How Peloton Adapted for this New Hiring Age

Listen to it Podcast Style:



Ty Abernethy:

All right, we’re gonna go ahead and get started. I have a wonderful guest with me here, Andrew Delabar.

Andrew is on the recruiting team at Peloton. Peloton has rolled out Grayscale recently, and so we’ve been digging in pretty deep on process.

I thought some of the stuff that Andrew’s working on at Peloton would be very interesting, for those of you trying to create a succinct candidate experience to help address some of your hiring challenges.

Andrew, thank you for taking a few minutes with me today.


Andrew Delabar:

Hey, happy to be here, Ty. I appreciate the invite.


Ty Abernethy:

Awesome, I wanna orient you to some of the challenges and things that Peloton is working on at the moment. Andrew is running point on field ops recruiting at Peloton. So Andrew, orient everyone to your world.


Andrew Delabar:

For sure. I think it’s probably not a secret that Peloton saw an increase in demand. A lot of people looking for an at-home fitness solution while gyms were closed throughout covid.

Our field operations teams support all of the delivery. They also encompass our assembly lines, our US manufacturing, all kinds of different ‘boots on the ground’ types of roles.

It has been a very interesting year for a lot of us who work in volume hiring. It’s our delivery teams that really have supported the demand, really focusing on decreasing the windows of delivery that we saw that increased over the time of the pandemic, because of supply chain constraints.

Our job is now to take a lot of what we’ve seen, and use that analysis to predict what our headcount will look like in the future. And of course, utilizing Grayscale as a part of that growth.


Ty Abernethy:

So talking hourly workforce, Andrew, I know you’ve told me like thousands of people applying for your jobs.

Break it down for me, I’d love to dig into some of the challenges that have been on your radar. What were the real challenges that you were looking to address?


Andrew Delabar:

Anytime we talk about volume hiring, we don’t wanna lose that personal touch, right? The idea that we can actually connect with candidates, and not just put them through some sort of automated process.

Greenhouse is of course our ATS, and sometimes Greenhouse emails get filtered out. They get sent to a spam inbox or they get sent to Gmail filters.

We had a lot of breaks in the process, a lot of candidates who were not seeing the email, or they didn’t realize that they were even sent the email.

That connection, which we thought was extremely important to continue building, trying to find a way that we could be cohesive with the process all the way to the end, and circumvent those challenges we saw with emails being missed.

Like a lot of recruiters, I did not have a traditional recruiting path to get to where I was today. I do come from a hospitality background, and so a part of me was a little empathetic. I didn’t even really check my email frequently, until I moved into management.

When you’re in the hourly workforce, you’re maybe a server or a bartender, your email is not typically the first thing that you would check. We realized that we needed a more direct connection with these candidates.

But of course we think about sharing personal phone numbers with candidates, and that was obviously something that we wanted to avoid as well. I think the big challenge was some of those breaks in the process, and connecting with candidates about, ‘Hey we sent you this information and we have not heard back. We sent you an interview request and we have seen that you’ve not sent in any availability.’

To avoid having that in the future, we advocated for a texting tool for quite some time.

Luckily for Grayscale, we’ve seen a lot of the improvements in that connection, which was the biggest challenge I think that we were seeing.


Ty Abernethy:

Thanks for walking us through that, Andrew. You mentioned emails going to spam right now, I’ll defend greenhouse here, that’s a universal problem that we see across the board with different systems right now.

This is just a universal problem, emails are going to spam. Spam filters, especially Google, are really beefing up their algorithms, and it’s causing a lot of challenges.

Thinking in terms of how the organization is going to evolve year over year, and laying the groundwork of, how do we create a succinct process?

I want to maybe drill in on that a little bit more. You’ve rolled out SMS to your candidates now, how are you thinking about starting to scale some of this?


Andrew Delabar:

It’s definitely a conversation that I would say is still happening. As we look into the future, there’s a lot of ambiguity that I think we still have to solve for.

Although we were already on a growth trajectory before the pandemic, the pandemic was definitely an accelerant for us. Now as we look into the future, I think we have a lot of data that we didn’t have before, stuff that we can lean on in terms of scaling up a lot of this process.

There seems to be this conversation that’s happening, a move towards automation for volume roles. Amazon hired 350,000 employees in the last a year and a half. They’ve consistently hired an incredible amount of people, but they also see a high turnover.

What is that reason? What’s the reason for candidates going through a process, and then not wanting to stick with the company after going through an interview process like that? I think it’s really that you can never really remove ‘human’ outta human resources.

The idea of a connection with a candidate, and being able to feel like you’re actually a person who’s valued as an employee, and not just a number that gets thrown into a warehouse.

Grayscale really helps support that connection, that cohesion of ‘Hey, I’m a person. I work at Peloton. You’re a person who wants to work here. Let’s connect.’ You’re not just talking to a chat bot, you’re not just going through this automated process that we put together.

As we scale, It’s the same as any product in any kind of demand. When your demand goes up and you have a high quality product, you can’t sacrifice your quality to hit your demand. It’s something that you can never do as an organization.

The same stands for recruiting. You can’t move away from a quality recruiting process because you have to hit higher numbers. I think that really is where grayscale is gonna come into play for us the most, which is utilizing that direct connection, having some sort of relationship-build in the initial stages of interviews.

So you feel like you’re actually going through an interview process, and you’re not just entering into an hourly role that you think you’ll be at for a couple of months before you decide to move on.

And Peloton, beyond that, wants to support internal trajectory. We want you to have an opportunity to collaborate with other teams and work cross-functionally in situations that maybe you haven’t been in before.

All of that really starts with building a connection with somebody. When you remove that direct connection, you suffer on the quality side which is something that we can’t do no matter how big the scale goes.

So I think as we look into the future, we’re gonna lean on some of that historical data. You have to predict for things that you’ve never seen.

As Peloton’s product suite continues to expand, how do you prepare for headcount on a product that you’ve never sold before? How do you start predicting headcount down to granular details per location, per warehouse, per fulfillment center.

That’s part of what I hear from other large companies, it does seem that once you’re there, you’re just left there to do what you can do within your role, and a lot of people feel that disconnect.

The other side is that a lot of companies over-hire, which cuts into other people’s hours. That’s not what somebody who’s looking for a livable role is looking for.

How do we fill in those gaps of the disconnect? I think building that connection early is gonna be extremely important to scaling.


Ty Abernethy:

I think you nailed it. You can’t sacrifice quality to hit demand. That really resonates with me. When companies are looking at a pretty lofty hiring goal, usually the first thing that gets sacrificed is quality.

That’s why everyone gives a lot of lip service to candidate experience, it really does matter. When you are sacrificing quality, it really has a negative impact on the other side.

It’s all about building connections. You do that well, and everything downstream of that improves. It turns out, if you treat people like humans, they will show up more frequently to interviews, they’ll get back to you more frequently.

You treat people with respect, they will reciprocate. It’s a basic, obvious thing, but when you’re dealing with growth and high volume, that’s one area that really breaks down.

You mentioned leveraging a chat bot. That’s one way that you can go about it, there’s a lot of buzz right now with AI and chatbots. Why did you not go in that direction, instead landing on a solution more like Grayscale?


Andrew Delabar:

I think overall, anytime that you think of building a process, a lot of it is trial and error. A lot of it is testing, and trying to figure out what really does work for your organization. Does it align with your values, and your moral compass as an organization?

I think the first thing that people think, especially recruiters, we are overshadowed by the number, right? We have 4,000 hires we’ve gotta make in the next 12 months. How are we gonna do that? People are already fearing the end of the process.

We talked about how it’s important in the beginning of that process that you build that human connection. Yeah, there is opportunities to utilize bots and different technology in terms of connection. But again, what works for us today might not work for us tomorrow. What does work for us today?

Maybe that’s why we haven’t taken that route. Maybe we haven’t chosen to take in the path of automation because right now that’s not really the direction that we’d like to take.

What got us here is not gonna get us there. No matter what we build today, it’s a consistent work in progress. It doesn’t mean that we won’t reevaluate the process in six months. I’m a huge analytics advocate, I like to lean on data.

Most of us disconnect from what it’s like to be in a blue collar, physical labor position. It’s a detriment to the entire experience to treat it too differently than if you were applying to a white collar position.

You should interview with a human being. You should meet with members of the team. We identify a lot of that quality in that early part of the conversation with that candidate directly, and you lose a lot of that when you start to automate.


Ty Abernethy:

Great insight. Let’s get tactical, talk about some ways that you are leveraging SMS today. Have you seen any immediate impacts with texting your candidates from greenhouse?


Andrew Delabar:

Yeah, a hundred percent. We talked about challenges, one of those challenges being that emails get lost, or that the demographic we target for these roles – not frequent email checkers.

But setting up an automation within Grayscale that whenever we sent out an interview request, a text would automatically be sent that just says, ‘Hey Ty, thank you for applying to the position of field specialist. We sent your interview request link. It should be in your inbox. If you don’t see it, please feel free to check your spam or respond to this text.’

We saw an immediate spike in people who were able to complete the interview availability request.

But even beyond field operations, we’ve utilized Grayscale with another very large workforce that we have at Peloton, which is our member support team. Part of that interview process is going through an eSkills test. We would send that eSkills test out, and people wouldn’t complete it.

We dove into a couple of different theories, but then realizing that it’s probably just a disconnect. We weren’t seeing the responses cause the candidates weren’t receiving it.

Sending a quick follow up was just another way that we saw a huge spike in eSkills completion. You really wanna make sure that you draw attention to those requests, and Grayscale has allowed us to do that exponentially greater than we did before.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, that’s great. You mentioned setting up some automation, I know that’s one thing you guys have been working on.


Andrew Delabar:

A thousand percent, and nudges have also been huge. All of us understand that we miss texts, we miss calls, we miss emails.

Having the nudge, maybe 24 hours after this initial template is sent, just to say ‘Hey, me again. Just wanted to flag that there is an email for you that’s requesting your interview availability.’ But definitely, those automations and nudges have been huge.

The automated process is Grayscale sending out that initial text, but that initial text is an invitation to connect with the human. The idea that you can marry those two ideas together and have the hybrid, I think is gonna be incredibly important as we scale.

In general, most companies that are gonna look into scaling by utilizing Grayscale are gonna find that those automations and those nudges are a huge part of the experience that is better for the candidate overall.


Ty Abernethy:

That’s a great point. You mentioned blending the human element and automation. The right message is getting to the right person, at the right time.


Andrew Delabar:

Automation should be a tool, it shouldn’t be the entire process. You could probably replace a lot of rules with robots or of automation.

In my opinion, recruiting is just not one of those that you can replace. I think that the combination of that automation and the human interaction is really where the future of it all lies.


Ty Abernethy:

Yeah, these simple automation rules that you can set up that then run for you in the background.

You mentioned Amazon earlier and the growth that they’ve been seeing. We work with their pharmacy division, and a single recruiter could typically only handle a couple hundred candidates at a time.

They were able to scale up to north of a thousand candidates per recruiter at any given time. Coming in and setting up about a dozen of these automations was a real key component to that.


Andrew Delabar:

When we think about the overall candidate experience, from the external workforce, we’re not always in the best light. I think that there’s a lot of fair call-outs for some recruiters.

If you’re leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth about how recruiting works, and how hiring works, and how onboarding works and how the experience is overall, you’ve also now poisoned the well for any other candidate in that location who works in a similar capacity.

That’s also an important part of this Grayscale automation and some of the SMS strategy, developing that experience so that you’re not leaving candidates with a sour taste in their mouth. That’s really where our team is focusing on filling those cracks.


Ty Abernethy:

I wanna ask one more question of you, for those that are thinking about rolling out SMS or starting to automate touchpoints in their process.

Talk to me about what the experience has been implementing a tool like Grayscale. How big of a lift was this, and how quickly were you able to start seeing an impact?


Andrew Delabar:

The implementation was pretty seamless. It’s easy to use, the interface is very easy to see and visualize what you need. The automation setup is very easy.

When you’re the first team at a company like Peloton who wants to implement a direct SMS texting tool, you need to give yourself the elbow room to find out where it works, and where it doesn’t.

Part of the implementation is the trial and error, the idea that you can give yourself some room to figure out what works and figure out what doesn’t.

We’re still early in the Grayscale relationship. What we’ve seen so far is that it’s very easy to use, it’s very easy to implement, it’s very easy to teach others once you have your own understanding. You can really teach others how to set up their own automations and nudges.

It can get very granular, which I love. I think that a lot of tools that we use can be very broad, so that the idea that Grayscale does get really intricate into reach-outs, and nudges, and automations, and when to send them, why to send them – extremely important for us.

Overall, Grayscale as a partner, definitely an easy implementation for us. Training was definitely more seamless than some of the other processes that we’ve had to train on.

Overall I think we’re just excited to see where this partnership will take us.


Ty Abernethy:

Andrew, thanks for sharing some insight. I think it’s always helpful for those that are dealing in volume. I really appreciate you taking a few minutes with us.


Andrew Delabar:

Hey, thanks again for the invite. This was a lot of fun.


Ty Abernethy:

Awesome, take care, have a good one!