Mercer invests in game-based career platform Pymetrics

08 December 2015

The Innovation Hub of global consulting firm Mercer has invested in Pymetrics, a US career platform that provides candidates and employers with a game-based talent matching solution.

Launched in the fall of 2014, Pymetrics is a US-based startup that matches job seekers, in particular students and graduates, with organisations. The firm distinguishes itself through its game-based approach, which traces its roots to the field of neuroscience. After playing a few games for about half an hour on Pymetrics’ website, the company’s algorithms – based on big data, neuroscience and machine learning – gauges innate personal characteristics of candidates and tells them what career they are best suited for.

With the application of serious gaming to recruitment, Pymetrics departs from the traditional approach to selection and hiring, which typically relies on aspects such as grades, test scores and self-reported question-and-answer approaches. Such metrics however in today’s modern economy decreasingly correlate with actual job performance of candidates, believes the firm, and with that in mind, Pymetrics focuses rather on cognitive and emotional abilities. To do that, the games present players with a range of business-like dilemma’s in the area of among others organisation, work ethic, or risk-taking, asking candidates to take quick decisions and do things like identify the emotional expression on a person’s face or to quickly respond to a series of images that flash on the screen.

The next generation career search platform. Play games. Explore matches. get hired.

Upon completion of the games, Pymetrics’s sophisticated data-science algorithms identify which career track(s) might be best for candidates, and can even take things a step further with suggestions about which companies are most suited, based on pre-filled information on corporate culture. “Neuroscience has revolutionised our understanding of the brain,” the company’s website explains. “We apply this to helping people find their optimal career path, and help companies find ideal candidates.”

Pymetrics launched in the fall of 2014, after it a few months earlier received $2.5 million in funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from angels that include Bob Pittman, Jeff Hammerbacher, and Andy Palmer, and Terry McGuire of Polaris Ventures. Since, the startup has welcomed more than 100,000 registered job candidates and a growing list of employers, which includes the likes of Fidelity, Instacart, Dropbox and Egon Zehnder.

To further spur growth, Pymetrics yesterday announced that it has attracted another round of investment, this time from Mercer, a global HR consultancy and subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, the parent of also (among others) Oliver Wyman and NERA Economic Consulting. “We are very pleased to collaborate with Mercer in shaping the future direction of Pymetrics,” says Frida Polli, co-founder and CEO of Pymetrics*. Barb Marder, Senior Partner in Mercer’s Talent business and Team Leader in Mercer’s Innovation Hub, adds: “By investing in the company, Mercer can help influence how big data and innovative predictive hiring technologies, including gaming, can enhance the recruiting space.”

Frida Polli, CEO of Pymetrics | Barbara Marder, Senior Partner at Mercer

Besides pure financial support, Mercer will also provide the startup with expertise in the field of HR and recruitment, as well as accelerate the further advancement of Pymetrics’s algorithms. In return, Mercer will be able to include Pymetrics’s talent acquisition technologies into its client service portfolio.

* MIT graduate Frida Polli co-founded Pymetrics with Julie Yoo, who studied at Harvard. They decided to build Pymetrics after Polli saw first-hand how difficult it was for students to deal with the recruiting process after graduation.


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.