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12 May 2009 6:15am

Extensive research into its target market, and some strategic alliances, have helped Pacific Brands turn around “appalling” mis-hire and time-to-fill rates, according to its GM of talent and organisational capability, Russell Kronenburg.

It was taking, on average, 181 days to hire design managers when innovative designers “had the potential, with one product, to deliver about $300,000 additional revenue in a day”, he told the Australasian Talent Conference last week.

At the time, two in five designers were leaving the company during their first year.

Pacific Brands opted to spend some time “confirming our understanding about what employees valued about us”, and what external people perceived about the company (and what might attract them), he said.

It found that part of its problem was the lack of a “fantastic relationship” with the design community, and that its competitive, corporate-style recruitment approach didn’t appeal to the best designers.

“Our strategies in the way we were talking to them were wrong. Our solutions were wrong.”

It responded by addressing four key areas:
internships and design projects – to give students “real world” experience. “To be honest, I don’t even care if they come and work for Pacific Brands, I don’t care if I can use their design (because it’s their IP). What I am really keen about is how they become a better designer so that at one point in time, if they ever come into our business, I know that they’ve had real world experience and they’re able to solve our needs and our consumers’ needs.”

Employee development – “it’s about how do I build technical capabilities for some of our more creative and innovative people? Often they love this world of creativity, but they hate constraints. They often don’t get a lot of development because no-one knows how to solve their development needs.”

Pacific Brands partnered with academic institutions around the world and Kronenburg says these are “an untapped source”;

Research – “how do we partner with people to advance research for the industry, from a consumers’ point of view, and possibly even how do we tap into it?” and

Recruitment – Pacific Brands opted not to use external recruiters to source designers because that wouldn’t achieve its aim of building relationships with the design community.

“I didn’t want to give that to an external recruiter because what we would miss out on is the relationship that we could build with people that may not necessarily want to come and work for us tomorrow [but might in the future].”

Long-term focus
Kronenburg says large employers must focus not only on their own talent needs but also those of the broader industries in which they operate.

Initially, he said, the strategies Pacific Brands employed were “about our needs” and the design community was “a bit concerned and sceptical. We found it didn’t unlock a lot of doors for individuals and the community”.

As a result, the company embarked on “other initiatives that were about long-term viability… In doing that, we’ve enabled ourselves to be in a different space”.

The initiatives included:
building (“really cheaply”) a LinkedIn forum called the International Fashion and Apparel Association. Kronenburg manages it and oversees who joins, but there are no constraints on the community. It has about 1400 members worldwide who ask each other questions. Although it wasn’t built as a recruiting portal, he said, “we have found some fantastic people from it”;

going to universities to help students with their interview skills and talk about their portfolios;

knowledge exchanges – giving designers the chance to be guest lecturers at overseas universities; and

industry design projects – winners get to work at Pacific Brands for a limited time, giving it “access to the best design talent in the marketplace”.

Kronenburg said that as a result of all the initiatives, “we’ve got access to a much bigger talent pool of designers than we ever had before.”

“We now have people graduating from universities around the world who would have never known about Pacific Brands previously who now know about us and want to come and work for us.”

http://www.recruiterdaily.com.au/nl06_news_selected.php?act=2&nav=1&selkey=39481&utm_source=daily+email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily+Email+Article+Link

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