Selecting ‘employees of the future’ at O2by
To combat the competitive challenge of online shopping, ‘bricks-and-mortar’ retailers are having to adapt, by enhancing their in-store service and providing a personalised and compelling customer experience.
Recognising this trend, O2 has created two new ‘stores of the future’ in London and Manchester.
Roughly three times the size of a high street O2 phone shop, these two new stores feature relaxation areas and interactive ‘inspire zones’ where customers can try out the latest technology, including virtual reality apps, wearables, smartphones, tablets and connected home devices.
The aim was to create a more compelling reason for customers to want to visit an O2 store.
However, it’s one thing to build stores that reflect the new digital future but we also had to recruit the right staff who could excite and inform customers and provide a hands-on digital experience.
We appointed psychometric assessment company cut-e to help select and recruit individuals who could embody and empower the O2 brand and reach out to a new generation of users. This was a key challenge.
Together, we developed a new selection process to engage applicants, provide a special candidate experience and identify the individuals who were exactly right for the new roles.
cut-e undertook a job analysis and benchmarking exercise to create a profile of the traits and skills required in the new stores. Previously, we’d predominantly hire people with retail experience.
A new type of retail worker?
This time, we were looking for creative, gregarious, emotionally-intelligent individuals who could interact with customers and bring services and products to life, rather than sell to them.
500 applicants undertook a selection of cut-e’s online assessments to measure their creativity, communication skills and style of interacting with customers and colleagues.
We were looking for creative, gregarious, emotionally-intelligent individuals who could interact with customers.
The best candidates were invited to submit a short video of themselves answering strengths-based questions devised by cut-e.
Analysis of the videos revealed each candidate’s motivations, energy level and engagement.
We assessed each candidate’s performance in the video interviews objectively, using a scoring system developed by cut-e.
We then invited 78 external and internal candidates to our assessment events, which we held in special pop-up stores in London and Manchester.
A new style of face-to-face assessment
Each assessment event featured customer-interaction role-plays with live actors.
The candidates undertook activities such as showing off the Google ecosystem, demonstrating a Star Wars BB-8 droid and diagnosing a customer problem via Skype. They also completed an interactive quiz to test their passion for technology, and a teamwork exercise.
The assessment experience was designed to be an engaging, low-stress process in which candidates could show us their personality.
By using technology, we didn’t have to worry about printing out materials for each candidate and we could also deploy interactive content to candidates via tablets.
cut-e devised and developed the activities and they briefed and trained our team to observe and objectively assess the candidates.
Senior O2 managers attended and they agreed that this was a very different way to select people. We were able to make quick hiring decisions and the look and feel of the process was culturally aligned with the new digital age of retailing.
The candidates undertook activities such as showing off the Google ecosystem, demonstrating a Star Wars BB-8 droid and diagnosing a customer problem via Skype.
We had a 92% attendance rate at the assessment events, which is unusually high as retail candidates often apply for multiple roles and then take the first job they’re offered.
So, you typically get a high number of people ‘dropping out’ on the day but that wasn’t the case here. As a result, we recruited 56 people for the two new stores.
The entire recruitment process - from cut-e’s briefing to the job offers being accepted - took five weeks. Since then, the revenues, engagement levels and retention rates at the two new stores have all been above projected levels - and the impact on O2’s business, brand and culture has been very positive.
Ross is an established resourcing and talent management professional with nearly 20 years experience within the talent acquisition and resourcing services sector. He has responsibility for O2's managerial and specialist recruitment.