Hotel Giant IHG gained a 97% positive applicant experience using predictive people analytics – Can this along with other benefits be easily achieved by other companies?

Cognisess’ Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Boris Altemeyer, explores the opportunities and challenges for businesses looking towards people analytics as a driver for HR transformation. He uses added insight from our recent case study with hotel giant IHG who recently applied AI in HR with Cognisess. 

In your opinion, what element of the IHG case study was particularly successful?

“On the second year of using Cognisess Pro for their Future Leaders fast-track recruitment programme, we used predictive analytics to screen the potential of candidates. Their cognitive and emotional intelligence scores assessed how an individual would perform in the assessment process. This avoided the need for applicants to undertake the usual case study module on day 2 of the assessment centre. This measure proved to be over 95% accurate in anticipating their rating based on assessor feedback. IHG could view the candidate’s predicted results without the applicants physically completing the required business case study. This meant IHG could eliminate the second day of the assessment centre without losing data to feed into the decision process, which resulted in a 50% reduction in assessment centre time and cost. This was a great example of doing something which was an immediate ‘quick win’.”

Why is the IHG Future Leaders programme so successful and can this success with people analytics be replicated with every company?

“First and foremost using people analytics helped IHG internally in terms of their own efficiency and effectiveness. They can now be confident about employing the right people and spend more of their valuable time with the right candidate, rather than spending that time on applicants that won’t go very far. These people may be brilliant people in their own right – but not for this particular role. This process cuts out a lot of the time wasting and guessing.

IHG was able to ‘white label’ the process using our platform, which meant everything looked and felt like IHG – allowing them to stay very true to their employer brand. This was one of the successful elements of the project. Candidates didn’t feel like they were in a third party system, as it’s all integrated. We got very good feedback from the candidates, with 97% of the applicants rating the process as positive even if they weren’t successful. The candidates feel appreciated because IHG wants to discover their potential, instead of assessing whether they can write a convincing CV – which in most cases just shows how good you are at writing CV’s.

A project isn’t going to be successful if an unsuccessful candidate has a bad experience – it should be a great experience whether they are successful or not. A bad applicant experience isn’t just a lost employee, but a lost customer. It can ultimately damage the employer’s brand.

I believe this approach can be replicated for other companies. Many of our clients use the Cognisess platform in different ways. Because businesses know their target audience well, Cognisess Pro can adjust the application process to suit the type of candidate who applies. For example, if the target applicant audience is likely to be time poor or not very tech savvy, the assessment process can be adjusted to work on their terms. This generates a positive buy-in and participation, resulting in high completion levels from the start and a positive experience for all. But a positive experience at IHG isn’t the same as AB InBev or Vauxhall, it needs to be congruent with what is expected of the brand and the nature of the role. The days of ‘one size fits all’ recruitment is over.”

It seems in order to find IHG’s ideal group of people for the Future Leaders programme they needed to find out more about their existing current cohort – how is this an unexpected bonus for companies like IHG?

“It is a very unexpected and welcome bonus. It is to do with the data agility; the application of predictive analytics, the number of different data points, the accuracy of prediction and where we build a benchmark from.

Clients are often surprised that we want to benchmark their existing people when looking for new people, which means we need to access more data from them than they would usually expect. We could take an educated guess about what ‘a good performer’ looks like in each organisation – but it’s never going to be as accurate as using actual data sets from existing teams and applying predictive analytics to those.

Additionally, that data doesn’t just need to be used solely for the benchmarking process. What some of our clients realise is they can use this information for personal development plans. They can identify that an employee could be a fantastic match for a promotion, perhaps not within their direct line of work but in another function – perhaps in sales or marketing. HR can rejig a career plan to ensure an employee makes the most out of their natural abilities. This is a real bonus for companies managing their talent pools and can be undertaken with not that much data.”

How easy was it for IHG to learn and operate Cognisess Pro?

“Our predictive analytics platform is easy to operate. Administrators can quickly understand how to use the analytics dashboard or manage user registration. We have deliberately designed the platform so administrators don’t need a statistics degree to use it.

For IHG we built some bespoke job profilers based on their current high performing employees, which allows recruiters to measure how good an applicant would be in a specific role. IHG’s administrators could easily analyse how good a candidate was compared to the 600 other applicants.

The more challenging aspect is understanding the data model that is behind Cognisess Pro. A company doesn’t need to understand this to use the platform and produce immediate results. However, once a company does start down the path of people analytics – they want to know more. We are able to provide training sessions if individuals within HR want to develop their data and analytical skills. Essentially if you really want to understand people, then understanding data is a necessary skill which HR will need to develop in the future. It also helps to have large datasets and applicant pools of IHG’s size and scale. AI and machine learning feast on bigger data sets, with more data they can make more informed and complete insights.”

How did it support decision making for IHG?

“Although IHG had a developed assessment framework prior to using Cognisess Pro, it was very time intensive. The feedback we got from IHG’s HR managers was that Cognisess Pro saved them time. Instead of taking several hours out of a busy HR director’s week to interview and individually test candidates, they were able to rely on Cognisess Pro’s video interview feature. This allows candidates to record their video interviews remotely whilst Deep LearnTM, Cognisess’ analytics engine, scores them.  

It made the overall process a lot smoother. At the end of each IHG assessment centre day, the assessors have 1 hour to decide which candidates to give offers to. After they’d decided amongst themselves, they bring the candidate’s Cognisess Pro results up on the screen. This objective data shows them how they fared throughout the whole process in terms of their video scores, personality scores, emotional wellbeing and cognitive scores. This allows the assessors to feel confident that what they saw matched the framework, the data and analytics backs them up. We never use this data to prompt assessors because we don’t want to suggest any self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘this is what the computer said – you must therefore agree.’ It works best when a person comes to their own conclusion and then looks at the data to scientifically validate their opinion.

This is incredibly important for companies like IHG to ensure they are operating in a way which is transparent, fair and objective to eliminate the likelihood of any bias creeping into their selection processes or decision making. In the future all companies may need to demonstrate their talent decisions are compliant with equal opportunities, anti-discrimination policies and law. I believe that Cognisess is well ahead of that curve and can support companies to achieve those goals today.”

For more insight, download our recent case study with global hotel giant IHG.

People Analytics will change the way HR makes its decisions: but what’s driving this change?

Amongst marketing colleagues throughout any sector of business, it is inconceivable that customers would not have their fingerprints and footprints of their data analysed to the nth degree to better understand their value, buying behaviours, patterns of consumption and preferences.  CRM and other data driven disciplines like ASO, SEO, NPS are the life-blood of decision making in marketing. Sure hunches in marketing are still important – but only if they are backed up with data. So, why is it the case, that HR do not as yet apply the same rigour in better understand human potential and performance when making key hiring and appraisal decisions?

HR and People Management have always been an inherently human set of processes…. the clue is in the title. But are people necessarily the best judge of people? Traditionally HR, hiring managers and recruiters are trusted with the responsibility of using their experience to assess and select the best talent available in the market. Knowing what a ‘good hire’ looks like is part logic (reviewing CVs and experience track record) and part intuition (having a feel for whether the person will fit the organisation through interviews).  Both of these practices are fraught with inconsistencies, inaccuracies, subjectivity and even bias (unconscious or otherwise). But in fairness to the HR profession it has been very difficult, up until now, to replace the wisdom of experience with anything else.  But advances in Big Data, Cognitive NeuroScience, automation and machine learning – have heralded a new era of certainty and reliability in the form of People Analytics: the science of assessing people through data.

New Technology – New HR Solutions

Humans and AI are finally able to start working together to make better business decisions. In a recent McKinsey study, 47% of executives have embedded at least one AI capability into their business process.  However, HR remain the function which is least convinced of the benefits to their organisations in deploying AI in HR falling way behind operations, product development, service delivery and marketing and sales. Lack of coherent internal and external data sets, lack of skills to operate in an increasingly digital and data driven HR environment and lack of leadership to drive changes in traditional practices: are some of the main reasons cited for lack of uptake amongst businesses for People Analytics.

As a pioneer in bringing machine learning and People Analytics into the HR market over the past 5 years, here are a number of key benefits that Cognisess have delivered for those companies who have been early adopters for AI in HR.

Saving time – AI has an appetite for data. It is able to process applicants and identify the top candidates faster than an employee manually organising them. This means HR managers can spend more time preparing applicants for the role. Recently the world’s largest brewer, AB InBev, was able to interview their strongest candidates just 3 days after they’d sent in their application. Before employing Cognisess Pro’s people analytics, it took them 10 days. Cognisess saved them time, enabling them to hire the best talent faster.

Saving money – One bad hire can cost €45,000 (£39,294) in loss of productivity. Predictive analytics cannot foresee the future, but in can prevent unsuitable candidates from advancing through the process. It reveals not only the best talent –  but also those candidates who will fit or adapt into a specific company the culture, thrive in the role and therefore stay – thus saving companies a considerable amount of money and resource in the long term.

Increasing diversity, decreasing potential bias – Humans are naturally biased, and although we all do try to minimise it, our bias is always subconsciously present. In the past, there was no way to eliminate it from the recruitment process – predictive analytics and machine learning has completely transformed this. For instance, Cognisess Deep Learn ™ our AI engine, doesn’t take into account race, gender, age or background. Instead, it focuses purely on a person’s cognitive ability and emotional and social attributes to perform to any given role. This change allowed hotel giant, IHG, to eliminate potential bias by 93% from their recruitment process. This not only increases their prospect of developing a truly diversified workforce, but also demonstrates a clear commitment to fairness and inclusion for the employer brand.

How will it transform HR?

“Companies who adopt a predictive analytics system create a brighter future. They not only gain useful objective data on their applicants and employees, but they also gain insight about their talent pools. Managers can identify strengths and weaknesses – even uncovering hidden talents!” Comments Chris Butt, CEO of Cognisess. This approach encourages employees to develop their adaptability and skills whilst managers can better envision a person’s progression in a business by using AI to create complete picture about people and their potential.

As People Analytics become more affordable, accessible and user-friendly we will see many more companies recruit and appraise through a predictive analytics platform, whilst dialling back less reliable traditional recruitment methods. Forward thinking companies such as DFS and Knight Frank are already using our predictive analytics platform, Cognisess Pro to transform their approach. Cognisess Pro’s objective method of assessing talent works well to support and validate recruiters ‘gut instincts’ about a candidate with the data and evidence to back up why they are a good fit for the role. With Cognisess Pro, companies can constantly refine the attributes they are looking for whether it’s short term memory or emotional intelligence – or any other of 120 attributes the platform analyses.

The benefits for HR

Increased Efficiency

With 73% of applicants abandon job applications if they take longer than 15 minutes, there is clearly an art to retaining candidates until the end of an application. Cognisess Pro’s gamified assessments engage the candidate whilst gaining insights for the recruiter – 90% of applicants have a positive experience on the platform. “Our clients often see an increase in applications using our platform.” Reveals Chris Butt, CEO of Cognisess. A positive application experience also leaves candidates with a good first impression of a business.

Increased Diversity

With ethnically diverse teams outperforming non-diverse teams by 35%, it consciously pays to focusing on a person’s innate abilities and skills to identify what a balanced and diverse team fit looks like. Predictive analytics create a fairer process for all by removing subjectivity and bias. Typically recruiters are disposed to hiring the type of person they personally connect and recognise through experience or preference – rather than ability or potential.  Having a more objective approach greatly increases the chances of a building a more diverse and productive workforce.

Increased Speed to Hire

People analytics allows HR to recruit quickly cut through the volume of applicants and information to identify the best talent whilst creating a positive and fair process for every participant. Simultaneously the technology allows recruiters and managers to monitor and benchmark their existing employee talent pool to quickly spot opportunities to redeploy talent – rather than always reaching for an external solution.

Learn more about AI in HR

Cognisess is already supporting some of the world’s leading businesses to transform their approach to managing talent and potential. 

For more insight, download our recent case study with global hotel giant IHG.

What is unconscious bias and why it should be reduced in talent recruitment?

Unconscious bias: a brief overview

Every one of us carries a degree of unconscious bias. This is informed by our personal experiences, stereotypes and cultural context. It’s the way our brains make quick judgements about people and situations without us even registering it. Ultimately these inherent biases can impact decision-making in the hiring process. For instance, during a study by PNAS, participants were invited to review a number of job applications. Despite the applications being randomly assigning a male or female name, each reviewer was more likely to conclude:

  • The male applicants were better qualified than female candidates.
  • They were inclined to hire male candidates over female applicants.
  • The male applicants were deemed more worthy of a higher starting salary than the female candidates.   
  • They were more willing to invest in developing a male candidate than a female one.

This is a prime example of unconscious bias at play. Although reviewers didn’t deliberately discount females because of their gender; their unconscious bias did. Ultimately this would impact on the hiring decision, career development and salary of the candidates. It may have even prevented the best candidates from being considered for a position.

Can bias ever be eliminated or at least reduced?

“Because we are all human, we all harbour conscious and unconscious biases. Sometimes they’re useful – like when we stubbornly always choose to stay at our favourite brand of hotel; but often they’re not. Even when we try our best to identify and minimise them, they are always there as they form an intrinsic part of being human,” revealed Cognisess CSO, Dr Boris Altemeyer: “

Although this bias is instinctive, there are methods recruiters can use to minimise the risk of affecting hiring decisions. The emergence of artificial intelligence provides an effective solution to reduce bias. According to Dr Altemeyer: “AI doesn’t have to worry about understand its own unconscious bias, because it has none.”

Cognisess Pro, our market leading AI recruitment platform, makes it optional for candidates to disclose age, gender, race or the schools they went to and that can be hidden from assessors too.  More significantly this information is never taken into account for Cognisess assessments. This is called ‘blind recruitment’ and focuses purely on the attributes and abilities that matter when hiring a candidate. This process provides decision makers with an in-depth understanding of a candidate’s suitability for the role – regardless of background. The platform is data-driven with 50 assessments to choose from measuring over 120 attributes. This range of data has been proven to assist companies like AB InBev, CIL and IHG  make better informed and fewer bias decisions about recruitment and assessments.  For example, hotel giant IHG has recently eliminated potential bias by 93.75% using Cognisess Pro, enabling a fairer and more accurate approach to talent management compared to their more traditional recruitment processes.

Why should companies strive to minimise it?   

It is a given that leading recruiters are committed to a fairer recruitment process for applicants. This is important in building a credible employer brand and reputation to compete in the talent market.  But making a conscious effort to remove bias also provides other significant benefits. “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”  according to a recent Mckinsey report. Adopting an approach like Cognisess Pro which can reduce or eliminate bias, will lead to the development of a more diverse workforce.  “Teams which have a more diverse composition bring so much more to the business in terms of having strength in depth to maximise opportunities like problem solving, creativity, customer empathy and innovation which can benefit a company in both the short and long term,” confirmed CSO, Dr Altemeyer.

Additionally, a recent analysis of talent attraction strategies revealed that  67% of applicants want to join a diverse team .  Focusing on this will support companies to attract more candidates and the best talent into the applicant pool.

Taking the first steps to address bias

“In the battle for talent, not every company is going to win the hearts and minds of the top 3% of graduates every year – and that thinking in itself is a form of bias”, stated Cognisess CEO Chris Butt: “Therefore companies have no other option to but too look beyond the obvious to identify talent in its many forms and how it can ably fill the skills gaps they have.”

Cognisess Pro is the most advanced People Analytics and Assessment Platform on the market today bringing AI to HR. It is helping companies create a fairer process and pinpointing the best person for the role based on ability and potential – not gender, age or race. If you are uncertain of how to best start the journey of integrating AI into your HR processes, contact us today to schedule a demo.