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Recruiting LP and Safety Professionals at Lowe’s

The success of any organization is determined by the talent of its people. In his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, Jim Collins put it this way: “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

Whether it’s a company, a loss prevention and safety department, or a sports team, the more talented people within the organization, the greater chance it has to succeed. Loading any organization with talented people requires a comprehensive five-step people strategy.

Recruiting. The first component of this strategy is recruiting. The other pieces include screening and selection, placement, on-boarding, and training and development. It all starts with a sound recruiting strategy to ensure there is a sufficient pool of applicants.

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Selection. Next, a standardized, competency-based selection process will ensure only the people who are most likely to succeed are hired into the organization. Selection tools should be based on core competencies that are essential to the job. Also, the selection process should be weighted to favor selection based on skills and traits that are more difficult to train and develop. Some skills are easier to develop in an employee than others, such as how to use a computer, how to research a cash shortage, and how to conduct a dishonest employee interview.

On the flip side are traits much more difficult to develop, such as integrity, intelligence, work ethic, drive for results, and a positive attitude. Therefore, selection tools should measure all relevant skills and attributes in a perspective employee, but should be weighted to select candidates who are stronger in the essential traits that are more difficult to develop.

Placement. Once you determine a candidate has the required skills and abilities for the job, the next priority is placement. Whether we are talking about store level, district or regional level, or even corporate positions, placement is critical in positioning the person to succeed. Matching the strengths and weaknesses to the position will help determine their success. Hiring managers at Lowe’s consider the background and abilities of the new hire as well as the needs of the stores and the management team they will be working with in making selection and placement decisions.

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On-boarding. This brings us to the next step in the process, which is on-boarding and initial training. For most new hires, depending on the complexity of the job, it takes somewhere between two and six months to fully grasp all the nuances. Also, during the first weeks and months there will come a time when the new employee’s perceptions of the job meet the reality.

The purpose of the on-boarding process is to get the employee through the first months on the job without overwhelming them. This process should get them to the point that they are aware of expectations and have a basic understanding of how to fulfill these expectations.

Development. Training continues beyond the initial on-boarding period. Once the person is fully trained and knows how to perform his or her current job, the last step is development. For long-term success, focusing on developing additional skills will not only help them in their current position, but will ultimately prepare them for a position of higher responsibility in the organization. Continuing to train and develop employees is an essential strategy for retaining talented people long term.

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Filling the Pipeline with Quality Candidates

A significant challenge facing any organization, whether you have one position to fill or hundreds, is how to attract highly talented and diverse candidates. This is important because the first step in the people process—recruiting—will eventually affect the subsequent steps. The better the candidates, the better choices you can make in selection and deployment and the more effective your training will be.

Recruiting is also the first step in building a diverse team. The best way to ensure you have a diverse team is by recruiting a diverse pool of applicants. The goal should always be to hire the best candidate for the job, based on their skills and abilities. The diversity mix of the candidates you recruit will ultimately be reflected in your staff. Withour LP recruiting efforts at Lowe’s, our goal is to build a well-rounded team of highly talented and diverse individuals. This goal determines our strategy used in recruiting.

There are many effective recruiting methods. The primary recruiting methods used for the loss prevention specialist (LPS), LP manager (LPM), and district LP manager (DLPM) positions at Lowe’s are as follows:

  • Internet,
  • Colleges,
  • Networking with other retailers, and
  • Identifying store employees who are qualified for an LP and safety position.

Utilizing outside recruiters and search firms as well as newspaper advertising are also used, but to a lesser degree. Of course, one of the most important relationships in our recruiting strategy is our partnership with Lowe’s corporate human resources recruiters and area and regional HR staff.

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Internet Recruiting. There are many options on the Internet for targeting your recruiting efforts. These range from loss prevention and safety specific sites like LPjobs.com all the way to the large general career sites like Monster.com. Some sites of particular interest in the LP and safety field include those targeted at military personnel who are transitioning out of the armed services.

Of course, recruiting diversity candidates is a goal and there are numerous sites designed specifically for diversity candidates.

While it’s unlikely Internet recruiting will solve all of your recruiting needs, it’s an important part of an effective recruiting strategy and can target both in experienced workers, such as college graduates looking for that first step in their career, as well as experienced workers who are looking for bigger and better opportunities.

Because of our company’s expansion and promotions of existing people, we have hundreds of store-level positions and numerous DLPM positions that we will need to fill this year. Our strategy for recruiting this level of employee starts with a nationally recognized LP-specific recruiting site where every LPS, LPM, and DLPM position is posted. At the same time, it includes a well-known, general recruiting site targeting both college students and experienced people as well as diversity recruiting sites.

The system works like this. All LPS, LPM, and DLPM openings at Lowe’s are posted on one site. All of the other sites we use simply feature general information about the LPS, LPM, and DLPM positions with a link to our one list of openings. That site in turn links to the Lowes.com coporate employment page where applicants can apply on-line for any position in the company. Our district LP and safety managers can access all applications received from the Internet for their stores via an internal web-based system. This system includes summary reporting and tracking for all applications received.

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College Recruiting. While Internet recruiting is an important part of our recruiting strategy, college recruiting is also a major focus for us, especially for the entry-level LP specialist position. There are several ways to approach college recruiting and Lowe’s utilizes all of them to varying degrees.

The primary approach to college recruiting is to attend career fairs scheduled by either individual departments at the schools or by the career services offices. Lowe’s has a college recruiting department and with its assistance, we have developed a standardized approach to the college career fairs. This includes take away materials, which give students basic information about Lowe’s, the benefits offered to employees, and general descriptions of the positions.

We have also customized a loss prevention and safety recruiting brochure that includes some basic information about the company, but focuses on the LP and safety department and our approach to loss prevention.

When talking to students at career fairs, we start by selling them on the benefits of working for the company before giving them information about the LP and safety department. Basically, we show them why Lowe’s is a great place to work and then give them insights into the LP and safety role.

One of the challenges of college recruiting is painting an accurate picture of what we really do. Not all college students are familiar with retail loss prevention. But once people become familiar with the role of loss prevention and come to understand that LP and safety can be a very rewarding career, and not just a job, they are much more likely to pursue it.

Like everything else we do, we measure the results of our college recruiting efforts. This allows us to revisit the schools where we have the best results. It also allows us to evaluate the results of our field people who actually attend the career fairs. By looking at the best practices of the LP and safety field staff, we are able to improve recruiting results across the board.

As far as which schools we visit, we include minority and female schools to ensure a diverse applicant pool. We also include many schools that offer criminal justice or criminology degree programs. But given the analytical and business minded approach we have in the LP and safety department at Lowe’s, we alsotarget business and accounting majors.

Another practice is to determine if we have any alumni from the school we are planning to visit on our current staff. If so, we have them visit the school and attend the career fair. They are often able to better relate to the students and offer their first-hand knowledge of our company and our LP and safety programs.

Finally, Lowe’s has a summer internship program that has allowed us to hire LP and safety interns who work for us for the summer and receive college credit for the work that they do. The college internship program is run by Lowe’s college recruiting department. This department has been instrumental in developing our approach to college recruiting as well as recruiting LP and safety applicants for us.

Other Recruiting Efforts. While Internet and college recruiting are a large part of our recruiting strategy, we don’t exclusively target college graduates. There are many people who have no college education, but have the intelligence, attitude, leadership ability, and drive to succeed that makes them prime candidates for an LP and safety position even if they have no LP and safety experience. Our recruiting efforts include methods to attract these applicants as well.

When talking to students at career fairs, we start by selling them on the benefits of working for the company before giving them information about the LP and safety department. Basically, we show them why Lowe’s is a great place to work and then give them insights into the LP and safety role.

Referrals by current employees have proven very successful. Often, when we hire highly talented people, they will eventually refer other talented people to Lowe’s.

A great partnership with Lowe’s corporate recruiters rounds out our recruiting efforts. While LP and safety is a specialized field where it is effective to have LP and safety people doing the recruiting, Lowe’s corporate recruiters provide valuable assistance and insight as well. For example, we are currently developing an enhanced recruiting plan to coincide with the rollout of a more rigorous selection process. The goal of this new plan is to get more applicants in the pipeline and to be more selective in our hiring decisions to ensure that we hire only the best.

Success Starts with People

At Lowe’s, both in the LP and safety department and throughout the company, we are always looking for great people. The first step in hiring the right people is recruiting the right people. To further quote Jim Collins, “The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, ‘Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it some place great.’”

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