarily, unfortunately, the best when it came to reputation or the perceived quality of the residents, from my perspective, I always thought that there was an opportunity for us to reach out to the City of Toronto and say, ‘Let’s work together and see who from that community would like an opportunity to meet some retailers or employers that they otherwise would not get an opportunity to do so,’” said Casalanguida.

“It was a great, great opportunity for us to reach out to the community but also to have an active discussion with retailers and get them participating.”

The city worked with local not-for-profit employment agencies to put together the customized recruitment initiative, said Barbara Taylor, community and labour market manager at TESS.

“(Casalanguida) really wanted to look at the possibility of hiring local residents, because that’s a win-win for both — it’s a win for residents in providing employment and it’s a win for Yorkdale Shopping Centre because it’s providing employees that live close (by).”

TESS worked with a large number of people from the nearby community, grooming them for the interview process, said Taylor.

“Our role was outreaching to the residents, so letting them know these opportunities were coming, but also preparing residents. So helping them prepare their resumé , providing workshops that prepared them for interviews, etcetera.”

The use of coaches or case workers helped prepare individuals and groups.

“That’s a real strength in the model that we use because individuals then make that relationship connection with the coach,” she said. “Yorkdale is a pretty high-end shopping centre and you’ll hear residents say, ‘Oh, I don’t know, I could never work there.’ So (it’s about) coaching, mentoring and helping them to recognize that, ‘Yes, there is a potential, you could get a job here.’”

Mayol agreed the TESS approach can help people who may have a lot to offer.

“We’re really very open, we’ve provided everyone with the profile and competencies that we’re looking for, so giving that information and ability to prepare the candidates is very helpful.”

And finding local talent is valuable, for recruitment and retention, said Ana Davies, associate vice-president of human resources field operations at Sears in Toronto.

“Especially in the metro markets like the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), because obviously it’s easier for people to get to work if it’s close to home and they have transit, and that means that they’ll likely stay as well.”

The first part of the Sept. 20 event, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., was allocated for the TESS registrants, while 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. was devoted to those who responded to a basic callout.

Yorkdale sent out an email blast to its database of 53,000 people to advertise the job fair and, in the end, the response was so good that people had to be turned away.

Somewhat similar to speed dating, job candidates were given the opportunity to sit down for three to five minutes for a mini interview with employers, including Geox, Lacoste and Holt Renfrew.

“This was a really successful event. I have to tell you, the numbers were phenomenal,” said Taylor, adding there were 730 candidates registered and 3,535 meetings with candidates performed by recruiters.

“We had a really positive response from retailers,” she said. “It was mainly because they got to meet with hundreds of individuals in one spot. A retailer can tell within the first four seconds whether or not this individual, they would hire them or not, so it was a real benefit to the employers.”

Despite the hasty setting, it’s possible to do quality recruitment at job fairs, said Mayol.

“We use behaviour-based interviews that ask pointed questions that draw from candidates what it is we’re looking for. We’ve gotten pretty good so if we only have 15 minutes or half an hour, and only four or five questions, they’re very targeted,” she said. “If you’re very specific and targeted and structured, it does help our stores to be able to find talent.”

Because so many retailers participated, including anchor stores, it was very impactful, said Davies.

“A lot of times you’ll see job fairs at the malls but it isn’t always attended by every participant or the vast majority of them. So this was a very well-orchestrated event, and it had high participation,” she said. “(Sears) received over 250 applications, which is a very good showing. And it helped us through our hiring for seasonal, as well as some people to work through some of the refresh work that we’re doing in the store, so it was very successful.”

The event also received high marks because the retailers indicated the quality of the candidates was higher in the morning when the previously-assessed people from the community had their interviews, said Casalanguida.

“If the individual was not selected, at least they get an opportunity to understand what this is all about and that’s great. They may not make it necessarily this year but if they got constructive feedback in terms of what they did or how they performed, then they’ll be better prepared next time.”

In hindsight, the event could have been two or three days judging by the response, both from retailers and applicants, said Casalanguida, and Yorkdale is waiting for further feedback from TESS — but the mall is considering doing the event again.

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