Case Reckitt Benckiser

Reckitt Benckiser is a leading global producer of home detergents, and also a leading producer of health and personal hygiene products. Today Reckitt Benckiser ranks first globally in the production of household products (other than washing powders). Reckitt Benckiser’s trademarks are well known to consumers, such as: Dosia, Vanish, Calgon, Calgonit, Tiret, Harpic, Cillit, Veet, Clearasil, Strepsils, Nurofen, Air Wick. The company has offices in more than 60 countries. The company has been operating in Russia since 1996 with a central office in Moscow. It opened a household products (cleaning products and detergents) production plant in Klin.

Two years ago HR Director of the Russian office of Reckitt Benckiser Yulia Smirnova was considering ways of optimizing the staff recruitment process at the company. The problem of regional recruitment was particularly acute. In the regions sales and healthcare representatives were assessed through group assessment centers. Consequently, recruiting one employee necessitated the selection of a group of six candidates, which on the one hand led to a drawn-out selection process and on the other hand complicated the process, as several candidates, who were not ready to wait for the assessment, found work at Reckitt Benckiser’s competitors.

The HR department drafted a new recruitment policy, according to which ability tests should serve as one of the recruitment stages. Even though ability tests only measure certain individual attributes, the correlation of the test results and subsequent employee performance is very high. According to certain data, the forecast validity of the ability tests even exceeds the accuracy of the forecasts based on the results of the assessment centers.

Compared to the previous recruitment system, the ability tests had several clear benefits:

  1. Candidates could be assessed individually,
  2. There was a material reduction in the time costs on the assessment process (less than one hour on testing compared to several hours at an assessment center),
  3. The reliability and objectivity of the assessment increased significantly,
  4. The quality of personnel selection in the regions could be controlled from Moscow.

It is only natural that change always encounters resistance and dissatisfaction. Initially, the line managers and senior management reacted cautiously to the test results and the testing in general. Consequently, the employees of the HR function had to make significant efforts in order to persuade management of the advisability of applying ability tests. One of the main arguments was that it was possible to promptly assess candidates on a case-by-case basis instead of having to gather groups for assessment centers. The sales department was the hardest to persuade, as the employees there were accustomed to the previous methods for recruiting healthcare representatives. However, here one case helped.

Shortly after the start of the ability tests, there was a significant recruitment drive for the sales department at the company. The candidates included several individuals, who had achieved low test scores, but who had been very popular with managers, as they had made a good impression during personal contact.

The HR employees warned the sales managers of the possible risks of recruiting these candidates. They said: You can hire these individuals. However, bear in mind that they will find it hard to adapt, as they take longer assimilating new information than your average specialist at such a level and are also inclined to make major mistakes when interpreting data. It is highly likely that these candidates will fail and you yourselves will be unhappy. Despite this warning, however, these candidates were hired. However, within one and a half months the forecast difficulties appeared in their work: mistakes in calculations, inattentiveness, slow speed in performing assignments. This sad experiment convinced the managers once and for all that they should listen to the opinion of HR employees and trust the test results. This is how they adapted to the new recruitment policy.

Since then the tests are used to recruit staff to positions at different levels. The tests are applied particularly actively when selecting employees in the areas of sales and finance and for administrative positions. To a large extent the quality of HR recruitment has improved significantly thanks to the testing of the candidates.

The company uses extensively remote testing of candidates in large-scale recruitment campaigns. This happens as follows. Reckitt Benckiser has its own page in the on-line ONTARGET system, where the ability tests are posted. A candidate being considered for a position is e-mailed a link containing access to the tests that comply with this position. The candidate can, using this link on any computer with Internet access, reach his/her own individual testing session. The program contains detailed instructions on how to complete the tests that the candidate should study. In addition, before the start of the test, the program provides the candidate with an opportunity to train in resolving several examples of tasks similar to the ones that will subsequently be encountered in the test. An individual may calmly resolve several training assignments. Furthermore he or she will automatically receive prompts, including explanations if he or she makes mistakes. This is done to enable the individual to study the nature of the assignments, understand the principle used to resolve them and get into the right frame of mind to complete the tests. The program only allows a candidate to take the test after he or she has completed all the training assignments correctly. At this moment, the timer is launched. It counts down the time allocated for the test. When the time runs out, the test ends automatically. One minute later the HR employee, who may be in a different city or country at this time, may enter the program and look at the test results. The candidate does not see his or her results. If the candidate needs feedback, he or she can obtain it from the HR specialist.

To prevent situations where the test is completed by someone other than the intended candidate, HR employees warn the candidate that the test questions will be given on a random basis during the subsequent interview. This approach is completely successful and practically rules out instances of cheating during remote testing.