Q&A with Ardene’s Fil Farinaccio D’Urbano: Using Technology to Manage High-Volume Applicant Flow and Build a Talent Pipeline

Fil Farinaccio D’Urbano is the head of people and culture for Ardene, a fashion retailer with more than 300 stores in Canada and the United States, as well as multiple locations beyond North America. The company’s core belief that fashion should never be exclusive or intimidating extends to its culture and values, both of which are vital aspects of a strong employer brand that consistently attracts applicants. Here, Fil shares tips and insights on how the Ardene team selected a talent platform to help dramatically improve applicant management while enabling the team to begin building a strategic talent pipelining program.

What were the main challenges you wanted to solve when you began looking to replace a traditional applicant tracking system with a talent platform?

The continual technology challenges that we were experiencing with our previous ATS were impeding Ardene’s store hiring activities, ranging from having to view applications manually and deal with complex data feeds for our Ceridian Dayforce HCM integration to a lack of visibility into the store hiring process. In the end, not being able to hire efficiently and effectively was a huge barrier to both store and company growth.

It was clear that we needed a platform that could empower our store managers and fix the issues at hand while giving us the flexibility we wanted to evolve and advance our talent strategies. More specifically, we sought features and functionalities like quick apply, built-in data privacy law compliance, mobile-optimization, and front-end and back-end translation capabilities. But we also knew that the opportunity to develop a candidate relationship management program for talent pipelining efforts would be an area of focus once we addressed the existing challenges. Essentially, we chose a seamless platform—career site, ATS, CRM and onboarding—that could support our recruiting function across the entire candidate journey.

You recently went live with GR8 People’s One-Experience Talent Platform and have already achieved incredible success. Tell us about your initial results.

They’ve been extraordinary. The platform allowed us to take advantage of the tremendous traffic Ardene’s career site gets due to the strength of our employer brand. Looking at the nine-day period following our launch, we attracted more than 12,300 unique visitors—55% of whom arrived through direct entry. Average time per visit was tracked at more than four minutes, while our bounce rate was a mere 1%. Most importantly, we were able to convert this activity into wins as the team hired more than 40 candidates in the first week alone, the majority being the store hires that are key to driving Ardene’s growth.

From our perspective, one of the biggest factors in your success is that your team exhibited a strong commitment to the implementation process. What tips do you have for other teams that are about to embark on an enterprise software implementation?

First, you need to find the right partner because it’s not only about the technology. But you also have to do your part to make the project successful. This means taking advantage of the knowledge that your software vendor has to offer. In our case, we looked to GR8 People for workflow and configuration best practices and then modified as needed from there. We also used their career website branding template, which made it possible to complete our career website pages much more quickly than if we were starting from scratch.

Being 100% committed also means having a project team on your side that is fully engaged in the implementation process. One element in particular is making sure that the decision makers are involved in status calls so that critical feedback can be shared and decisions can be made in real time, as opposed to having to gather input and approvals after the meetings as this can create delays that, over the course of the implementation, compound. This level of participation on our side meant that GR8 People could make updates to the system while we were on the call together and even do on-the-spot user acceptance testing rather than taking weeks to complete, which is typically the norm when participation is spotty.

We really saw the value of our investment in the implementation process as we were nearing our go-live date because as new requirements came up GR8 People’s development team was able to accommodate the changes immediately within a very tight timeframe. I don’t think that would have happened if we hadn’t forged such a strong partnership along the way.

Good training also contributes to a successful implementation. How did you approach training on your side, especially given that you needed to train hundreds of store managers?

We worked with GR8 People and decided to use an approach that was flexible and adapted to our needs. GR8 People’s customer success team delivered live sessions along with job aids and videos to our core training team, which we then used to train our store managers. Between that and good, consistent communications, it’s been a very smooth rollout.

What other words of advice or lessons learned would you pass along to your peers in talent acquisition regarding recruiting software selection?

Beyond making sure you’ve selected not just the right technology but the right partner, you need to think more broadly about all the ways that the purchase is delivering ROI to your team. For example, we used to have to manually validate each new hire record before it could be imported into Ceridian Dayforce. With our new platform, information is now fed automatically to Ceridian. This cuts down significantly on administrative tasks that, while seemingly simple on the surface, add up over time. We easily eliminated up to 10 hours of manual work per week.

What’s up next for the Ardene talent acquisition team?

We’re already moving forward by taking advantage of the features and functionality available to us across the platform. For example, we’re using it to make internal hires, most of which are promotions in the store environment. In fact, we made 21 internal hires during the initial launch alone, which is crucial to both recruitment and retention.

Another area of expansion will be to turn on GR8 People’s AI recruiting function, which will be a game changer for store recruitment. And, of course, we’re already beginning to populate our GR8 CRM talent pools with prospective candidates so that we can begin using the technology to assess qualifications, interest and availability, which will give the team the ability to improve talent pipelining efforts and find the best people for open jobs even faster than we do now.