Saberr-rattling analytics provides people insight for Capco

Profile picture for user jtwentyman By Jessica Twentyman September 8, 2015
An online survey and analysis tool is enabling financial services consultancy Capco to identify good team players based on their values and behavioral traits.

As a consultancy firm that focuses exclusively on the financial services industry, Capco works with some of the most conservative, risk-averse companies in the world. When it comes to recruiting the talent it needs in-house to deliver projects to those clients, however, its UK team is not afraid to take a gamble on trying something new.

But assessing candidates using a personality quiz based on academic research into the compatibility of online daters? It sounds a little unconventional, to put it mildly. Especially when you consider some of the questions that applicants may be asked:

  • Which would you rather be: normal or weird?
  • Which response would you like to hear from the most important person in your life?
  • How important is it to you that they pick that response?

This is exactly the service that ‘people analytics’ software firm Saberr provides - and so far, it’s proving a good match for Capco, says the consultancy’s managing principal Alastair Barber.

Saberr’s team optimisation tool fills a big-data gap in the firm’s hiring process that remains even after conventional credentials have been assessed, he explains.

On paper, everyone we see has got a good CV, everyone’s got great qualifications and good experience. When we’re working through a list of candidates, we really need to lift the bonnet, as it were, to understand a little bit more about a potential recruit, who they really are and how they work best. What’s their approach? How do they build a relationship with a client? How do they keep people on their team engaged? How might they move our firm forwards?

Through an online survey posing a series of thought-provoking questions, Saberr focuses on an applicant’s core values and specific behavioural traits to create their individual profile. Its algorithms can then analyse that profile against those created for existing employees to assess how good a fit - or how incompatible - a potential hire might prove to be for that organisation.

Here's the science bit

The approach is based on robust science, insists Saberr CEO Tom Marsden. Team dynamics, he says, scupper many otherwise good businesses, but while more established tests like Myers-Briggs can explain how individual personalities differ from each other, they don’t do much tell you which people will work well together. Saberr has been used by companies including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Virgin Hotels, and Thomson Reuters, he says, to assess ‘value alignment’ between individuals and use the findings to create successful teams.

Perhaps understandably, Capco wanted to give these claims a thorough test-drive before committing to using Saberr on external candidates. Towards the end of 2014, it conducted a pilot study among 150 internal employees. Saberr looked at Capco’s existing performance data for each individual employee, as well as past project records, and employees were sent a link to Saberr’s survey. The goal here was to see how Capco’s records of past projects and teams correlated with Saberr’s suggestions on which members of staff would work well together.

The results were sufficiently convincing to persuade Capco to introduce Saberr as part of its recruiting process. The survey link is sent to applicants after their initial screening but before the first interview. So far, around 20 out of 30 candidates completed the survey in August this year and several hundred more will follow, since the firm’s UK operations expect to hire between 50 and 100 consultants before the end of the year. Says Barber:

Saberr’s definitely got the potential to make our recruitment process a bit more robust, to help us ask more probing questions. It’s not something we’d rely on completely - there are many other factors to take into account. And right now, we wouldn’t rule someone out based on their results from Saberr. It could be used in that way in future, but I think we’d need to be very careful and cognizant about going down that route and we’d need more solid proof that the data is working in our favour.

But what we’ve already learned is that this is a good way for us to see where people would work well together and where characters might conflict. That needn’t be a problem for the right people as we can organise teams to minimise the impact of those conflicts. And as new client business comes in, we can construct new teams, based on individuals’ values and relationships, to assign the best and most potentially productive group of individuals we have available to new projects.

Over the next four to six weeks, Capco should start to onboard some of the first candidates to be assessed using Saberr and see how they’re working out. That, says Barber, will help the firm to build a business case for continuing to use the tool in 2016.

Payment is based on a monthly subscription, according to the number of internal employees who have completed the survey, with unlimited numbers of recruitment candidates thrown in for free. In this way, the analyses that Saberr performs can focus on comparing potential recruits against a growing body of information about an organisation’s existing internal people and teams.

And how has Saberr’s unconventional approach gone down so far with Capco employees and candidates? Barber says the response has been pretty positive, adding:

But then again, we did ask Saberr to tone down some of the questions that we considered to be a bit ‘out there’.