Through the innovation of JH Fenner and Hopkins Bros. & Odlum, the company’s manufacturing history goes back over 150 years.
The Fenner Group itself was founded in 1861 by Joseph Henry Fenner in Hull, England. The company initially manufactured leather belting for use in power transmission, lacing and hoses, including fire hoses. With operations spread across the world, Fenner Dunlop is a recognised world leader in reinforced polymer technology.
Through organic growth and strategic acquisitions, the company continues to innovate and find new ways to deliver higher productivity and lower costs to mining and industrial businesses.
In 2018, Fenner PLC was acquired and became part of Michelin.
Their Australian operation has over 1,000 employees, driven by a passion to make conveying safer, more reliable and cost-effective for its customers.
The need for speed
The biggest recruitment challenge for Fenner Dunlop has been speed. “We have 75 open positions at the moment and we’ve been averaging between 60 and 90 open positions for the last 18 to 24 months,” said Frank Spina, the company’s National HR manager.
With Fenner having specialised trade and industry roles, it can be difficult to find suitable people. So when you find the right candidate you need to move quickly. Fortunately, they have their own registered training organisation that helps develop and build talent.
The company is also looking to employ 60 trainees who would go through the program and eventually become qualified Conveyor System Technicians . “We try and grow organically as well as externally,” Frank added.
Establishing their work in progress
When Frank began working for Fenner Dunlop in June 2011 the company didn’t have a WIP (work in progress) for open positions. Work requests for hiring were managed at an individual business, hiring manager level,. “There was no clear view of the work task or workload or what the priorities were. Strategically what should we be doing first, second or third, in order to prioritise the work demands?”
That became his first task.
He soon realised that a spreadsheet wasn’t going to cut it because of the workload. “We started looking for a talent management system that would enable us to get better at reducing the administrative and repetitive tasks associated with recruitment and which would create a better experience for our candidates when they applied for a position with us.”
There are several stages to a Fenner Dunlop application, with a great deal of verification needed throughout the process. “This has now become more common across many industries as customers also want verification that your employees are competent when they are working on mine sites. Skills tests and assessments to check and validate trade skills were completed manually,” Frank said.
This meant they ended up with a lot of paperwork for every candidate they looked to hire, which “was quite inefficient,” he said. “So we went on a search for a system that would enable us to manage the process a little better and cut out a lot of the non value-adding tasks.”
Finding a system that fits
Fenner Dunlop looked at the main players when it came to selecting an ATS, but found that most of them were “a very heavy solution.
“Heavy in the way of investment, implementation and project management and ongoing maintenance,” Frank explained. They were just about to sign with a vendor, when one of his team members said ‘look, I was just on the internet and found JobAdder.’
“The fact that it was a very light solution that didn’t need space on our servers or any IP infrastructure – that was a big selling point for us,” Frank said. “It just did what it had to do without being over-engineered and heavy. So for us to find a solution that could help us straight away quickly…JobAdder did that.”
Frank spoke about the platform’s practicality and functionality which was “easy, from a usability point of view and could handle the volume.
“JobAdder didn’t require an investment in time to manage and monitor applications, user numbers, licences etc., and you don’t have to worry about the database size, it’s set and forget.”
Once Fenner Dunlop made their selection, the overall process from approval, implementation to testing took less than a month. “We were fortunate,” said Frank, “once we loaded all our job templates it was pretty easy for us because we were starting from scratch. So we didn’t have a lot of migration issues or integration issues.”
With roughly five to six users of the platform – three being heavy users, they found the system intuitive, especially with the training support and help offered by JobAdder.
A changed process
“We’ve been able to tweak things, and we keep getting more efficient through our processes,” said Frank. “JobAdder enabled some of these changes – it’s created and given us a baseline that we can launch from and keep improving the way we recruit and engage our candidates, allowing us to become even more effective.
“There’s no way we would have been able to manage the volume of hiring requests without having a system like JobAdder in place. It’s a solution that enables us to get it done and support the business during the recent uplift in the cycle.”
Integrations such as HelloSign have “sped things up for us and made it more engaging and easier for our candidates. We’ve been able to eliminate a clunky step in the process for our candidates especially because a lot of our candidates work in remote regional areas where printing and scanning facilities may not be available. It also helps save a few trees eliminating the need to have paper contracts.”
Keeping the human touch
JobAdder has enabled Fenner Dunlop to engage with their candidates providing a better experience. “JobAdder makes it easy to engage our candidates and keep them up to date with where they are in the process. It has simplified and made it very easy to stay connected with our candidates. The TA team loves how much easier it is to engage not only our candidates but also other key stakeholders such as hiring managers,” said Frank.
He described the platform as “a practical solution, that is easy to use and good value.”
“It’s not anything more than you need. Some solutions in the market have features that are nice to have but you don’t really need. If you really want to strip JobAdder back, it does what it says it does, and it does it well.”
Before JobAdder, candidate experience was a “hit and miss…you had to go and manually email every candidate. Now we have automated this and every candidate gets a response when they submit an application which is personalised and tailored.”
By keeping notes on the system, and responding to each candidate, Frank has found JobAdder to encourage the TA team to “be better in talent acquisition from a candidate management and experience point of view.
“We’re using a lot of animated videos now instead of text and paper. We are exploring using video ads. Social media is going to play a big part in our future marketing, and our Employee Value Proposition is going to change significantly,” Frank explained.
Fenner Dunlop is even looking at incorporating virtual reality into their recruitment mix.
“In one case, [the candidate] can pick up a hammer and simulate hitting something with virtual reality, and that’ll be assessed. We can measure how long it takes, whether they followed all the safety rules or whether they picked up the right tool,” Frank explained. “The candidate can then do the assessment and you get an instant result. They get instant feedback, but we still want to have a human element to it.
“Technology is an enabler. But people ultimately don’t have a relationship with an app, they have relationships with people. It is important we keep the human touch.”