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Companies and government organizations are increasingly incorporating the ideas of gamification into the way they assess whether job applicants are the right fit for an open role. But recruiting managers should be careful to determine whether they are gamifying work-related elements or just having candidates play games. If the latter, then the game is not related to the job and will have little value as a pre-hire selection tool – and could even backfire.

Gamification is ostensibly used to test a candidate’s skills and abilities by asking them to play some form of game. Recruiters often take this approach because they think that transforming applications and assessments into a fun and interactive process will improve the candidate experience.

The problem is that many games aren’t a good way to work out whether candidates are suitable for the role they are applying for. Games can often cause applicants to question the credibility of the application process and the company. Furthermore, users interacting with a game expect it to deliver a fun, light-hearted experience that later hiring-related interactions are unlikely to provide, and this is likely to make the company appear inconsistent.

Don’t Neglect Traditional Assessments

Although games can certainly add something new and different to the recruiting process – just ask the US government – recruiters shouldn’t rush to jump on the bandwagon unless they have good reason. If they feel that a game fits well into the recruiting process, provides relevant, valid feedback that helps with objective assessment, and is cost effective, then it’s probably worth the investment.

Recruiters should take four steps before diving straight into gamification.

  1. Evolve traditional assessments to be more engaging: They should do this by judiciously adding gaming elements, such as instant feedback, interactive elements, and multimedia.

    Current assessments are backed by extensive research on their validity (i.e., whether they produce the best fit candidate), their cost, and the reactions that candidates are likely to have to them. They are proven, and they aren’t expensive to implement.

  2. Carry on using multimedia simulations: But only if you have the budget for it. Simulating work behaviors and contexts gives candidates a realistic preview of the job. Well-designed simulations are good at predicting whether someone will succeed in the role.

    Candidates tend to like multimedia assessments and perceive them to be more job-related than games-based assessments. However, simulations can be resource-intensive to develop and maintain.

  3. Do your due diligence before considering gamified assessments: Research into the validity and user perceptions of gamified assessments is still in its infancy.

    More study is needed to understand candidate reactions, potential adverse effects, and whether meaningful job-related indicators are being measured.

  4. Move with caution before adopting serious games based on artificial scenarios: These include games such as fantasy quests and challenges that entail climbing through various game levels. Serious games are intended to collect information about candidates based on the way they play a game, but this approach could:

    • Unintentionally favor serious video game players. (Are those your best workers?)

    • Induce pressure and anxiety. (Is this the best state of mind for a fair assessment?)

    • Create a negative impression for candidates who see it as irrelevant to the job.

    • Frustrate candidates who don’t feel the game showcases their true job-related skills

    • Fail to capture meaningful indicators of a candidate’s fit for a role.

    If you want to use serious games, do the upfront planning to ensure the game directly measures the competencies, skills, or abilities that lead to the desired business outcome.

Take a Fresh Look at ‘Traditional’ Assessments

If recruiters want to rejuvenate your talent identification processes, they don’t have to be seduced by gamification. Thanks to technology advances, traditional assessments have been reinvented. Today, recruiters can expect a traditional talent assessment solution to be:

  • Interactive: A two-way process interacts with the candidate, adapts based on candidate input, and offers feedback throughout the process, which in turn increases engagement.

  • Logical: At each stage of a step-by-step process, candidates can get information and feedback that lets them make informed decisions about whether to continue or decide to opt out.

  • Valid: Industry-leading psychometric assessment products measure the competencies, abilities, behavioral styles, and preferences that have been proven by research to produce business outcomes.

  • Precise: Cutting-edge algorithmic assessments use advanced machine learning and semantic analyses to predict employee retention for a specific role.

  • Customizable: Traditional assessments can be tailored to any company’s branding, colors and media – and be cusotmized to produce specific business outcomes today and in the future.

With these capabilities, recruiters can add vitality and rigor to their talent assessment approach without having to invest in costly and unproven video game-style techniques.

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As digitalization disrupts business models and thrusts new requirements onto the labor market, organizations across diverse industries and geographies require access to digital skills.

Today, a health insurer, a car maker and a bank require many of the same people — people with skills that, until recently, were only on an IT recruiter’s radar.

Those skills, such as AI, virtual reality, IoT, machine learning, and big data are necessary for companies to pursue digital opportunities, from product enhancements to disruptive business transformations. For example, auto makers who want to develop self-driving cars, need a wide range of IT capabilities, from artificial intelligence engineers to software developers and machine learning specialists.

Simply put, it is even harder today — than say 3-4 years ago — to plan for, find and hire the talent companies need. In fact, 47% of all jobs posted by S&P 100 companies in 2017 were for the same 37 roles, according to analysis of data from CEB TalentNeuron, now offered by Gartner.

In this scenario, labor market data can reveal untapped opportunities to find and recruit digital talent. Laying different datasets over one another provides clarity and insight with which companies can make real decisions about sourcing and hiring strategies.

5 Ways Data Can Help Locate Digital Talent

Here are just five examples of opportunities you might not have considered, but data can reveal:

  1. Tap locations with less of a talent squeeze: Most companies target locations with huge talent pools when they want to recruit candidates. This is an obvious approach, but places with a lot of talent are also hotbeds of demand, especially for new roles sought across industries. By analyzing data on both supply and demand, you can get a clearer picture of which locations to target. If, for example, you have only a few people to hire, you can target a location where there may be slightly less talent available, but demand is nowhere near as strong.

  2. Mine adjacent companies and industries: In searching for digital talent, organizations are increasingly bumping up against adjacent industries and companies looking for the same people. This can be seen as both an opportunity and threat. Data can show which companies are actively hiring for the talent you want, and add these less obvious sectors to your own sourcing criteria to build a larger, more viable candidate pool.

  3. Check out cities with emerging talent pools: Digital talent searches inevitably target established hubs, but data can identify the next tier of cities where digital talent pools are still nascent. In these locations, companies can stretch limited recruiting resources and pull specific HR levers like recruitment advertising or relocation packages to expand their pipeline of suitable candidates and build a talent pool.

  4. Analyze roles internally to fill the talent pipeline: Companies can also use labor market data to help identify potential internal capabilities for high-growth digital roles. For example, HR professionals can look at what jobs or titles were previously held by the professionals currently employed in key roles. By looking back at how people typically progressed to a given role, it is possible to identify people in the organization who might be good candidates for grooming into key digital roles.

  5. Search untapped graduate talent pools: Given the hypercompetition for mature and emerging digital roles, it’s important to target entry-level talent pipelines that are the foundation of future capability growth. Recruiters are always keen to build relationships with flagship schools well-known for producing certain IT capabilities, but data can identify other potential pools of skills, such as career or technical institutes, that are producing IT talent for certain job families such as software engineering. These schools offer an ancillary but potentially lucrative role in campus hiring programs.

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The past several years have seen a lot of upheaval. Digital technology, and the subsequent digitalization of business, is reinventing life and work in ways both small and profound.

One of the biggest changes is the increased expectations from customers and employees. Today, the ease of finding the exact product you want, securing a compelling price for it, and getting it — delivered to your home, for free — has moved from a delightful rarity to a daily experience. Across industries and geographies, companies feel pressure to meet higher expectations, often in the face of their own very real cost concerns.

As it turns out, what’s learned as a customer quickly becomes the norm for employees in the workplace.

Employees today have higher expectations of everything from coaching and development opportunities to compensation. For their part, companies also have heightened expectations of employees. For example, they expect them to embrace constant organizational change, become ever more “digitalized,” and take on more responsibility in flat organizational structures.

Based on thousands of conversations that Gartner had with heads of HR around the world in 2017, certain themes and topics emerged repeatedly. These three insights sum up the major ones.

  1. Create an organizational culture that performs: Today’s disruptive workforce trends, such as remote workers, shorter employee tenure, and frequent team structure changes, make culture difficult to manage. Despite most companies now spending more than US $2,000 per employee on culture management activities, just three in 10 HR leaders are confident that their organizations have the culture in place for future business performance.

    This is because typical culture management activities rely heavily on changing some aspect of employee behavior. Most companies rely on senior leaders to demonstrate desirable traits and the right culture to employees. But the greatest impact on workplace culture is when senior executives emphasize these qualities in how they manage operations, which very few of them do.

    The best approach is for companies to shift from a “people-focused culture” to a “process-focused strategy” to improve workforce culture alignment (WCA). Managers should create a process that helps employees understand the culture, equips them to create and maintain that culture in their day-to-day work, and requires leaders to design processes that support this culture.

    Companies that make these shifts and produce a high workforce-culture alignment (WCA), see up to a 9% increase in revenue performance and a 22% increase in employee performance.

  2. Rethink expectations for manager coaching: Organizational structure, performance management, and career expectations have changed how employees work today. The rapid pace of technological change meant that nearly 40% of the skills employees apply on the job were gained within the last year. But this requires managers to take a continuous “always-on” approach to developing employees across a broad range of skills. However, this approach overwhelms managers, causing employee performance to decrease by 8%.

    The best type of managers act as “connectors” – they personalize coaching to resonate with employees, power the team for peer development, and partner employees with new contacts to expand their networks and experiences. These “connector” managers improve employee performance by up to 26% and triple the likelihood that their direct reports become high performers.

    Organizations that want to empower managers for better team performance without alienating employees, must develop, equip, and enable such managers across the company.

  3. Address pay equity today, not tomorrow: The workplace is becoming more diverse (by 2027 almost 60% of the US labor force will be made up of women and minorities), but progress toward equal pay for equal work has stalled. Most companies have only started addressing pay equity in the past two years, running analyses on an ad hoc basis. But pay gaps are still widening and projections show that the average cost to correct gaps increases by $439,000 annually.

    Current ad hoc pay equity initiatives leave organizations open to increased legal, talent, and reputation risks, as well as requiring significant work between wage adjustments. What’s more, there is a 16% drop in intent to stay when employees perceive a pay gap in their organization.

    The best organizations address pay equity by integrating assessments with compensation practices, managing employee perceptions through open communication, and proactively preventing pay gaps from recurring throughout the talent lifecycle.

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Current trends in business, society, technology and information are changing where, when, why, and with whom employees will work over the next decade. In 2027, human beings will still be at the center of work, even as intelligent software and smart machines become co-workers.

As technology evolves, so too does the workplace, as are the methods employees use to complete various tasks. Chief human resources officers (CHROs) should consider six ways to prepare for how the workplace is changing.

Six Ways to Prepare for the Future of Work
  1. Elimination of middle management: By 2027, work will depend on ensembles of autonomous and high-performing teams fulfilling crucial outcomes – a work philosophy called “We Working.” This philosophy is about deliberately designing small and flexible teams that dynamically resize and reform based on the scope and scale of the project. It will become the de facto organizational operating model replacing the traditional idea of teams and teamwork.

    Along with the autonomy of “We Working ensembles,” the rise of algorithmic management challenges expectations about what human managers can do to assemble teams and enable them to perform effectively in 2027. Algorithms will displace middle managers whose jobs revolve around collecting data, supervising actions and ensuring compliance.

  2. Constant upskilling: The digital economy will demand new ideas and companies will require employees who apply creativity, critical thinking and constant upskilling to solve complex problems.

    By 2027, more than two out of three jobs will likely be non-routine, which is defined as cognitive work that requires thinking rather than doing. For example, straight coding will be largely automated by 2027 and as artificial intelligence (AI) products (re)design themselves, AI engineers will have to move onto other projects.

    Recruiters will need to raise their game to find candidates for non-routine, cognitive jobs. This kind of work requires postgraduate education, training beyond high school and consistent upskilling. Heads of HR will have to champion lifelong learning and experiment with non-traditional channels  such as boot camps, consumerized learning, and hackathons to anticipate how people will learn in 2027.

  3. Work choices will blur boundaries between people: Digital business, built on vast networks, distributes work across communities of people and across businesses globally. In 2027, the allure of freelancing will intensify as more people work remotely and travel with their personal workspaces. There will be tension as work traverses borders, as security concerns surface and as ‘We Working’ creates teams of remote workers with customized work options.

    In this kind of system where colleagues may not necessarily know each other, more and more people will choose to be “microtaskers,” fulfilling small and specific assignments through talent and marketplace platforms, similar to Amazon Mechanical Turk or TaskRabbit today.

    CHROs need to blend technology and information to build a hybrid workplace — physical and virtual — that embraces work styles of all people, not just those who are permanently employed or who have high digital dexterity.

  4. Smart machines will be our co-workers: Smart machines are becoming more intelligent and more ubiquitous, and by 2027 companies will soon distribute work across AI software, intelligent software and apps. Employees will develop personal toolkits of AI software and devices using cloud communities, open applications and personal virtual assistants. This kind of extreme digital dexterity will be the key to how people work in 2027.

    Smart companies will want to prepare their employees for what’s coming by experimenting with AI to see how it can be applied to daily activities, enhance complex problem solving or free up time for both. High performing employees must be challenged to create and share AI tools or personalized portfolios of apps, tools and smart technology so that they can lead the way towards digital dexterity.

  5. Employees work for purpose, not just money: In 2027, people will be more likely to look for work that challenges them, colleagues that they find stimulating, and a job that gives them a sense of purpose. According to the National Society of High School Scholars, almost six in 10 high school students now spend their time volunteering in areas such as education, health, the environment, and other social causes (pdf). This commitment will not go away in the future.

    Businesses will need to offer more than a good salary to attract good candidates; they’ll need to offer employees an opportunity to make a meaningful impact through work. HR should demonstrate the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and other initiatives by encouraging employees to come forward with personal stories, experiences, and successes in various social causes.

  6. Work-life balance reveals a darker side: Because more employees will work independently or in remote locations, they’ll take on more work assignments, to a point where they will feel as if they are working 24/7. As a result, companies will likely employ technology to assess when people have worked too much and when they need to recharge by monitoring their biorhythms, nutritional requirements, and exercise needs.

    The lack of privacy will also become a problem in 2027 as the personal data, digital reputations, and habits of people become a prerequisite for employment. One way companies can prepare for this is to create scenarios for employees in which the work-life balance swings back and forth to suit work distribution and an employee’s progression through different stages of life.

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The British banker and politician Nathan Rothschild viewed chaos as a source of opportunity, noting, rather cynically, that great fortunes are made when cannonballs fall in the harbor, not when violins play in the ballroom. Rothschild understood that complexity and unpredictability can be favorable, but only if companies have the right leadership to capitalize on it.

As the number of challenges companies face multiply in today’s turbulent environment, the performance of a company’s leaders will continue to erode unless HR takes a different approach.

Three Steps

There are three ways for companies to create the right leaders for future success.

  1. Focus on context-specific leadership profiles: HR teams need to factor in “work context,” which refers to the situation and challenges that each leader faces. These differences can be in the role itself, team dynamics, industry challenges and so on.

    Companies that move to context-specific leadership profiles not only produce a better fit between the leader’s capabilities and specific challenges but also open the door to a more diverse leadership team.

  2. Make your leadership processes as flexible as possible: Companies today have to navigate volatile economic, business, and political environments and require leaders with the experience and disposition to handle challenging situations. HR teams should look to develop leaders who excel against a set of challenges, rather than conforming to a generic leadership model. This requires flexible and agile leadership processes that can adapt to new challenges in the environment.

  3. Base leader decisions on properly analyzed data: Most companies will have extensive information on their leaders, such as character traits, past leadership roles, what they have delivered in various assignments, and past performance – often from the viewpoints of managers, peers, and direct reports.

    Yet when it comes time to select the right leaders for key roles, many HR teams leave it to people to pull all this information together, rather than using the wealth of technology undoubtedly already at their disposal to turn it into useful, consumable business intelligence. Relying on instinct and intuition when placing leaders into key roles leads to unnecessary risk, an increased chance of failure, and a lack of diversity among those selected. Instead, companies should use precise, data-based predictions to pick the best leader to handle the current and future challenges the company faces.

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