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Brooks Brothers Drives Culture, Engagement, and Effective Employees

February 21, 2017 by Susan Galer

From button-down shirts to madras and seersucker clothing designs, Brooks Brothers has long been a fashion icon and innovator since its founding in New York City almost 200 years ago.

Now a global brand with 500 locations in 23 countries, Brooks Brothers is still on top of leading-edge transformation, committed to deliver the best customer experience in a rapidly changing retail market.

Justin Watras, director of Talent, Management and Organizational Effectiveness at Brooks Brothers, recently summarized the company’s experiences with SAP SuccessFactors solutions, spotlighting the decision to implement onboarding across its United States operations.

“We have to be faster, more agile and customer-focused in response to how people are buying clothing,” said Watras. “This involves engaging our own talent in different ways. Many of our processes were circa 1818, the year we were founded. Bringing SAP SuccessFactors into our organization was part of a broad global transformation we began about five years ago. We are now more efficient with a 100 percent paperless new-hire experience. A more effective and consistent approach has been established, allowing us to quickly acclimate individuals into localized teams.”

Brooks Brothers stays on top of leading-edge innovation using SAP SuccessFactors

Locally Tailored Global Standardization

Brooks Brothers’ vision was to deliver a consistent onboarding experience regardless of employee role and geographic location, from corporate facilities to retail stores and manufacturing plants. At the same time, the company aimed to significantly reduce the administrative burden on hiring managers, ensure compliance with all government regulations and centralize accurate recordkeeping, all the while forging an immediate bond between new employees and the company.

“We wanted global standardization that was locally tailored regardless of where employees came into the organization,” said Watras. “Using SAP SuccessFactors Onboarding, we were able to create different pathways within the onboarding experience to expose people to the relevant policies they needed to understand.”

Company Efficiencies, Employee Effectiveness

Brooks Brothers has saved valuable time for both new-hires and their managers, replacing hours of paperwork with tasks that are completed prior to someone’s start date and a three-minute verification process on the first day of work. Compliance is extremely important. “We rely on SAP SuccessFactors to keep current with the various compliance regulations that can differ in the United States,” said Watras. “We easily manage compliance coverage for all scenarios across every state.”

In addition to documenting benefits enrollment information, Watras said the software allows Brooks Brothers to reinforce its performance-based, results-oriented culture, as well as company values for personal relationships, service, fairness and accountability. The guiding principle is to make a new-hire immediately feel like they are part of the family and be highly productive.

“We have a small window of time to acclimate new-hires to our culture, history and policies. We’re now able to do that through the onboarding process itself and the associate portal, quickly exposing people to important information like our associate handbook, our history, unique vocabulary and major events. This adds tremendous value to every employee’s experience, particularly around cultural and need to know information. You cannot get hired without reading and signing off electronically on the handbook.”

Noting increases in employee satisfaction surveys, Watras was optimistic about the company’s strides in employee engagement that will support retention. “There’s a question on our survey covering what it’s like to join the company, and we’re already seeing positive statements directly related to our onboarding tool.”

Moving forward, Brooks Brothers plans to introduce onboarding to other markets globally in different languages.

Lessons Learned

Watras advised companies to be thoughtful when rolling out onboarding software, making sure that it’s designed to meet the needs of various employee populations whether they are manufacturing, corporate, retail or home-based workers. HR needs to anticipate and respond to facilities with different policies, computer access challenges and local distinctions.

As the oldest clothing company in the United States, Brooks Brothers has been through countless changes in the retail market. The company continues to lead the industry into new areas of innovation.

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