Assessing Objectively Future-Ready Emerging Talent

November 9, 2020 Amber Harris

First published on LinkedIn

Those starting out in their careers today are the future leaders. It means that graduate recruitment and emerging talent teams are challenged with spotting behaviors and skills in candidates that are not just needed in the near-term but will take the business forward and manage future challenges.


How can you gauge how today’s graduate talent will navigate future threats and embrace opportunities in a very different digital world?

No one doubts that future leaders will be operating in a more digitized work environment. To be successful, they will need fundamental competencies that previously may have been less essential.

The Aon Model of Digital Readiness – or Future Readiness – maps these competencies on to assessments. This enables recruiters to match current candidate capabilities and preferences to those needed in the future. Core future-readiness competencies are:

  • Agility and flexibility - to embrace change and adapt accordingly;
  • Curiosity - to seek out and explore alternatives and be open to change and novelty; and
  • Learnability - to seek out continual self-improvement and development.

For decades, graduate recruiters have focused their hiring on specific course graduates from specific universities. However, when these future digital competencies have no connection with a specific degree subject or awarding university, we are currently seeing a tide of change.

One Aon client, Ocado Group, saw that change was needed.

Faced with increasing application numbers, a need to hire future leaders, and a strong desire to ensure diversity across its graduate intake, the emerging talent team asked us to work with them to redesign its hiring process. The team wanted to identify strong future talent and also find those who aligned with Ocado Group’s behaviors. Also, it was important to provide an engaging candidate experience and use those technologies available to reduce resource investment.

This is their story.

The Ocado Group Story: Finding the Best Talent Regardless of Background, Area of Study, or Experience

Graduates and emerging talent are vital to Ocado Group as its future leaders across the business. The company knows that future talent is not found in those with particular backgrounds. It wants to hire those with digital readiness competencies that will ensure future success.

The challenge for the emerging talent recruitment team was to identify the strongest candidates for its graduate programs from the many thousands of applications it receives. The company also wanted to do this fairly and efficiently, while engaging with the candidates as they progressed through the selection stages.

The team designed an assessment process to include an initial measure of future readiness; assessing agility, curiosity, and learnability. Also, they designed a gamified aptitude test that evaluated the adaptability to change. All were scored automatically.

Candidates who reached the relevant Ocado Group score then progressed to video record their responses to specific interview questions. These responses were scored, in part, by the expert-trained artificial intelligence (AI) within the Aon video assessment platform. This objectivity of scoring and the recording of interviews for sharing or later referencing helped to eliminate interviewer bias. 

This entire initial assessment was carried out online and unsupervised. Candidates were not required to travel, and the recruiter resource is limited. 

Candidates who scored at the relevant level were invited to an assessment day from which offers were made.

First Year Results

One year on from introducing the new recruitment and selection process, the emerging talent team crunched the numbers. This analysis showed that:

  • It had selected a more diverse cohort – and an equal gender split. In fact, 40% of the program intake would not have previously progressed past the initial application stage which had focused on specific universities and degree subjects.
  • There was stronger candidate engagement in the process. Previously, 70% of those invited to complete the initial assessments chose not to. The newly-designed process saw that rate drop to below 33%.
  • Significant time and resource savings were made. Replacing the telephone interview with mostly AI-scored interview questions led to nearly 600 interview hours being saved.
  • A higher caliber of candidates attended the assessment center. Feedback reported that there was a stronger match between assessment center participation and the competencies sought by Ocado Group.

The emerging talent team can be confident that their decisions mean that, not only are they hiring strong talent for now, but they are hiring the right competencies that will take the business forward.

Read the full case study here.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about how we could help you redesign your hiring process and identify those with the competencies needed in the future.

About the Author

Amber Harris

Amber Harris is an Account Manager with over 20 years recruitment experience within the UK, such as Talent Acquisition for Volume and Management roles, Attraction, Selection and Early Careers. As an Account Manager with Assessment Solutions by Aon, formerly cut-e, Amber has worked alongside occupational psychologists to manage the delivery of volume recruitment campaigns for companies that include easyJet, M&S and Ocado. Due to her recruitment experience, she is able to put herself into her clients‘ shoes when solving clients problems and looking at commercials. Amber’s account work to date has spanned a range of private sector organizations including aviation, retail and telecommunications.

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