Excelling online, excelling in onboarding

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In this myGrapevine magazine exclusive, find out how LADbible Group is using brand power and social media to win the 'war for talent'...

Journalist: Liam Soutar

After years of Brexit and pandemic-fuelled uncertainty, the UK recruitment picture has arguably never been more complicated. In fact, data from Natural HR found that more than two in five (45%) employers consider talent recruitment to be the biggest challenge they will face in 2022 and beyond.

The shift towards hybrid and remote working widened the talent pool beyond previous geographic shackles. While this is positive because employers have access to more talent around the world, casting the net wider can make it more difficult to whittle down candidate lists.

Adding to the list of challenges being felt in the recruitment space are talent shortages which have led to increased competition for talent, and this has shifted the jobs market in favour of recruits who now have more job options available to them. In fact, according to the most recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, UK job vacancies hit a record high of 1.3million between April and June 2022. Jobseekers can now afford to be far pickier about which roles they apply for and be more considerate of what the company could offer them in terms of values, culture and compensation.

This meant that, for most firms, HR leaders and head hunters have had little choice but to reconsider everything from salary, to workplace benefits like flexible working and hybrid options, in order to attract and recruit the best possible talent.

Inside LADbible Group's recruitment process

While some firms have experienced challenges with recruitment recently, one firm that has actually seen its recruitment performance excel during the past few months is LADbible Group. The media publishing behemoth, which has a global audience in the billions – and has popular brands including LADbible, UNILAD, and Tyla within its portfolio – has increased its headcount by 45% in the past two years. Their huge brand power has played a significant role in making the firm a desirable place to work for many eager candidates. But with offices around the globe, including its headquarters in Manchester and offices in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and the US, finding the best talent to keep the firm at the top of its game is no small feat.

The company also has the challenge of not just finding skilled candidates, but making sure those candidatese fit into the brand’s culture and ethics. This, combined with working on a fair recruitment process that includes candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds, means that LADbible Group’s HR leaders must be on top form all the time.

In this exclusive interview with myGrapevine magazine, LADbible Group's Talent Business Partner, Adele Bridgeman – whose role has a special focus on recruitment – discusses the company's recruitment strategy from the very first step, including how their brand power plays a role in finding the best talent, and how the firm aggressively expanded its talent pool over the past two years.

Adele Bridgeman
Adele Bridgeman
Talent Business Partner
LADbible Group

Recruitment: from the start

For jobseekers, the recruitment process starts when they see the job advert. But a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes before this stage, to ensure that the company is reaching the candidates it wants, and that prospective talent has the right information they need to make an informed decision.

"Our recruitment strategy is based around hiring people that love our brands, are craft specialists and love what they do," says Bridgeman.

"We look to find the best talent, who can not only bring expertise but have the ability to train and elevate others. We tailor all job adverts to give candidates as much information on the overview and expectations of all roles, what they'll be doing and what experience (if necessary) is needed. Our talent team then works with the hiring team to review and organise telephone calls with all shortlisted applicants," she adds.

At a glance
Founder & CEO:
Solly Solomou
Company size:
500 employees
Offices in:
England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, US
Nine Core brands:
UNILAD Adventure

A hybrid approach to interviewing

As a company that champions hybrid working, LADbible Group is practising what it preaches and interviews talent on a hybrid basis. For example, the early stages of the recruitment process will often take the form of virtual interviews, with the purpose at this stage being to get to know the individual, Bridgeman explains. Interviews will then switch to face-to-face for the final stages of the hiring process. Depending on the role, at this point, the recruitment team will see how they present their work and respond to a task at the second stage. The ultimate goal is to build a relationship and rapport with the individuals to check they are aligned with the company's three core values – 'Team First, Problem-Solving and Hard Work'.

This must all be done as concisely and efficiently as possible too. Ask candidates to jump through too many hoops, and they will lose interest, as data has suggested. Approximately 60% of candidates have quit a job application process midway because of its length and complexity, according to Hirevue.com, which is something that LADbible Group is likely to be taking note of.

Brand power and the search for passionate candidates

Bridgeman explains above that LADbible Group uses the early interview stages to get to know candidates better. But what exactly are they looking for when finding new talent to join the business?

Bridgeman responds: "We're looking to get a sense of who the person is, what their interests are and what they're looking for going forwards – and marrying that with the current opportunity and future opportunities available. Whether that’s hiring at a more junior level with a view to up-skilling, or hiring at a more senior level with a view to shape the business, we hire people that are passionate about our ethos and want to be part of something amazing. They must be aligned with our core behaviours and want to be part of our culture in order to join the Group – as well as being technically great for the role."

LADbible Group's desire to find good people that share the same values as them is something that candidates look for too. In 2021, a survey from Glassdoor found that 73% of applicants said they would only apply to a company that has similar values to them. But of course, every single hiring company wants the cream of the crop. So how does LADbible Group entice these candidates?


Candidate attraction and social media

Bridgeman says: "Being the biggest social publisher for our audience means that most people aged between 18 and 34 are familiar with our brand, with a larger percentage being avid followers of LADbible Group and who have seen our growth and expansion over the last ten years. We use a variety of ways to attract talent, including our social channels such as the @lifeatladbible Instagram, where we give people a sense of the culture we have in the Group. As well as more traditional methods such as LinkedIn, we also use TikTok and Twitter in order to find talent, as a social publisher, we know that this is where creators natively spend time, showcase their work and also visibly make it known they are looking for a role. Our talent team is a team of head hunters who map the market and proactively approach talent with ambition, drive and that hustle-mentality as we look forward to the next ten years."

And the importance of social media as part of a recruitment strategy should not be underestimated. Almost 90% of jobseekers use social media in their job search, according to CareerArc, a social media recruitment software platform. It's this brand awareness – partially achieved via social media platforms – that has, according to Bridgeman, seen LADbible Group achieve "record-breaking results" over the past couple of years, and as a result, put them in a position to heavily recruit during the pandemic.

The onboarding process begins

Once the ideal candidate has been identified, and the job offer is accepted, the onboarding process begins, centring on making sure they have what they need and know what they need to set them up for success from day one. Each new starter has a designated HR coordinator, who will go through contract and benefits queries, start date information and location, departmental inductions and IT requirements, and be on hand to meet and greet the person if they are starting in the office with their team on their first day.

All of LADbible Group’s new starters start on a Tuesday, which allows plenty of time for teams to prepare for their new colleague and ensure as smooth an onboarding process as possible. Throughout their employees’ lifecycle at LADbible Group, the HR team is on hand to help and give advice outside of regular review times and build relationships with people across the business. Onboarding for the firm means "supporting employees through the first six months and allowing them to fully get to know their teams and other departments."

Meeting LADbible

'Blending ways of work'

Hybrid and fully remote working were once a trendy work perk that few businesses offered. ONS stats suggest that in 2021, approximately 60% of the UK workforce did at least some of their work from home. Career Builder even recently found that 25% of jobseekers would actively turn down a job offer if it didn’t allow the option to work from home.

This yearning for more flexible options has been embraced at LADbible Group, in a model they call ‘blended working’, which allows the majority of departments across the business (including its London, Manchester and international offices) to work from both home and the offices on a weekly basis.

Bridgeman says: "For us, blended working supports employees to do their best work, five days a week, as they have the choice to be in a quiet environment and get their heads down if they wish, or spend time in the offices to ensure creativity is front of mind and they are involved and a part of our culture."

She added: "Blended working has also helped in various ways such as, widening the talent pool by offering flexibility alongside our competitive benefits such as our extended maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave."

Implementing flexible working structures doesn’t just benefit the employee, nor is it just a way to keep office morale high – there are huge benefits to the people function too. Monster’s report found that 42% of firms say offering flexible work gives them a recruiting advantage, and 48% said it helps them retain talent. And with researchers from PwC recently finding that one in five workers plan to quit their jobs in 2022, firms must do whatever they can to avoid a talent exodus.

But again, LADbible Group is confident of its position in the market. As Bridgeman concludes: "We believe that talent is out there and that the pandemic has created a new wave of people who are entrepreneurs, with side-hustles who want flexibility and to work for companies that really work for them – which are behaviours and personality traits we continue to recruit for. Additionally, the entertainment industry is seeing young people move away from linear TV and consuming content in so many different ways. Everyone is on social media – which means that actually, we have been very fortunate that our need for roles just keeps expanding."

Has the pandemic impacted recruitment?

The coronavirus pandemic changed many aspects of working life, including the way that employers and HR approached recruitment. When lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures were in place, many organisations went digital with their recruitment processes to reflect this new way of working.

In fact, at the start of the pandemic, Gartner HR data found that 86% of employers conducted virtual interviews, while 85% of organisations utilised digital technology to onboard new recruits. Separate research from Cielo highlighted that this appeared to be going well. It found that two-thirds of organisations successfully interviewed and onboarded new talent during the pandemic.

And it seems that for many, this digital-first approach to recruitment practices could be here to stay. According to September 2021 data from the Institute of Student Employers, a whopping 93% of companies were still mostly using virtual recruitment methods, while Jobvite’s 2020 Nation Report found that 40% of recruitment experts believe that virtual interviews will continue to be the default moving forwards.

Cause for optimism

Despite the lingering uncertainty that many firms are facing when searching for the right candidates, and how to win them over, LADbible Group’s approach appears to be working strongly. Its media output gives candidates a glimpse of the work they could be doing. Its social media channels give them insight into how their working day might look. Its interview process gives them a feel for the workplace benefits they would have access to. And finally, their onboarding process ensures a smooth and efficient transition from candidate to employee, ensuring that their transition into the business starts off as positively as possible.

Ultimately, this is all possible because the company keeps a keen eye on the talent market, analyses the behaviour of jobseekers, and shouts loud about why it is a great place to work. Having seen the evidence of this model’s success, HR leaders facing their own recruitment headaches might consider following suit.

Highlights from
HR Tech 3.0 in 2021

At our virtual HR Grapevine ‘Technology 3.0' event in 2021, Sinead Allchurch, HR Director at LADbible Group, talks about key leadership takeaways from the pandemic.

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