How do you oversee 500,000 “orange-blooded” associates who work at The Home Depot in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and grow the ranks at the same time, all during a pandemic? The DIY megastore has looked to technology to navigate those challenges, ultimately taking matters into its own hands by writing its own HR tech code—allowing the company to expand hiring to meet rising demand and enable 120,000 internal moves, despite the challenges of COVID-19. HRE recently spoke with Eric Schelling, vice president of talent acquisition at The HomeDepot, to find out how it takes on employee retention, why it builds its own TA solutions and what is on his IT wishlist.
HRE: What is your biggest challenge for 2022: employee retention? DEI initiatives?
Schelling: As we look ahead to the coming year, we don’t expect the war for talent to slow down. There are less job seekers on the market than there have been in years past, so we’re seeing a supply and demand issue in the competition for talent. At the same time, as the market has gotten more competitive, our business has grown significantly as customers have taken on more projects in their homes, so we’ve had a sustained need to hire at high volumes. To stay competitive in this new landscape, we’ve adapted quickly with a continued focused on taking care of our associates and investing in them and their career growth. Our associate experience is built on our core values, and we’ve found that the strength of our culture has been critical to our success in hiring and retaining top talent in the current climate.
Related: How Macy’s hopes to drive employee retention with upskilling
HRE: What technology do you use for talent acquisition? Do you use AI, for example?
Schelling: With a company of our size, we’ve found that few technology vendors in our space are truly prepared for our scale and complexity. We’re fortunate to have a top-notch technology team at The Home Depot that writes 90% of its code in-house and has been pivotal in building innovative solutions that power many of the components of our candidate experience. For example, our technology team built the homegrown technology for the centralized model we use to staff our stores. This solution enables a customer-back candidate experience that is efficient for our hiring teams and quick and easy for job seekers.
HRE: How is Home Depot tracking the vaccination status of its employees?
Schelling: We’re reviewing OSHA’s ETS and working through the details of how we’ll comply with the standard. We’re communicating regularly with our associates to gather information on COVID-19 vaccination status, encourage vaccination, and provide information and resources to make it easier for our associates to get the vaccine.
HRE: Are you dealing with the Great Resignation? What steps have you taken to retain talent?
Schelling: We’ve all seen the data from the Department of Labor about resignations across the country. No company is immune to turnover. But I do believe it’s been a bit sensationalized. Top talent has options, they always have. Ultimately, it comes down to what talent brings to the company and what the company can do for the talent.
At The Home Depot, we differentiate ourselves with our values-based culture, which means we take care of our associates first. This comes to life in so many ways. For example, we invested more than $1 billion in our associates during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic; we offer upskilling programs like our Orange Method program that teaches hourly associates from our stores and distribution centers to become software developers on our technology team, and we have a strong promote-from-within mindset—90% of our store leaders started as hourly associates.
Additionally, over the last three years, associates have received more than $1 billion in success sharing awards, and we are regularly recognized as one of the best companies to grow a career. In fact, last year, we celebrated 120,000 internal career moves.
See also: 4 reasons global HR tech investment is surging in 2021
HRE: Do you have a technology wish list?
Schelling: Building a customer-back candidate experience has been a pillar of our strategy for years. But to truly be customer-back, I’d love to see a solution that makes it incredibly easy for job seekers to apply to multiple companies at the same time using a universal application. People have gotten used to the ease of ordering groceries from a variety of retailers through delivery companies, securing transportation from an array of drivers through rideshare services or choosing content to view from many creators.
These technologies make it so easy. Nothing is that simple for job seekers, but hopefully one day it will be.