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Case Study

 

Talent Acquisition Heats Up at A.O. Smith

Water Technology Company’s Journey to SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting

by Ken Murphy, Senior Features Editor | insiderPROFILES, Volume 8, Issue 1

October 24, 2016

A.O. Smith Main

In competitive job markets, companies get one chance to make a good first impression on potential candidates or risk losing talent to rival organizations. The first point of contact for many job seekers is often the recruiting website, but if it proves to be a negative experience it could deter candidates. Like many organizations, global water technology company A. O. Smith knew its recruiting activities needed to evolve with the digital economy and provide a seamless and hassle-free application process to attract the top talent. Hear how with SAP SuccessFactors solutions A. O. Smith was able to:

  • Streamline 12 job-posting websites to one central recruiting site
  • Improve the candidate experience by significantly reducing the time and effort for submitting an application
  • Create a talent pool database to match existing candidates to new openings

The ongoing need for hot water, along with the growing need for fresh water in emerging countries such as China and India, represent the core of A. O. Smith Corporation’s global water technology business. The company is a leading global manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters and boilers, as well as a major supplier of residential water purification products in China, India, and more recently, Vietnam. To take care of this global customer base, the company employs roughly 13,400 employees based all around the world.

To attract only the best and most qualified talent, A. O. Smith set out in 2013 to improve its recruiting processes and the overall application experience for candidates aspiring to work for the company. At the time, recruiting was characterized by a number of processes, tools, and websites managed by human resources (HR) teams in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, India, and China. This included 12 distinct A. O. Smith career websites and multiple applicant tracking systems that relied on manual processes for résumé submission, job postings, background checks, and drug screening.

 “We were looking to explore a more uniform approach and put our best foot forward with a consistent message to the marketplace in terms of what opportunities come with being an A. O. Smith employee,” says Mark Petrarca, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Public Affairs at A. O. Smith.

A Consistent Candidate Experience

The goal to devise a more strategic recruiting approach was part of a larger business transformation project for A. O. Smith that entailed standardizing processes and aligning IT systems. For the company’s North American operations, with headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the initiative included migrating five legacy ERP systems from different software vendors to a private managed cloud SAP ERP instance, integrated with on-premise SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) functionality for its core HR processes. The large-scale and still on-going project kicked off in 2013.

As it concerns talent management functionality, however, A. O. Smith decided to aim for standardization on a global scale to maintain consistency for every potential employee, regardless of location.

 “We felt that having standardized, repeatable processes consistent from country to country would ensure consistency not only in how we attract, recruit, and develop talent, but also how we ensure the organization has the capabilities and skills necessary to help achieve our business goals,” says Petrarca.

Because A. O. Smith chose SAP as its technology partner for the overall business transformation, the company decided that SAP SuccessFactors solutions were the best fit for its global talent management initiative, fulfilling requirements such as speed to deployment as a cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution and seamless integration with its on-premise SAP ERP HCM solution for core HR.

A. O. Smith went live with its first talent solution — SAP SuccessFactors Succession & Development — and shortly thereafter went live with SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals, SAP SuccessFactors Learning, and SAP SuccessFactors Compensation.

Its focus now is SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting, with a go-live that started in September 2016. Like the previous SAP SuccessFactors implementations, the recruiting implementation will touch the roughly 13,400 A. O. Smith employees around the world — 60% of which are based in China, with 30% in the US and the remaining 10% scattered throughout the world. It will be implemented in six languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, Turkish, and Hindi.

A.O. Smith Petrarca

Mark Petrarca, SVP of Human Resources and Public Affairs at A. O. Smith

Having standardized, repeatable processes consistent from country to country would not only ensure consistency in how we attract, recruit, and develop talent, but also how we ensure the organization has the capabilities and skills necessary to help achieve our business goals.

— Mark Petrarca, SVP of Human Resources and Public Affairs at A. O. Smith

Recruiting Made Simple

As one of the primary drivers behind its recruiting initiative, A. O. Smith cited the results of a Harris Poll¹ showing that a poor job-seeking experience significantly detracts from attracting the most qualified candidates. According to the survey of more than 3,900 workers in the US, 42% reported they would never seek employment from a company where they had a negative candidate experience, 22% said they would tell other candidates not to work for the company, and 9% said they would tell others not to purchase products or services from the company. A poor candidate experience was most often defined as lack of follow-up on the part of the employer, failure to acknowledge receipt of an application, or finding out during an interview that the open position didn’t match the job advertisement.

While these negative experiences weren’t necessarily indicative of the average candidate search at A. O. Smith, inconsistent recruiting processes, combined with a lack of visibility into those processes, led A. O. Smith to configure the recruiting solution to ensure a positive candidate experience. This was the basis for A. O. Smith’s one-platform approach with the SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting solution.

 “Following the mantra of SAP, we wanted to run simple,” says Thayre Faust, Director of IT at A.O. Smith. “Putting everything together on a single platform with SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting will support our goal to be simple and improve the experience of our candidates, hiring managers, HR employees, and recruiters.”

A global recruiting platform would also allow A. O. Smith to track candidates in ways it never could before, more easily run reports on the type of talent it was attracting, and create a talent pool to proactively match candidates to new postings.

 “Becoming a more technically and digitally advanced company and using SAP SuccessFactors solutions to present candidates with a more contemporary platform for recruiting will help candidates to see us as a more attractive career destination,” says Peter Martineau, Senior Vice President and CIO at A. O. Smith.

A.O. Smith Faust

Thayre Faust, Director of IT, A. O. Smith

Following the mantra of SAP, we wanted to run simple. Putting everything together on a single platform with SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting will support our goal to be simple and improve the experience of our candidates, hiring managers, HR employees, and recruiters.

— Thayre Faust, Director of IT, A. O. Smith

Better Job Search, Better Candidates

One of the first things A. O. Smith will do to improve the recruiting process will involve using the new solution’s posting functionality to consolidate the 12 posting websites to a single website, which will be displayed in the candidate’s preferred language. The simplified navigation engine significantly reduces the time it takes for candidates to apply.

Previously, candidates clicked on as many as a dozen web pages — more if they were applying through a mobile device — to reach a page where they could complete an employment application. And because none of the submitted profile information (name, address, and so on) was saved, candidates often had to resubmit the same information during a later stage in the application process.

A.O. Smith Martineau

Peter Martineau, SVP and CIO, A. O. Smith

Becoming a more technically and digitally advanced company and using SAP SuccessFactors solutions to present candidates with a more contemporary platform for recruiting will help candidates to see us as a more attractive career destination.

— Peter Martineau, SVP and CIO, A. O. Smith

This was frustrating from the candidate perspective but also for A. O. Smith, according to Mary Sue Handel, Director of Talent Management. The company knew it was likely losing qualified, talented candidates who were unwilling to go through the time and effort needed to successfully submit an application. “This was especially true for candidates expecting an intuitive and fast mobile application process,” she says. “A lengthy process wasn’t in line with those expectations.”

With SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting, candidates will visit a single homepage with easy access to various ways to search for open positions that match their skillsets — with an average of three clicks to officially submit an application. There will be far fewer data entry fields and no need for duplicate entry. And, should a candidate not match up for an open position, talent pool functionality provides A. O. Smith recruiters with a new avenue to match positions with candidates in the future.

For the candidate, this functionality includes push notifications to let the candidate know when other positions open for the type of job they’re interested in. The talent pool functionality offered with SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting Marketing includes advanced search engine optimization (SEO) tools to make open positions more visible to candidates with the skillsets to match. “The talent community feature is a big value-add and is something our talent acquisition staff is excited about,” Handel says. “We now have access to a candidate profile and can easily identify and reach out to qualified candidates.”

A.O. Smith Handel

Mary Sue Handel, Director of Talent Management, A. O. Smith

The talent pool feature is a big value-add and is something our talent acquisition staff is excited about. We now have access to a candidate profile and can easily identify and reach out to qualified candidates

— Mary Sue Handel, Director of Talent Management, A. O. Smith

A Complete Recruiting Experience

By leveraging the SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting Management solution, A. O. Smith can easily integrate the SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting application with its SAP ERP HCM solution. Doing this provides the company with the capability to tie other talent management processes into its recruiting program, such as the onboarding and management of new hires. Following its project roadmap, A. O. Smith went live with SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting in September 2016 in North America, with the global communities rolling out subsequently in phases through the end of the year.

Leading up to the go-live, Petrarca indicated that the global recruiting project was being well-received internally, as evidenced by recruiting shared services processes aligning to drive efficiencies even in advance of the implementation. “I saw a lot of excitement building within the global HR community for this in advance of our launch,” Petrarca says. “There is always a change management challenge, but what helped this project was that people saw HR leaders throughout the organization were ready to walk the walk and reinforce that this was the vision moving forward.”

And, with A. O. Smith’s revamped recruiting and candidate experience, Petrarca and other HR leaders expect future job candidates to discover just from the act of applying for a position what existing employees already know — that A. O. Smith is a great place to work.

 “We have great retention, but first we have to get employees in the door, and our previous candidate experience had room for improvement in convincing candidates that this was a desirable place to work,” says Petrarca. “You only get one  chance to make a good first impression, and the look, feel, ease, and simplicity of our site will provide that and be very appealing to the vast majority of people who are applying for jobs today.”

A.O. Smith Corporation

Headquarters: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Industry: Water technology

Employees: 13,400

Revenue: $2.5 billion (2015)

Company details:

  • Founded in 1874 by Charles Jeremiah Smith as a hardware specialty company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; original products included parts for baby carriages and bicycles
  • Smith’s son, Arthur Oliver (A.O.) Smith, joined the business and in 1899 developed a new lightweight, steel car frame
  • In the early 20th century, the company invested heavily in fusing glass to steel, leading to products such as glass-lined beer kegs, and in 1936, created a process for glasslining residential water heater tanks, which remains the industry standard
  • (NYSE: AOS) www.aosmith.com

SAP solutions:

  • SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting (which combines SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting Marketing, SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting Management, and SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting Posting)
  • SAP SuccessFactors Succession & Development
  • SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals
  • SAP SuccessFactors Learning
  • SAP SuccessFactors Compensation
  • SAP ERP Financials
  • SAP ERP HCM
  • SAP Transportation Management
  • SAP PLM

1 See http://fortune.com/2016/05/23/team-building-culture-success. [back]

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