Discover how FedEx planned and launched their frontline talent engagement project, read this insightful interview transcript.
Originally published at VMware CIO Exchange
By David H. Deans
During the past 12 months, I’ve studied how organizations, across various industries, have adapted to the ongoing challenges of a job market that requires meeting and engaging job candidates, new hires, and current employees within the digital (online and mobile) realm.
That said, employee recruiting and retention is a hot topic for the C-suite.
According to a recent McKinsey research study on the “Great Attrition” , 53 percent of employers said they are experiencing greater voluntary employee turnover than seen in previous years, and 64 percent expect that this problem will continue or worsen.
Moreover, attracting and retaining frontline talent is more demanding than ever.
Candidate ghosting is now the top challenge for HR talent acquisition teams, according to the Talent Board . This ranks ahead of engaging passive talent and application volume drop-off rates, based upon the findings from a recent survey of employers globally.
Many organizations across industries must now execute strategies quickly and with greater operational intelligence. Armed with digital workspace solutions that enhance the capabilities of frontline workers, digital transformation has reached the edges of their business and beyond.
Frontline Digital Transformation in Action
To learn more about how employers are adapting to these changes I reached out to Don Stenger, Manager of Strategic Talent Acquisition and Reporting at FedEx Express. The following is an edited summary of our insightful chat.
David: Let’s start with a contextual question. What was the challenge or opportunity that prompted you to search for a solution?
Don: The opportunity was twofold. First, we wanted to improve the employee and candidate experience from the first interaction with FedEx to their last day on the job. Creation of a uniform digital experience would allow us to decrease the variance that is seen across the board today in our operations and would also increase the control we have as a company over messaging around benefits, culture, and “who we are and what we do.” We also wanted to develop a platform that would allow us to optimize workflows and remove manual tasks from the frontline manager’s role where possible. The other big focus of this project was to positively impact retention in our frontline hourly ranks.
Creation of a uniform digital experience would allow us to decrease the variance that is seen across the board today in our operations and would also increase the control we have as a company over messaging around benefits, culture, and “who we are and what we do.”Don Stenger, manager of Strategic talent acquisition and reporting at Fedex
David: Thank you for that background info about your project. What roles within your organization were the primary sponsor of the quest to find a solution to these issues?
Don: The impetus for this transformation was Brandon Tolbert, VP Human Resources. During my transition into a new HR role he told me that we needed to explore the most effective ways to improve the candidate and employee experience. And, because we both have a field operations history at FedEx, that allowed us to propose a bold goal 5 years out and then work towards that key objective. In contrast, we knew a micro-change wouldn’t be adequate for our needs. That’s why we decided to see if we could completely transform that experience and go in a different direction. So, with the full support of our senior HR leadership, I was given approval to build something that didn’t exist yet.
David: That all seems like a significant new undertaking for your organization. What options did you consider as you explored the potential approaches to address this business issue?
Don: When it comes to turnover and retention there are projects all over the organization, with people trying to focus on solving this issue. So, it wasn’t a singular approach. For our team, when we looked at this project there were several possible avenues to take. We researched to see if there was an off-the-shelf solution that we could deploy, but we couldn’t find anything else that enabled us to make the desired impact on this important business opportunity. So, we decided to create something brand new that would be the best option for us. Since we had the relationships, the data, and the vision we started to build a solution with VMware Workspace ONE that leveraged the power of the ActionLogics Behavioral State Engine from Cravety.
David: That makes sense. Sometimes you need a solution that’s purpose-built specifically for the task, to achieve the anticipated business outcome. What were the perceived business case benefits of the solution to your requirements?
Don: When you look at the primary value of this solution, there are several things that come to mind. Primarily, it provides direct communication from our leadership to frontline employees (and prospective employees). This ensures that the impact of the messaging is exactly as intended. Secondarily, the solution also provides a platform that enables the business to gather the real time sentiment of our employees through drip-surveys. Lastly, the millions of data points that we are collecting will provide valuable insight into our organization and will allow us to use behavioral science to ensure the experience is tailored for the individual. Transforming a business to meet your candidates and employees where they are today often happens on a mobile device. Getting on those devices allows us to dynamically deliver content, with the required back-end systems integration, and its key to our success moving forward. The easier we can make it to get actionable information into the hands of those users is the greatest value that we’re driving towards.
Lastly, the millions of data points that we are collecting will provide valuable insight into our organization and will allow us to use behavioral science to ensure the experience is tailored for the individualDon Stenger, manager of Strategic talent acquisition and reporting at Fedex
David: I can imagine how that solution will have an immediate, just-in-time, impact. Looking to the future, what does project success look like and how will you measure progress?
Don: Clearly, the key first metric is about adoption – how many employees use the solution. The second piece is usage – how often they interact with the content in the app. The third is employee retention – engagement that spans from initial recruitment and ongoing throughout their career at FedEx. And then from an employee survey standpoint, we want to ensure that we’re the ‘employer of choice’ by providing a superior employee experience. Over time, that’s how we’ll ultimately demonstrate the success of the project.
David: I’m thinking those priorities are likely applicable to HR leaders at other companies in similar situations. So far, what are the key lessons learned from your experience on this project?
Don: This was a very structured discovery process. We collaborated with all the interested and involved internal stakeholder groups within the company. One thing became very clear early on, this project was going to be a cultural shift and we had to navigate that very carefully. Next, we had to quantify the opportunity by building a compelling and detailed financial model for the cost to replace frontline workers. In fact, with our partners in Finance, we’ve revised the model a few times since we built it, during the span of 18 months. That assessment gave us valuable insight into where we’re spending to attract and retain frontline talent.
From a quality perspective, we were focused on ensuring our decision-making remained free from bias, so by having the Cravety team perform frontline employee and manager interviews they were able to experience our culture through their own eyes and provide us additional insights into our own workforce. One of the key things we gained was a validation of our own perceptions through observations, plus actionable new objective insights.
I must say that one of the biggest takeaways is that every day we learn something new about candidate and employee behavior that we wouldn’t have uncovered without this project. Every time we learn something new we have an opportunity to get better and to improve the experience.
David: Enhancing an employee’s experience to be truly remarkable is now top-of-mind for many C-suites. What advice would you give to a peer who was beginning a similar project?
Don: Be bold, trust yourself, and be willing to take a risk. If you’re going to own the solution and convince the business to make the change, then you must own 100% of the process and the outcome. Employ an entrepreneurial spirit. Be willing to build all the needed internal connections, and don’t accept “no” or “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
Here’s an analogy: Larger companies are like aircraft carriers. They turn slowly or they lose everything off the top deck. But sometimes you need to turn it sharply to get to where you’re heading faster. So be prepared to respond to the movement of people and things on that top deck. And anticipate that you may need to deploy some life preservers.
What does that really mean? Line up your network of internal champions and sponsors. Keep them at your side and do the internal marketing to ensure a successful project. What’s the alternative? If we don’t do anything, what’s the cost of that inaction? Know the answer to that question. This advice for my peers at other companies is hard-earned and I’m happy to share it.
Digital Workspace Solutions for Frontline Workers
Many organizations with frontline workers are already starting to consider solutions that significantly boost employee experience and support new digital transformation initiatives.
As I reviewed Don’s responses to my questions, it made me think about all the organizations that have similar needs where frontline employees are using essential apps on smartphones or tablets within the retail, healthcare, supply chain, and logistics industries.
VMware Workspace ONE solutions for frontline workers enable unified endpoint management, security, and support, and a seamless digital employee experience across any use case. Used together with behavioral science engines, it can be even more powerful for the ultimate employee experience and now, candidate experience too. Let us show you how to deliver streamlined solutions across any endpoint, across private, hybrid, and multi-cloud deployments. Reach out today, to learn more.
Also, visit Cravety’s Action Logics site to learn about its proven solution capabilities.
 McKinsey: How companies are retaining frontline talent
 Talent Board: How to prevent ghosting by job candidates