Skills-based role readiness: DICK’S Sporting Goods – mobility and talent management

In today’s tight talent market, there’s never been a more urgent need for a comprehensive approach to managing the talent lifecycle.

Skills-based role readiness: DICK’S Sporting Goods – mobility and talent management

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As the workforce and ways of work continue to evolve – talent strategies must evolve too. HR teams are tasked with designing and implementing changes in how their organizations upskill, reskill, acquire, engage and retain talent. In today’s tight talent market, there’s never been a more urgent need for a comprehensive approach to managing the talent lifecycle. HR leaders have the opportunity to drive change by transforming traditional HR processes and reexamining legacy systems to future-proof their organizations.

Jason Cerrato: Thank you so much for joining us today. Hopefully in the right spot if you’re coming to see a use case study for DICK’S Full Day out, if you were just enjoying available seat, that’s perfectly fine as well. But he’s staying enjoying the story. That’s a great story to tell about DICK’S Sporting Goods, who we are partnering with on their transformation journey. I’m joined today by Brad Cohen from DICK’S Sporting Goods. He’s their manager of HR technology and he’s gonna walk you through some of the project and transformation journey that DICK’S has been going on. We wanted to give you an intro into Eightfold and DICK’S Sporting Goods. Talk about some of the forces that are driving this need for change in their organization. Talk through the concept of skills as the through line and reimagining and redesigning talent and talent management. And then Brad was gonna share a little bit of tips and tricks, but a little bit of the secret sauce, the magic behind the curtain on what HR can do, and we’ll open it up for some q and a. 

Eightfold’s Talent Intelligence Platform

Jason Cerrato: So Eightfold is a talent intelligence platform. We plug into your enterprise HR systems. We incorporate a lot of external environmental data and we leverage global data sets to make sense of your own organizational information. By doing this, we provide talent intelligence to a lot of different functions and processes in the talent life cycle. So examining potential for applicants, for employees even for contractors, talking about a person’s capabilities, doing things like a skills inference or adjacent skills and defining career paths or broadening the talent pool for individual jobs. We also look at learnability, the ability for a person who has a certain set of skills, what the likelihood they’ll be able to learn this other set of skills based off of adjacencies and relatedness. We also have a patent on print predicting success in fit to role and likely this talent that’s likely to succeed. Using Eightfold, you’re able to better understand the talent that’s inside your company the talent that is interested in working for your company and your network of applicants and prospects, as well as bringing that external data set and external visibility to better understand your market and your industry. 

Talent Acquisition, Talent Flex, and Talent Management

Jason Cerrato: And when we talk about the talent cycle for talent management leaders or for talent acquisition leaders, there are so many decision points in that process that we surface those insights and those recommendations at those various stages across our platform. If you go to the next slide, this is a little bit of what our platform looks like. We offer three different systems of engagement with talent acquisition, talent flex and talent management. And all of them cover a variety of functionalities that help potentially consolidate your tech stack into more of a single AI platform for talent. What this also does is it sits on top of our talent intelligence platform, which is powered by our AI engine. So that’s where I say, as a layer on top of your enterprise HR systems and leveraging our global data sets and our AI recommendations, we’re able to empower those various processes on the TA side, on the TM side, even contingent workforce with Flex. 

Job Matching and Talent Mobility

Jason Cerrato: As a result of that, you’re getting additional insights both as an employee as well as an applicant on how you’re being matched to jobs or potential career paths. You can consider potential training courses or learning recommendations as well as on the talent leader side, getting better visibility to your organization, understanding the capabilities and gaps in your workforce, as well as potentially how you compare to certain industry benchmarks and competitors. So this just gives you a little bit of a note version on everything that Eightfold does. We do a lot more. For example, one part of our talent intelligence platform is our job intelligence engine, which was just recognized at this conference is one of the HR products of the year. That job intelligence engine helps you analyze and evaluate your roles based on skills and looks at emerging and declining and rising skills and helps you update and inform how you evaluate talent. We also offer talent Insights as a service where we can help provide industry comparisons for your organization and some benchmark companies from this. I’d like to shift over to Brad to give us a little bit of an intro on DICK’S Sporting Goods. 

DICK’S Sporting Goods + Eightfold

Brad Cohen: Hi everybody. So my name is Brad Cohen. I’m with DICK’S Sporting Goods. So, something to note to provide some context is DICK’S Burning Goods. We have about 858 stores in 47 states. We service about approximately 140 million customers, which we call athletes. And so what that means is essentially we cover about two thirds of the population through our brick and mortar stores and our e-commerce channels. What a lot of people don’t know is they know DICK’S Sporting Goods, but we offer a lot of other concept stores as well. We have Field and Stream public lands, Golf, Galaxy going Gone and House of Sport. So we are a big chain of retail stores and we’re doing some pretty cool stuff. So we engaged on a project with Eightfold and this was all started about a year ago. And the reason for our project is that due to the pandemic and all the economic disruption as well as kind of some societal unrest out there because of the nation’s kind of slouching progress toward diversity, we noticed that a lot of things changed out there. 

Brad Cohen: How customers wanted to shop with us, how communities, how they want to interact with brands, what employees expect from employers, and what shareholders expect from us. So everything changed and this put a lot of stress on our leaders. They were being demanded, they were being placed, they had new demands being placed on them, and it was a new kind of environment for them. And so at DICK’S Sporting Goods, we placed a lot of emphasis on our athlete experience, but we knew we needed to step back and really take a look at our teammate experience. We needed to equip our managers with the tools and processes to help elevate their roles. And so for us, this all began with what we called Elevated profiles. We built elevated profiles for four of our key roles, which were our lead role, our assistant store manager role, our store manager and our district manager. 

Brad Cohen: And we created these elevated, elevated roles through a very structured process. So the first thing we did is we wanted these profiles to be informed by our existing teammates and really what great leadership A looks like in our field. So we went out and we spent over several months, we interviewed high performing managers and we also conducted positive deviance in observations. And we really just wanted to know of those store leaders that we have out there, what are they doing that really works well and how can we emulate those behaviors and skills throughout our business? So that leads us to the next step in our process, and this is really where Eightfold came into play. We knew that we have a lot of great data in our company. There isn’t a metric or a scorecard or something that we don’t major within our company. So we took all of that data and we loaded it into the Eightfold system. 

How Eightfold helped DICK’S mine HR data analytics and upskill employees

Brad Cohen: It took data from our core HR system, our ats, as well as our learning management system. And what it did is it was able to identify for us skills that were trending up, skills that we’re trending down, what’s declining, all of this rich history of data. Coupled with our interviews, we analyzed all that data and we took our first draft of our elevated profiles for those four roles that I mentioned. Once we did that, we got executive line alignments on all of those profiles and then we started rolling out the project. When we rolled this out, we really wanted to get a baseline of the talent that’s out there in our retail environment. So we were very deliberative in our journey. 

Brad Cohen: We built in-house assessments across three competency areas, leadership, managerial and technical. And so using the Eightfold platform, we kind of rebranded it as the Elevation Hub so that on day one, as our managers and store leaders went in there, they had assessments ready for them, they had training on how to use the system, they had videos on what the expectations were for them as a leader and we called that Begin Your Elevation Journey. So they saw that right when they logged in and we gave them about three weeks to test all of these assessments across those three categories. And during that time, we did a lot of change management. I have a really cool video I wanna show you here in a few more minutes but we did change management. So we spent a lot of time getting out in our field, talking to our store managers, helping them really understand the expectations of these elevated profiles so that they felt comfortable with all the change that was ahead of them. 

Brad Cohen: And so after this three week period after they took all of these assessments, we loaded that data into the Eightfold platform so that as soon as they logged in, each leader across all of our skills and competencies in each of those categories could see how they stood against a benchmark so that they knew immediately where they could grow and develop their career, which leads us to that next step where we provided curated development opportunities in the form of training and mentors and projects that we were able to provide for each of the competencies based on how they scored. 

Eightfold’s Talent Intelligence Platform creates a positive candidate experience

Jason Cerrato: Hey Brad. Yes. So when you rolled out this plan with these assessments, I heard a couple of things in there. Yeah, a couple little tricks of the trade. So the first one was you had it prepopulated in the system. So when you launched and you went live, the employees went right to their page and their profile and it was already embedded, correct? 

Brad Cohen: Correct. They logged right into the Eightfold platform, and the only thing they saw was a package called Beginner Elevation Journey, and within that was just job aids on how to use the platform as well as the assessments. And from there we also asked them to fill out a profile to help further enrich the system with more data. 

Jason Cerrato: Was there anything that led to that decision? Any lessons learned from previous projects or feedback when you did those interviews? 

Brad Cohen: Yes, they loved it. We conducted office hours during the whole project and they said, Wow, this was something else. For the first time we have, they really care about our development and packaging, packaging it and this way was just awesome for them. 

Jason Cerrato: And then were those assessments for the current roles or were they for future roles, or how do you align the data to the plan? 

Brad Cohen: Good question. So they were all for current role. So those were all for those four roles our lead population through our district managers, it was for their current role. And how we did that is, you alluded to this, we used the Eightfold job intelligence engine, and for each of those four roles, we defined specifically what are the skills and competencies that are required for that role. So a couple of things recommendations we have through our project that we learned is if you are gonna go through an upskilling effort, we recommend that you root your effort in business outcomes. So make sure it’s tied into something tangible a business result. And then for us, we had to identify key roles and for us, store leadership was the pivotal role for us. That was the area we wanted to focus on. And for each of those roles, you really need to understand what great looks like. 

Brad Cohen: Technology is an enabler, but you really need to start with the people, get out there and interview your people and really understand what good looks like, and then create a thoughtful change management plan. People are only gonna adopt the change if they feel like they’re a part of the change. So for us, we had to get out there and hold office hours. We have regional vice president calls, we just had to really do a lot of store visits and make sure that everyone really felt a part of the change. And then finally, you should embed this notion of identifying skills and competencies throughout your process. So for us, we started with assessments, but we continue that and we’re even experimenting right now with succession planning. So in terms of change management, every year at DICK’S Sporting Goods, we have what we call a store management leadership conference where we bring all of our store leaders in for a corporate conference. And during that conference, it was cool because we had breakout sessions where people could really understand what their elevated profiles meant to them, but also on the backstage we had a kind of hype video playing to get people excited. And I just wanted to share this video with you because it really pumped our team up. 

Jason Cerrato: I do want to turn it over to the audience for some questions, but I have a couple just more questions to ask you real quick. Yes. So one of the first ones is you mentioned people going into the stores. So you’re doing this for a largely desk list worker audience, right? So was there any consideration or special nuance or wrinkle to doing this with that type of an audience? 

Brad Cohen: Yeah, good question. So first and foremost, for our teammates, the most important thing is that we do a good job of servicing our customer. So we didn’t want to take them off the floor and disrupt sales too much. So we had to be very deliberative about timing them to take these assessments. And we don’t have a lot of PCs or anything like that in our retail location, so we just have a couple back office computers. So we had to schedule them in very deliberate waves to get them off of the floor to take those assessments. And we were also, because we were using ai, we were able to scale up very quickly to already understand some of those skills that they have and populate their profiles from day one with some of the skills that they have. So that kind of helped us reduce some of the flow that we needed to take them off of the floor. 

How HR data analytics improved DICK’S succession planning

Jason Cerrato: And then as a result of this initiative, now you’re several months in, are there any things that you used to be burdened with that you’re able to get rid of? 

Brad Cohen: Good question. So we started experimenting with succession planning quite a bit, and I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot of organizations out there, at least us that manage succession planning on a spreadsheet. So we were able to eliminate spreadsheets by going to So we were able to use the AI driven insights as well as our competency assessments to help inform our succession plans and recommend potential candidates that we might not be thinking about. 

Jason Cerrato: Were there any questions from the audience? 

Career PAing with Eightfold’s Talent Intelligence Platform

Brad Cohen: So if I understand the question correctly, how much did we hear about career PAing versus development and training? Is that accurate? 

Speaker 3: The learning experiences? 

Brad Cohen: Yeah, it’s a good question. So trying to figure out those career PAing is very difficult, and that’s kind of where the AI really helped us shine. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without the help of Eightfold. And then the second piece to your question on learning, when you logged into the platform, we had two customized learning carousel that said required for your role and then recommended for your role. So for each of those competencies, we defined a benchmark, and based on that benchmark, we had three development areas, opportunity, skill, or strength. So depending on how you skill or how you score there, your proficiency level, the system would recommend or require specific training of you. So it was really cool and they were very engaged with the process the whole way through. Good question. 

Speaker 4: But you said on day one they logged in and they had it there. How much work went into it leading? How much time did you need internally before you were ready to 

Brad Cohen: Log in? Good question. So it was a great project in that we took about a year. We wanted to be really deliberate, deliberative with this. So we took a whole year to develop the process, the project. I would say we spent about six months just defining the profiles and what should go in the profiles, making sure that they were informed by our leaders, so they felt a part of the process. I think that that was the most impart important thing by far was just really spending the time trying to build out those profiles. So I would say six months to that, six months about just on that. And then the six months after that was really just building out the technology and kind of tweaking and refining, and we’re on a journey. So we’re iterating We hold office hours almost weekly with our field, Hey, what’s working? What’s not? How can we pivot for you? What would you like to see more of? So we keep constantly shifting and taking in that feedback. 

Eightfold’s Talent Intelligence Platform mobile capabilities

Speaker 5: Okay. Yes. You had mentioned earlier that our store managers came up the sales that a different time to go back to a desktop. Does it’s Eightfold, does it have a mobile platform where they could’ve done the assessment or tablet versus using a pc? 

Brad Cohen: Yes. So for everybody else, the question was we primarily use a desktop PC for this, but does Eightfold have a mobile enabled version? So they do. They have a mobile enabled website that you can use and take the assessments there. And then they also have an app as well for this go around. We just didn’t go that way but that is definitely an option. 

Jason Cerrato: So Chris, you actually asked a question that gets at an interesting part of the project. One of the things that DICK’S Sporting Goods chose to do was they actually used a third-party assessment tool and had their workforce take the assessments using that third party tool. But with the flexibility of Eightfold and our AI engine, we were able to ingest those results and then populate their profile and build recommendations from that third party assessment. 

Brad Cohen: Yeah, that’s actually a good point. These assessments, I think we did something very unique in the industry is that we’re using AI from Eightfold to help identify skills, but we’re also using traditional assessments to help validate those skills. So we built a number of in-house assessments as well as third party assessments like Korn Ferry and some of your more traditional ones that are out there. So we constantly feed that assessment data into Eightfold and it aligns with each skill so they can see their proficiency level. 

Jason Cerrato: Any other questions before I ask? One more. So having done some of these in my former life back in hr, I know one of the hardest parts is to get executive support and executive and to get kind of that wind in your sales. How did you get that from the top of the organization to drive this initiative forward? 

Brad Cohen: I wish I could say that it was difficult, and we had to do some arduous business case, but our leaders actually recognize that our people are important to us. Our CEO constantly says, If we’re gonna win, it’s gonna be through our people. So it was not really like an uphill battle for us. So I would say about a year ago, our executive leaders came to us and we formed a cross-functional team. My mandate was to kind of find technology to help identify and assess people at scale. And then there were other parties like our operations team as well as our strategy team. So we all just came together and really were given a lot of flexibility to build this in the best way that we would serve our teammates. 

Pairing Eightfold’s Talent Intelligence platform with other HR technologies

Jason Cerrato: So in your role as manager of HR technology, the Eightfold talent intelligence platform is a layer? Yes. That’s part of the tech stack. Can you tell us a little bit about your tech stack? 

Brad Cohen: Yeah, so our tech stack currently is Eightfold and then for our core HR system, we use PeopleSoft. For our learning management system, we use Cornerstone. And then for our applicant tracking system, we use tole. That said, we are on a big transformational journey. So over the next year or so, we’re also migrating over to Workday as well as using ServiceNow for an experience layer and then also kind of Eightfold to help continue with this talent intelligence. 

Eightfold’s Talent Intelligence Platform increased talent diversity for DICK’S

Jason Cerrato: And then from the video, it said coming May 2022. So you’re about almost half a year into this. You said that you had executive support from the very beginning, but now with some run time kind of under your feet, are there any aha moments of things you didn’t realize or big surprises besides some of the lessons learned you shared with us? 

Brad Cohen: It’s actually been really great. It’s been so positively received by our teammates. They can’t say enough good things about it. The one thing that I was actually proud of most as I looked at this data just prior to coming to the conference is that for our succession plans, our ready now successors, 40% of that population is African American and 5% is Hispanic. So just being able to provide that data and that level of visibility to our field population has increased the diversity of our succession plans tremendously. So that was one of the moments that I was most proud of and that I’ve learned from this project. Cuz if we wanna win in our stores, we’re a service provider and we need to reflect the communities that we serve. And by using technology like this, we’re help. We’re able to help drive that a little better by providing that data. 

Jason Cerrato: Any other questions from the audience? Brad, you have any other comments to finish with? Oh, question. 

Brad Cohen: So the question was, it looks like Workday has similar functionality in terms of Career Hub and they’re also coming out with skills engine. And do we see leveraging them? We’re still going through that process of evaluating both technologies to see the fit and what makes sense most for our population. At the end of the day, we wanna do right by our teammates and the technology that best serves them. So it might be some combination of both. But what is unique about Eightfold is the external data sources that it brings into the platform. So by that, when we were creating these elevated profiles, we were able to look at our data, but we were also able to say, Hey, what are other retailers like us doing out there? So that was hugely powerful to us and something that we may or may not keep using, but we as an organization, we like to test and if something doesn’t work, we’ll pivot. So we’re constantly evolving, but ultimately, we do what’s best by our teammates and how we serve them. 

Jason Cerrato: Great question. For more information, one of the things I wanted to share with you is on the stools, you may have seen a card or a little placard on there. It actually summarizes Brad’s five key points for things to be aware of in the project and some of his lessons and best practices he wanted to share. But I also wanted to share with you that Brad and I were able to have a similar session earlier this year where we did an hour-long webinar walking people through the project in some greater detail with additional questions. On the back of your card, there’s a QR code that’ll bring you right to the recording of that webinar. So if you like to talk today and you wanna refer back to it, you have his five points. If you wanna learn more, feel free to reach out to us, but you can also see the hour long recording. 

Brad Cohen: Yeah. Thank you so much. I’ll chat with any of you.

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