September 17, 2020
Using tech and design to overcome bias
By: Accenture UK

Accenture’s early talent recruitment team is using leading-edge technology to see human potential more clearly.

Bias is a fog that clouds over what’s really in front of us when we need to make important decisions.

That’s why Accenture's early talent recruitment team applied design and technology to eliminate bias in their search for future employees.

The result was an award-winning diversity strategy for recruiting early talent for Accenture, that harnessed the latest technology and data insights to clearly see the human.

“We focused very much on potential,” explains Helen Lorigan, Candidate Experience and Management Lead. “Especially at entry level, we are looking at your capability of doing the job in the future rather than pedigree, past performance, or what you may have been fortunate enough to do previously.”

With Accenture’s goal of building the world’s most diverse organisation in mind, the team used diversity software to help contextualise and identify a candidate’s early achievements.

The journey begins with an application designed for mobile, followed by an immersive online assessment – with no human screening in the early stages.

That’s why candidates are asked for a lot of contextual data that helps offer a holistic view, Helen explains. The software helps the team embrace the complexity of the candidate’s lived experience.

“It actually really brings everything to life,” she says. “We can look at their achievements within the context in which they achieved them.”

“We are able to identify potential by looking at what a candidate has overcome to achieve their academic results, or develop new skills, whereas previously this may have been missed using traditional recruitment methods,” she adds.

“If you are a candidate who has essentially achieved against the odds, then you're a candidate we want to talk to.”

The whole process is automated and “blind” until the final stage, Helen says. “You're removing the unconscious bias all the way through to the assessment centre.”

The assessment process was transformed as well, replacing traditional written case studies with an immersive virtual reality experience that recreates the challenges an Accenture employee might face.

“The virtual reality allows us to present candidates with a challenge that you cannot prepare for, and therefore it creates a level playing field,” says Joan Moore, Head of Early Talent Recruitment. “It doesn't matter if you've had previous work experience, say you've been lucky enough to do a number of internships with companies similar to ours.”

One of the VR assessments is called “The Project Room,” where candidates go inside a room and data relating to a project is everywhere. Candidates grab what they need from Gantt charts, pie charts, tables and numbers, along with audio and video as well. They collect information so they can run the project and feed it back to somebody.

“It’s really about how you behave in the moment,” Joan says. “Because it's so immersive, it will allow your true strengths to emerge. You can't prepare for it in advance. You can't be coached for it in advance. It gives everybody a fair shot of demonstrating their skills.”

More than 40,000 graduate candidates applied in 2019 of which about 1,130 made it to the assessment centres that incorporate the VR challenge.

“We aspire to be one of the most diverse companies in the world, which means achieving a 50/50 gender split whilst also driving forward our social mobility and BAME recruitment strategies, which are critical,” Joan says.

The transformation also involved removing criteria from the process, notably the requirement for a candidate to have a STEM qualification. By focusing on potential, the process can attract a wider group of candidates.

“We believe that there'll be a lot of people out there that could be really strong technologists,” Helen says. “They just don't have the opportunity to show that in a standard interview process.”

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