In a bid to increase the diversity of backgrounds, Big Four professional services firm Deloitte has launched a new tool to select and assess young minds. The new tool, a video game title ‘Firefly Freedom’, will test around 200 17 to 18 year old apprenticeship candidates seeking entry into the firm. The intent is to create a further way of identifying innovative talent, without defaulting to social mobility inhibiting statistics, such as social class, school type and educational achievement.
The UK has one of the highest set of social barriers in place inhibiting social mobility. Disadvantage starts early, by the age of three – children from disadvantaged families are according to research already nine months behind their upper middle class peers. At sixteen, children receiving school meals will on average achieve 1.7 grades lower on their GCSEs. For A levels, what school one goes to has a disproportionate effect on A* level achievement; 30% of A* achievers attend an independent school, while children attending such schools make up merely 7% of the general population.
Employment data shows that later on in the career ladder a range of pome professional opportunities are heavily conditioned by the school attended. Independent school graduates take for instance 32% of MP positions, 51% of medic roles, 54% of FTSE-100 chief executive places, 54% of top journalist positions and 70% of High Court judges.
The Government’s social mobility watchdog recently accused the professional services of “systematically excluding people with working class backgrounds from top jobs with a ‘poshness test’.” The research by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission found that the majority of jobs (70%) in the elite accounting, legal and financial services firms went to those that had attended the most prestigious and selective schools in the country, a group that made up between just 4% - 7% of the population as a whole.
In the firm’s bid to improve their reputation, as well as allow more diverse perspectives into their ranks, many firms, including the Big Four, have since unveiled improvements to their recruitment strategy. EY and PwC have for example lowered the entry barriers for candidates from divergent backgrounds. EY has moved to a strength assessment based approach over pure qualifications, while the latter Big 4 giant scrapped the traditional A level requirements. Also Deloitte has recently further refined its apprenticeship and graduate recruitment processes to boost social mobility, among others including a student’s contextual background to that of the environment in which they were educated, thereby playing down stringent in-out criteria on grades.
In a move to further diversify the channels through which new recruits can prove themselves, Deloitte has integrated a computer game into the selection process for apprenticeships. The game will help the firm find staff “who may not necessarily stand out through a traditional recruitment process.”
The game is called ‘Firefly Freedom’, and poses a number of challenges that show a candidate’s “innovation, creativity and problem-solving” techniques, which further highlight the “candidate's natural preferences”, which goes some way to disclose their character*. The games-based personality assessments, developed by Arctic Shores (a Manchester gaming expert), takes between 20 and 30 minutes and are aimed at 17 to 18 year old apprenticeship candidates.
The game will be used to help the firm recruit up to 200 people for this years’ business apprenticeship scheme intake, and if proven successful, will also be rolled out for some of the 1,500 graduate places open at the firm each year. Deloitte's Emma Codd says that “There is compelling evidence that alternative methods during the recruitment process help to identify exceptional talent,” with the game one of the tools to take in people “from a variety of backgrounds, bringing a range of perspectives and experience into the firm.”
* In Firefly Freedom players need to navigate a forest kingdom to find fireflies, which are then used to generate light.