How Whirlpool turned the tide to find the right people

Finding interns wasn't a problem for the household appliance manufacturer; instead, it was finding the right fit.
By: | October 1, 2021

A few years ago, Whirlpool had a recruiting challenge: namely, how to ease the burden on its recruiters, who must wade through 200 applications per job. For Whirlpool, the issue was even more complicated, as job candidates are or could become customers of the company, a provider of many common products typically found in an American home. So, it needed to make the application process easier, more enjoyable and more effective for candidates.

“Not only did we want more efficiency in the hiring process, we wanted to identify high-quality people … to pass them onto our managers,” said Doug Haaland, vice president of global talent management for Whirlpool and panelist Friday at an HR Tech Conference session titled “The Right People in the Right Roles: How Whirlpool Uses Human Potential Data to Optimize Talent.” 

Typically, job candidates have been viewed as a collection of hard skills and past experiences, but today’s talent managers are realizing that they are more than that. “[Candidates] want to be seen for their potential and have the opportunity [with a future employer] for what they want to do,” said Caitlin MacGregor, CEO and co-founder of Plum, a talent management solution provider that counts ScotiaBank, Hyundai, Bentley and Deloitte among its customers.

Two years ago, Whirlpool contracted with Plum to perform assessments of its 100 interns to gauge their fit for full-time employment inside the organization once the internship program was completed. 

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Plum’s software offers a three-step assessment, starting with a series of eight puzzles for candidates to solve. “We don’t test for English or math skills because of historical biases. Instead, we have problems to solve and the next steps assess personality,” said MacGregor. “We built it so you can’t fake or game it.”

Plum’s Caitlin MacGregor discuses how assessments helped Whirlpool’s Doug Haaland.

The Plum solutions consists of an eight-minute job requirement phase that is conducted by the employer and is followed by a 25-minute personality assessment that is taken by the candidate or employee looking for a new role inside the company. Plum quantifies human data, also called “soft skills,” such as persuasion, communication and execution skills, MacGregor said.

The third step matches every candidate who applies to the company to a particular role. “It determines where people will thrive,” she said.

See also: 5 changes for recruiting in a post-pandemic economy

After using the Plum assessment to hire for its 12-week internships, Whirlpool made offers for full-time roles to nearly 60 interns.

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“Those interns who rated higher on Plum were also rated highly by their managers, and this resulted in finding and selecting people we wanted to work at our company,” said Haaland.

 Despite the initial success, Whirlpool’s recruitment team needed a little convincing. 

“We had some skeptics among our hiring and recruitment managers. People think they are very good at spotting talent and the next CEO, but they are … notoriously not good at that,” said Haaland.

Ultimately, the recruiting team got on board and the assessment was rolled out companywide for all applicants.

While Plum does not require employees to use the assessment tools after they’re hired, repeat assessments can help fuel internal mobility. MacGregor noted that two groups of employees could particularly benefit from retaking the Plum assessment: 20-somethings just starting their careers as their priorities and preferences may shift, and older workers who have gone through intensive management and leadership training and might be looking at the organization anew.

And given the ongoing changes to and quickly evolving nature of talent acquisition, Whirlpool’s leaders said the Plum assessment can only help its recruitment staff in the end. 

“The talent landscape is crazy. We get so many applications and we can’t manage them. Plum allows [recruiting staff] to spend valuable time on candidates who will provide a higher payoff and do the job,” said Haaland. “This has been a relief on our workload.”

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Phil Albinus is HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children. He can be reached at palbinus@lrp.com and followed on Twitter @philalbinus.

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