How Lola Travel scaled from 25 to 50 employees in 6 months

Lola Travel: At a glance

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Lola travel is a trip planning iPhone app that provides users with a virtual travel assistant. In just six months, Lola used the Drafted referral network to:

  • Hire 10 employees in under 6 months, including:
    • 4 Software Engineers
    • 4 Travel Consultants
    • 1 Product Manager
    • 1 Technical Recruiter
  • Save $70,000
  • Reduce hiring time by 50%

Lola’s hiring story

Lola Travel is on the rise. Founded by former Kayak CTO, Paul English, Lola is revolutionizing the $150B offline travel industry. Lola makes it easy to plan trips using a handy mobile app with a direct line to travel experts. App users communicate with virtual travel assistants who can book every part of your trip: Hotels, flights, events… you name it.

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The view from Lola Travel’s office in Boston

Since its official launch in May 2016, Lola has doubled its workforce and built a team of 50 in Boston. Paul English knows how critical it is to hire the right team, whether for travel metasearch giant KAYAK or the newly minted Lola. “When you have great teams and great chemistry, you can do whatever your shared goal is,” says English.

As any team-builder knows, hiring a single great employee can take months. Lola had a big challenge ahead; they needed to find and hire 25 talented new employees in the competitive Boston hiring market. To hit their hiring goals, Lola:

  1. Established an employee and community referral program
  2. Hired a full-time corporate recruiter

Providing hiring managers with an incredible talent network

If they wanted to build a business that would change travel again, Lola’s founders and top managers knew that they needed to hire the best people. What’s more, they needed to scale two different teams simultaneously: product engineering and customer success.

So, the Lola team took a bold approach: They established a referral program to reward employees for introducing great people to their team. Then, they extended this referral reward to their entire network. Lola’s leadership team understood that referrals come from outside their network, so they used friends, family, investors, and customers to find top hires. (Fun fact: 41% of all referrals are external).

Customer Success & the network effect

Stacey Scott, VP Member Services, has built great teams for years and has a philosophy for hiring the best people. “My job is to make my team so wildly happy they want their families and friends to work here too,” Stacey explained. At Lola, she has built her team from 0 to 18 travel assistants by using employee and community referrals as a key hiring strategy.

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Lola’s Travel Assistant Team, Fueled by Drafted

When she started looking for her first travel assistant at Lola, Stacey searched everywhere. She posted ads on Craigslist and when she met a great customer service person, she offered them a role at Lola. Her VP Product introduced Stacey to her first hire, Rachel. Rachel helped Stacey grow her team and drafted a key product hire, Jeremy.

Many of Stacey’s new travel assistants referred friends who joined the team. “People are our biggest asset. We believe that everyone who makes us stronger should be rewarded. Plus, isn’t it nice that [employees] can help save the company money and bring in great people at the same time?”

It turns out that the relatively small “signing bonus” was a competitive differentiator for her prospective employees, too. Who else made signing a job offer this fun?

Finding tough-to-hire technical talent

Lola Travel Community Referrals

In addition to travel assistants, Lola used Drafted to source and hire 4 software architects — a hiring spree that could easily cost a business $100,000 in contingency staffing fees. While several architects were referred externally from friends in Lola’s community, Software Architect Jeremy Debate, drafted two of his former engineering colleagues. Jeremy loved his teammates at Lola and wanted to contribute more than just his own expertise, “Everyone I worked with was an expert, and I wanted to draw from my network to add to that,” he said.

Jeremy’s favorite part of having two close colleagues by his side? “One of the most rewarding things is getting to work every day with a talented team, especially when that team includes people you have worked alongside for years.”

Lola reached a broader network to discover “hidden gem” candidates and get introduced to them with their referral program. Lola employees or friends could contact referrals more effectively— and even speak to their strengths and weaknesses— because they had worked together in the past. It was almost like the Lola team had this secret army of advocates recruiting for them.

Referrals open doors for recruiting top talent

When Tyler Avery-Miller joined Lola as their lead recruiter, he was given the task of hiring engineers and customer success managers (aka Travel Assistants) — fast. And while he had a robust list of technical talent in his Rolodex, engineering positions are still one of the hardest jobs to fill.

Tyler sourced talent through traditional channels like cold outreach and inbound interest but soon found that his response rate from passive candidates skyrocketed with Drafted. Tyler used Drafted to spot incredible candidates and ask his network for introductions. This way, friends of candidates who may not have responded to a cold InMail, reached out to make the initial introduction. Almost everyone responded.

“Often the best people are happily employed, so there’s a handful of people who are really talented who are being recruited all the time and aren’t actively looking. You may have an opportunity that could benefit their career, but they’re just not listening. An introduction changes that. It makes that connection to passive candidates, and gets people in for an interview who might never respond otherwise.” – Tyler Avery-Miller

Drafted was able to help Tyler get qualified candidates in the door and reduced Lola’s time to hire by over 50% for candidates sourced through Drafted.

To-date, Lola Travel has used Drafted to hire 10 employees, including 4 software engineers, 4 Travel Assistants, 1 Technical Recruiter and 1 Product Specialist.

Doubled in 6 months

Lola Travel used referrals and a smart recruiting process to double to 50 employees in 6 months. By using Drafted and involving their internal and external networks Lola reduced hiring time by 50%, saved $70,000 in hiring costs and made critical hires that will help Lola change travel. Again.

Interested in working at Lola Travel? Get Drafted by Lola here.

 

 

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One thought on “How Lola Travel scaled from 25 to 50 employees in 6 months

  1. Pingback: [Infographic] Building the best referral program for your team

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