Art and Science of HR

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Relocating its corporate headquarters the 540 miles from Auburn Hills, Mich., to Herndon, Va., didn’t drive Audi’s decision to inject technology into its recruitment and hiring practices. But it did fuel an aggressive onboarding effort.

In August 2007, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., which logged an estimated $411.3 million in sales in 2007, announced that a headquarters move, including its Audi division, was imminent. Because not all staff members were invited to relocate and, of those who were, not all elected to move, Audi division managers Duncan Crook (manager of academy sales and leadership) and Matt Shepanek (manager of after-sales training) were faced with the task of recruiting and hiring a host of new team members.

“We went through a really rigorous hiring process to make sure that we had the right people in mind,” said Crook. “Our assessment tool has helped us get to that point.”

The Audi Academy Dealer Online Recruitment and Assessment Tool, created for Audi by Farmington Hills, Mich.-based human-resources solution provider The Solution Group, is a comprehensive solution designed to improve the quality of hire and increase the effectiveness of each employee in his or her role. “We had already onboarded the solution prior to the relocation, but the move has given it a real workout,” added Shepanek.

Online recruitment occurs through audiusa.com , which takes applicants to the Audi Career Center. Candidates interested in a corporate position are screened internally and are sent a link to the assessment prior to an interview. Candidates interested in dealership positions are routed directly to the assessment tool. This online assessment, which takes about 45 minutes to complete, measures a candidate’s results against a customized or best-practice profile to determine that person’s performance potential. Behavior-based interview questions prompt managers to maximize each interview.

“Our technology is all about helping companies such as Audi become more efficient and effective at populating their stores with quality people who will be retained for a longer period of time,” explained Eric Krohner, CEO, The Solution Group. “We’re transforming the old recruiting and hiring methodology into a very scientific one that takes science and technology to build tools that can help manage the entire employee life cycle,” said Krohner.

So far, customized profiles that compare candidate results against desired or optimum characteristics and attributes have been built for various corporate positions plus dealer roles such as brand specialists (Audi’s term for salespeople) and technicians; coming later this year are profiles for service consultants, diagnostic technicians and warranty administrators.

The tool is not mandatory for every one of Audi’s 266 dealerships and, as of today, about 10% are utilizing the solution and more than 1,000 candidates and dealership employees have been assessed using the tool. However, because both Crook and Shepanek believe so strongly in the solution, both are actively marketing an aggressive rollout. “We have an established dealer sub-council, comprised of service managers from some of our larger dealers,” said Shepanek. Audi is subsidizing the tool for council members to experience.

The Audi division hasn’t yet gathered enough data or participation to quantify the results, but that will change. “The goal is to have 25% of our dealers using the tool by year end. Then we will have sufficient data to show the rest of the dealers that this tool really works,” said Crook.

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