Edan Haddock_Flybuys
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How flybuys upended the traditional recruitment process in a candidate-short market

What happens when you find yourself needing to build your entire recruitment process from the ground up?

That’s where iconic loyalty program flybuys recently found itself. 

And the results have been transformational! 

As a brand that historically fell under the Coles group, flybuys has subsequently become a joint venture between Coles and Wesfarmers. 

The company’s Talent Manager Edan Haddock jokingly refers to flybuys as a “25-year-old startup.” All of the brand’s shared services, including recruitment, had previously been managed by Coles. As a result, flybuys has needed to write all their shared services processes from scratch. 

The exciting thing is we’ve been able to redefine what’s important for us and take a really creative approach, not carbon-copying what works for Coles.

“We’re a relatively small business now with a head-count of only 200, including our contractors.”

The opportunity came with its own challenges of course. Given the unique nature of flybuys in comparison with the retail juggernaut, Edan spoke about the differences from a recruitment perspective. “They do a lot of high-volume recruitment, whereas we’re in a very tight niche skill set, being predominantly an analytics and marketing business. 

“We have analysts that crunch that data, supporting our partners with campaign execution that help drive trading or to reward loyalty for example. As opposed to a large corporate with thousands of employees where it tends to be very transactional and less relationship-driven. That was a real challenge for us to break down and understand. What we’ve discovered is that a traditional recruitment process isn’t going to work for us,” he explained.

Carving out an identity

Flybuys have had to carve out their own identity as an organisation, right down to their vision, purpose, and values. “Essentially, what we wanted to do was work through that piece and then have everything driven from a values alignment rather than skills and capability,” said Edan. 

He explained that as the skillset was familiar and unlikely to change, the team was reluctant to go to market using the same approach as everyone else. “It’s more about finding people that are aligned with our values and then the skills and experience come second.”

Flybuys’ new CEO John Merakovsky comes with extensive experience in the talent space, having worked in a senior leadership capacity for Seek Learning. He supported the team’s approach and was onboard with forgetting everything that everyone else had done, to really carve out something unique that was flybuys-specific. To simply start from scratch and write something that’s completely aligned with who they are.

Edan pointed out the inconsistency with the way we are now wired to expect services to be delivered instantly and the current recruitment process. “They’re very long and not candidate focussed,” he said. 

Making reservations or booking flights is simple and designed with the consumer in mind. Whereas recruitment just seems to be really clunky and many organisations aren’t addressing that.

“That’s something that needs to be transformed because people are getting frustrated in the journey of applying for positions,” he added. 

Flybuys job ad on Seek

The candidate experience

One of the biggest factors in attracting talent is a strong employer brand. Something that flybuys was still developing. “So as well as carving out what our values are we needed to carve out what our culture was too,” explained Edan, adding that the first step included employee workshops to get a deep understanding of what it means to work at flybuys. “It was really unique because no two stories were the same and everyone had a different journey. Yet the main part of that journey was a real unified culture, where it felt like a large family.”

He added that the company wanted to take an approach they called ‘find your place at flybuys’, based around what was important to the candidate and the desire to help them live a healthy and happy life both at work and outside of it.

This is reflected in the content, storytelling, and advertising that flybuys uses to attract talent. What’s more, once candidates have made contact, the company priorities communication. “It’s important that candidates can connect with us regardless of whether or not they’re successful in moving forward with a particular role. We can move them into a talent community where we send them regular updates, including content we share on Linkedin” said Edan.

Six months into their journey has seen the flybuys team already achieve a great deal. “Our time to fill rate is really low, which is great,” said Edan, adding: “Previously, to find a data analyst as a part of a supermarket group [was challenging] as candidates didn’t make the connection with flybuys. Now they are really attracted to working with us because they understand the richness of our consumer data. 

It’s actually quite sexy work to be doing, to be able to execute on campaigns around consumer activity and behaviours.” 

Flybuys now has a time to hire sitting at 21 days. “But we always want to improve that, we want to make sure we’re building relationships now for future roles,” explained Edan. 

Flybuys’ recruitment process 

For the team, it’s important that candidates know they don’t need to apply for a role to begin that communication. Every portal for flybuys, from their LinkedIn and careers page, invites candidates to join their talent community, particularly if they happen to be working in analytics or marketing. 

“If candidates are applying for a role, it’s a quick apply. You don’t even need to necessarily upload a CV; you can set up a minimal profile,” said Edan. “You’ve got the option to upload your CV, but it’s just really to get you into the community communication funnel to make sure that we’re starting that connection,” he said. It’s then that their communications begin, whether text or email or Edan picking up the phone. 

One thing that candidates receive early on is flybuys’ value connection tool. “It’s a semi- gamified tool where candidates will get to know what our values are and vice versa. We then see if there’s a connection there. They can undertake this prior to applying for roles as well,” said Edan. He explained that off the back of research carried out by Seek and Gartner, candidates aren’t prioritising higher salaries and benefits. 

“They’re really looking for that connection to a higher purpose or a values connection. So we developed that tool early on with the help of a New Zealand company [Weirdly] to enable the team to learn the values of our candidates and ensure the connection is there moving forward,” he added.

Flybuys' values connection quiz

Lessons learned by the team

For the flybuys team, their main recruitment goal was to ensure the experience was authentic. “We’re in the feedback stage of the project now,” explained Edan, who added that the experience candidates had was reflective of what their experience would be as an employee. 

“We know that impacts retention and attrition, so we want to make sure what we’re selling is accurate,” he added.

We want the story we are telling to be exactly the story that will come to life as they join us.

One oversight for Edan was in not tackling the branding alongside the onboarding and induction aspects. “I’ve taken a bit of a phased approach, so the journey of onboarding isn’t as automated as I’d like it to be. We’re going live with HROnboard in a couple of weeks which will tackle that and ensure that experience is 100% aligned,” he added. 

He also suggests questioning your hiring process. Take behavioural interviews. “Do we need to be doing it that way just because that’s the way it’s always been done since the 1970s?” said Edan adding that one should ask, “Is it in the candidate’s best interests? Is it in our best interests? Let’s do something unique Let’s rethink the way we go about things.”

What candidates are saying

The flybuys team has received positive feedback from candidates who have really enjoyed the values connection tool, “because there’s nothing like it in the market,” said Edan. 

“I ask everyone in these early stages and I’ve heard people saying they’ve never experienced this before. It’s really helped them to get to know us as an organisation and know what is important to us, what we stand for. It’s really helped them to see if their value connection is aligned to ours. 

Edan noted that while recruiters find assessing skills and capabilities quite easy, ensuring values are aligned for individual and company is a difficult thing to do. “If you jump on our LinkedIn life page, you can have a go yourself. It will let you know which of our values you most strongly connected with,” he said. It then becomes a self-selection process, as candidates can then choose not to proceed with an application. 

Telling inconvenient truths

For the Edan and the flybuys team, it’s important to tell candidates that the company isn’t a large organisation. “We’re on a transformation journey and not everything is perfect at the moment. We’re rolling out amazing technology. All of it is cloud-based but there are things that are still a little bit clunky. 

“So we need to paint the reality and we need to tell candidates what the journey is,” he said.

A lot of the things we talk about are aspirational. It’s important not just to say where we currently are but what we aspire to be as well. 

A final word of advice

Edan recommends the first step towards reconsidering your hiring process from a candidate’s perspective is to “get to know your organisation at a really deep level and the only way to do that is to understand your people.” He admits that can be difficult depending on the size but “make sure you’re not just selecting a target group. It’s really easy to grab your most highly engaged employees and workshop with them. You need to really make sure that you’re getting to know everyone. Look at your engagement survey results.  Understand the full scope of what’s happening in your organisation before you can start anything because until you do that, it’s not going to be authentic.”

Want to hear more about how flybuys has streamlined its recruitment process and demonstrated ROI? Edan will be part of a panel discussion where JobAdder has partnered with Xref on October 10th. Check it out!

Kimberly Groat

Kimberly Groat