Deloitte integrates gaming in apprenticeship selection

30 November 2015

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.

Social mobility
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.

Deloittes recruitment team has launched a new game

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.

Games-based psychometric assessments

Gainful employment
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. 

Firefly Freedom

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.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.