EY – Gamifying the Hiring Experience with Larry Nash
On today’s show, we have Larry Nash. Larry is the Americas Director of Talent Attraction and Acquisition at EY, and we’re gonna be talking about gamifying the hiring experience. I’m really excited to talk with Larry about this and I can’t wait to kind of get into it.
Listening time: 39 minutes
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Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today, we have Larry Nash on from EY, and we’re gonna be talking about gamifying the hiring experience. I’m really excited to talk and talk with Larry about this. And so I can’t wait to kind of get into it. So Larry, would you do us for the audience a favor and introduce yourself, obviously, and also introduce EY?
Yeah, yeah. Thank you, William. And I really appreciate you having me and excited for the conversation. So Larry Nash, I’m the America’s director of talent attraction and acquisition. I’ve been at EY for, gosh, almost 19 years now, William, and I’ve been in the professional services industry for north of 30 years now. And EY is a professional services organization, we provide a variety of services, from assurance, tax strategy and transactions consulting. Globally, we’re close to 300,000 people. And we work with many of the Fortune 500 organizations and, and a number of emerging and growing organizations that may someday be in the Fortune 100.
Yeah, their aspirational goals. Of course. I love your title, that you separate attraction and acquisition. I know you, that, that’s got to be purposeful. But I love the fact that you separate those two.
Yeah, yeah. It’s actually wasn’t in? Yeah, it certainly wasn’t intentional change. We did this about a year ago. We were formally calling ourselves Recruiting, there’s been a trend the last few years and calling it talent acquisition. But we also felt there’s so much more to the work we do, right, to create awareness, to create preference, right to compel individuals to consider opportunities. And we felt that attraction piece is equally important as the acquisition piece. So, so hence, we wanted to give it equal equal weight.
I love it. I wish I wish more people did that. Because, again, you’re right. There’s so much more than just the acquisition of talent. We’re gonna be talking about gamifying the hiring experience, but I want to get your take because, you know, we’ve both done this for longer than we care to admit. You did use years, which I appreciate I, I’ve moved away from using years of experience, because I found that I just people look at me funny after a certain point. What are on the hiring experience right now? You know, what’s, what’s wrong? Generally speaking, what’s wrong with the hiring experience?
What’s wrong with the hiring experience? It’s a great question, William. You know, certainly, first, I’ll start with there are a lot of things that are right with it. Yeah. Including at the heart of it is the human relationship that candidates form with, whether it’s their ta professionals or the individuals, they’re meeting in an organization. And I do think also technology can help facilitate candidates understanding more about the organization about the opportunity. I think, and I don’t think this is new with what can always be improved is the sheer volume of applications that any organization receives, it’s, it is hard, admittedly, to have that, that one on one human touch all the time. And as much as we work on that, and also try to use technology to communicate more timely, and effectively, it’s it’s not always the case. So I think that’s a constant area of improvement for many organizations is to create that quick communication, that quick connection that you No, yes, we heard you we see you may not have an opportunity right now, but what we receive it? So that’s probably the biggest thing, William, and I’m sure I’m sure you’ll say it’s nothing new.
Well, if you but you know, we’ve learned a lot through this last, you know, when I say through the pandemic, we’re still technically in the pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot about communication. We’ve learned a lot about how candidates want more from us. And I think we’ve gotten better. I mean, it has historically been a weakness for us, but I think we’ve gotten better. I think that you’re right, you hit on the technology, I think that’s, some of that is enabled some of that, but you know, when you have 20,000 people that apply to one job, it’s, it’s hard. I mean, there’s no way to make that, you know, super easy, but it has gotten easier. Let me, let me ask you, we’ll start with the gamifying part, because gamification, a number of years ago, kind of entered into our HR tech and into rec tech. And it was, it was kind of a novel kind of an idea. And to think there were some technology plays that really interesting, kind of on the assessment side, and things like that, but on one level, I see it is, it’s kind of fun, it’s not boring, you know, any, any, anything that you can do to make it not boring? Well, I think for candidates is, is a plus. But it’s also kind of a filter and filter out, you know, a nice way to interact with candidates, and we’d go, you know, here’s, here’s something, you know, use your filter your filter in, or your filter out, and and both are okay. So, tell us, your take on on gamification and gamifying? In general.
Yeah, yeah. And I appreciate, William that it’s, it’s used in different ways, throughout perhaps a process. And in certainly in in a decision-making point. We’ve looked at, you know, every year, we’re always looking at ways to improve our interviewing and assessment process. And we started a project a few a few years ago saying, How can we get additional insights into candidates? You know, we do a lot of, obviously, we do a lot of behavior interviewing, technical interviewing. On the on the student recruitment side, which, you know, is has been something we’ve been focused on for many years. There’s a lot of touchpoints with candidates through events through being a you know, in the classroom, when you know, when you could be in the classroom really. And with that, we just felt we needed we’d like another data point, as one of the few data points to consider. So we spent a lot of time surveying our high performing professionals that EY across all of our businesses, we really looked at, what is it that we kind of behaviors and traits we want in in in our different roles. And that led us to, to honing in on a few things that we felt if we could get more insights into the into these particular traits that might help make for a more data-informed decision. But not necessarily, William, as you said, as a filter, it’s one of many data rights is how we’re using it now. So, you know, certainly technology is leveraged, as we said earlier, in many ways, obviously, there’s been a, you know, 100% necessity, the last year to do more video interviewing, whether it’s pre-recorded or live, virtual onboarding. We had virtual internships. Last year, primarily, we’ll do that this year. So we rolled out game-based assessments a few months ago. So admittedly, we’re still in the early stages of our rollout. But the feedback has been really positive. And, and, you know, these assessments, as I mentioned, provide additional insight. So things like analytical thinking, problem solving, personality constructs. And they do it in a way where it’s it’s a very unbiased approach, right? So it helps reduce the unconscious bias as we’re considering candidates, and anything that you can ground in data, right. any data that relates to the traits that are high performers have is always really helpful. So by collecting this information, in a fun engaging and and quick manner, it’s creating more information for us, as we form a complete assessment.
Love that. I love this. Because, again, it’s a, again, a data point, I think I think I love the way that you kind of phrase that it’s like, hey, let’s order, we’re gonna take a lot of things under consideration. This is just one as you know, one spoke to a much larger wheel. I love, you know, letting people I think the candidates know, like, Hey, listen, you’re gonna take this bit, it’s just a data point and, and have fun, you know, enjoy it and get into it. I can see that where that gives you more insight into the candidate? Have you been I know you’re a stage. So so you know, if you got a lot of stuff that you’re gonna play with and explore and innovate in the future? Are y’all considering doing some of those either simulations or day in the lifes or kind of experiential type stuff about the job, you know, so you can gamify essentially, you know, and learn about the job. So the candidate has more insight into maybe the job they’re applying for the job that you’d like for them to apply for. I’ve used are you thinking the thought, in terms of applying gamification, to the actual job itself?
Yeah, William, it’s, it’s great. I do think there’s a lot of applications that gamification Can, can help with. Certainly, we’re seeing a lot in our learning programs, once people are, are on board. We’re also using some gamification in some of our student programs, as people are learning about AI. So So we have some of those aspects there. I think what you said is, is certainly interesting, and we’re going to continue our journey to see where else we can make it helpful and draw insights from, but I also think, naturally, now, William, at least in our process, that they are getting to see what it is like, to work in a particular role through a variety of other methods, not necessarily a testing method. But but but a way for them to get insights, whether it’s through internships, different programs over the course of their student career, videos, of course, you know, in other meetups that occur.
I love it for candidates, because again, you recruit all over the spectrum, but you also do a wonderful job at the university level. I remember 100 years ago, when I was in business school, you I was just really on point with connecting with with students. And I love this, you know, the way that you’re thinking about it, and the way that you’re implementing the one of the, you know, gamification or gamifying, the assessments and, again, it’s just another way to kind of get to know candidates, and it’s probably more attuned, you know, to candidates today, as opposed to candidates, you know, 34 years ago, so I love that you’re growing that what, what feedback have you gotten so far? And I know you’re early stage, so you know, don’t expect it to be, you know, a million data points or anything like that? What Yeah, what type of feedback have you received? From candidates that have taken the assessments?
Yeah, so far, it’s been really positive. And just to give you one data point. So on our on our student recruitment, we’ve had over 13,000 individuals play the game, right? And over a few months, or series of games, I should say, and these games are really and there’s, there’s take in total 12 to 15 minutes on your desktop, you could do it on your on your mobile device. And the feedback has been one, they’re, they’re fun and engaging. It’s a little challenging, which I think the candidates also like, yes, yes. Something that’s always you know, we so easy. And, and this is really important to us. There’s an insight report, which candidate gets so they can learn more about themselves. So even if I did, you know, they’re not going to move on in the process from looking at all the data points. They’re learning something about themselves. So there is a good takeaway from it. So it’s, it’s so far it’s been really positive. The, we use hirevue game based assess and they’ve been a terrific partner with us. And, you know, so just in a short in just a few months, William, so far, so good on the feedback.
So how do you I mean, again, you’ve done this for a while, you some of this is communication, right? You want to let candidates know, okay, where you’re at in the process, who you’re gonna meet the team? And you know, then you’re coming into the office back when we did that? How do you? How do you let them know? Or how do you communicate? You use the phrase playing the game? How do you communicate both what they’re doing? And the time commitment and what they’re going to get out of it? Like, you know, sometimes in the recruiting process, people, will you get thrown into a personality assessment and have no idea what you’re, what you’re being assessed for? Or how long the assessment will take, etc. So it creates kind of a not not a not a perfect experience. How do you how do you do it now? Or, or even if you’re not doing what you feel is a great job? How would you like to do that with candidates?
Yeah, no, we are doing that we, we send them an email explaining what we’d like them. What it is that they’re going to be taking in a link to the site. We have several videos, once they’re from some of our leadership team in recruiting to explain it more and to, I think, give some comfort about what they’re going to experience. Of course, since it’s a technology, also, there’s information on if something were to not work well, you know, who they need to contact? Or if someone is, you know, uncomfortable, or maybe can’t take it, you know, same thing, here’s the way to let us know about it. So I think that they see it. And it’s interesting that, you know, I mentioned that the number of people who have taken it. Most people are taking it within one day, they received the invitation. Oh, well, that’s great. And I think that says also a lot about one, they’re, they’re interested in, in the organization, of course, and, you know, I’m sure they do that with with any organization that they’re considering. But, to me that I didn’t know what to expect, quite frankly, William, but I’m really, really thrilled to see that result. And hopefully that will continue.
That’s very quick from from what I from what I’ve researched, it’s some of that stuff stays on the vine for a little while, again, depending on the candidates motivation, and, and ambition and things like that. But where as you’re learning, because you’re you know, obviously you can start applying this in a lot of different ways in different areas. In the hiring experience. What do you what do you come with see the next natural step through in terms of gamifying? The hiring experience?
Yeah, yeah, it’s, it is a certainly we know, we’re going to be on a continued journey with this. I think, since we’re new at this piece and using it as one data point, we want to get really comfortable with the experience that our our candidates have. And also, how are we leveraging this data as one of those many data points? And over time, we’re also going to look at, okay, who did we hire? You know, how did they do? And then a games? Is that correlating to other things, you know, over time in the organization, maybe we’ll get more confident that, gosh, we can even use this in a different way as we assess candidates, but I think that will take some time, William. All right. I think I think there’s certainly gamification possibilities. As we onboard people. There’s a lot of information that people need to learn and gather. With, with our students we hire you know, sometimes there’s a year gap between when they’ve accepted and when they will join. Right, right. How do we continue to engage them, have them learn about EY, really get to Running Start, once they hear I think there’s some opportunities there. We’re gamification can help accelerate and facilitate the onboarding.
I love that. I love anything you can do to make onboarding less boring. But also connecting some of that connective tissue to you’ll do a great job of developing talent. So putting them into learning paths and career paths and knowledge paths and things like that. So yeah, I think I think some of those things can can easily be gamified as well. Just Just to learn their interest, you know, to figure out what they, what they care about their potential, etc. Let me let me go down,
William for a second, I thought I thought you were coining a new term of on boring. There’s definitely opportunity in that space.
It is, Oh, yes,
Or pre-boarding. maybe even
Oh, my god, it is? Well, again, we’re old enough to you know, there was a binder, there was a checklist, you know, there’s the restroom. Yeah, there’s a receptionist done. Onboarding was not near, is not near, there was no, there was no fun in it. It was it was something you had to do. But we’ve noticed over, over the years that onboarding really goes extends a year, year and a half into the employee lifecycle, if done well.
Absolutely. And yeah, that’s it’s critical here at EY. I mean, we talk about the first-year experience, and there’s a lot of milestones and people involved from counselors and peer advisors and coaches, to help someone integrate, you know, and continue to excel over the course of the year. But I have to give our organization so much credit, because swit, you know, switching, the flipping the switch, excuse me so quickly, right? A year ago, yeah. In a virtual onboarding. You know, we’re talking about 1000s of people. Yes, the team did an extraordinary job, and, and, you know, with without really any glitches, and that says a lot about when you’re forced to do things, how, how you can deliver a great product, even under a tight, tight, tight timeline.
It’s really interesting. You say these, we saw this with a lot of American business that, you know, at gunpoint, March 13th, boom, everybody’s virtual. And it’s like, figure it out. Right, good luck. Let me let me go backwards and ask you a question when you first, and you, you know, and again, this is early stage. And again, this might be things that you do a little bit more in the future, but employees, recruiters, sourcing, hiring managers, did you did you get? Have you gotten them to play the games, and gotten their feedback on the games themselves?
Yeah, we did as part of surveying a number of our high performers. Yeah, we had a number wanted to take it. So they took it? Certainly most, if not all of our talent attraction and acquisition team have taken it. And, and, and really what I said earlier about the candidates reaction, that it’s, it’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s also challenging. We’re also the common themes for from the EY employees who took it. And
Repeat that real quick here, it was fun, what was the second word, and then challenging?
Fun, engaging, didn’t take long, so quick, and, but also challenging. Yes. And the insight report that I mentioned, you get, you know, also those, EY, including myself, who took it received, and, you know, it was really representative of how I would describe myself. And that’s what others felt as well.
I love that. Well, first of all, I love all of those things. And the topic that we’re exploring that fun and engaging, challenging, and fast or quick, I mean, and you get feedback, and you get you get something on the other end of it as a candidate. That’s a great experience. if, if, if we could do that with all of our assessments and all of our tests and all the other things. I think I think we’d we’d uh, we’d improve the candidate experience immensely. You know, from my perspective, outsider looking in, EY’s probably, your average IQ is probably higher than, you know, the average firm. Is, does that did that play into your thoughts about how you set up the games? Or why you want to make this experience for your candidates at all?
Not really, William. It, you know, because I think this any organization that is deploying this now for whatever roles they’re recruiting for, and I think you can use this for any role out there. You’ve got to look at and for us, this was why we did this. Well, what are the traits that we’d like to see in more, you know, in those that we’re hiring, and how do they match What are the traits of our successful people across, you know, our broad array of service lines. So knowing that the the IQ or intelligence level didn’t, wasn’t there, you know, the other things we’re looking at, you know, of course, we’re looking at someone’s work experience, inside, of course, what they’ve studied what organizations they’re involved with, to get the complete view. And certainly, there are certain backgrounds and majors for the work we do that are that are needed. You know, if you if you were applying for a very experienced position here, and you didn’t have any background in it, regardless of how well you did on the game it probably, you know, move forward. So. So there’s, again, it’s, it’s, it’s one of several pieces
That’s right. That’s right. Do y’all, and I’ve just heard more about this of recent, you know, people hiring more for potentiality, and less for skills and capability. I mean, you gotta be, you gotta be capable, you gotta have skills, okay, stated and covered, but organization kind of feeling like we can teach some of that stuff. Do can, does the candidate have potential or potentiality? First of all, have you seen some of the same things?
Yeah, it’s it’s definitely a part of our consideration is looking at where, where can they go? Right. And some of it depends on quite frankly, the the Rolls Royce, right? You know, in, in our audit practice, for example, right, you have to be able to become a CPA, right. So there’s, there’s a educational track that’s required to get certified. So a person needs to have that, right to do that. And in there’s other, there’s other services we offer where you need some, some type of background like that. But for other roles, certainly, we’re looking at skills and other things they may have gotten from other work experience that could translate into a different role where they don’t have that experience. But have, you know, some of the core competencies to do this other role well. So
That’s a really, I’m sorry to cut you off. Finish your thought, then I’ve got a question.
No, no, that’s okay. Go ahead.
So we you’re obviously applying this right now to external talent. Which makes all the sense in the world. Do you see or are you already doing and applying this towards internal talent, either a marketplace or internal mobility and things like that?
Not yet. Not yet, William. It could morph into that, but we’re not doing that, yeah.
So the the two pronged question I would ask is, you know, you, you know, you when you first started this, you there was a process. So, you know, I want you to give us kind of the high level because, you know, people listening to the podcast, they might not be where you’re at. And so I want to kind of, you know, here’s how we started, here’s what we did, here’s where we are, and also, you know, what you would change, like what you would do differently, or anything that you’ve learned along the way. Yeah.
And you’re talking specific to the gamification addition? Yeah. Again, we’re, we’re always, like many teams, right, trying to continuously improve. And as we looked at what was going on, in other organizations, as well as the, the changing technologies that were available in the assessment area, right, and there’s been a huge growth in there over the last few years. We felt Okay, this seems like the right time because the actual experience a candidate has won’t be this long, long assessment process, right? We think it can be, you know, a shorter one and give give us a lot of value. So, in our journey, you know, certainly we looked at a number of organizations who are in this space. We engage different stakeholders in the organization from, from our service lines, right, who ultimately are deploying the people that we’re hiring to our general counsel to, you know, our technology teams. And, and then and then engaging our people, right? Because we wanted to develop here is a profile, right that we chose the traits and abilities that we’re looking for. So we know what to look for in the games and then, and then the vendor can construct the games, right to enable us to get that insight. So I’d say it was a pretty thorough and thoughtful and complete process. What you had said, What would we have done differently? or looking back? What could have been better? I think sometimes some of these changes can take longer than we’d like, you know, through no fault or anything, right. And we’re trying to get better at moving quicker. But sometimes it’s not so simple to move quick, and it’s not always best to move quick. So those are some things I’m always weighing how do we do things in an in the right timely manner?
So Well, thank you, first of all, thank you, because that’s the advice, great advice for folks both on the start and also thing, advice that you’d give people if they’re going to go down this path. You know, they used to have that deal and project management double the double the cost of the project, triple, triple the time or deadline of the project, you know. So one of the things I want to ask you in terms of gamifying the hiring experience, is it advice that you give people when they start to think about this? You know, how do they think about it, because again, I love the way that you’re thinking about it, it’s a spoke, it’s a data point, as you’ve said, it’s one thing, it’s not everything. And again, it’s the candidate gets something out of it, which I love. You’ve you’ve you’ve really kind of tethered, you know, it’s fun, engaging, it’s challenging, it’s quick, like I love all of that. So for team leaders that are out there that just haven’t even thought this thought or just not walk this dog. What’s your best advice for them?
Yeah, I think we all have to be careful when we’re adding something new or different to the whole interviewing and assessment process that that, you know, what is it that we wanted to accomplish? Right, that we may not have right now? And and also, how do we make sure that it’s not adding a greater amount of time? Be an effort to it? Because that could, right, have an impact on the brand? Depending on how extreme that is? So So certainly always starting with what is it that we are solving for? Or where specifically, we could use some additional help or insight? And then also, how do we incorporate it into our current process? In a way, you know that that accomplishes what I just said, which is not adding to it in any meaningful way? And if possible, giving back right to those who have made the decision, right to be interested in your organization? Can you give something back? So like those are helpful things to consider? And really am I’ll say it again, we we know our industry have seen what what we need, but right? looking at other industries or other roles where you get, you know, you might get literally 1000s and 1000s for one role, maybe the way you apply gamification will be different. Maybe it will be a filter, right? Because Because of that, and that would make sense. Right? So you’ve got to tailor it to what you need, you know, in your organization.
Yeah. And there’s, and everything changes.
One size fits all.
That’s right. Yeah, that’s I think that’s some of the best advice right there. It’s just, you know, apply it appropriately, you’ll you’ll figure out what that appropriately is based on your volume and your quality, etc. The last thing, last question I have for you, I tend to look at recruiting through the lens of price, quality and speed, you know, and that’s probably limited but but when you when you for, as you’ve applied it so far, how do you think gamification, where do you think it shakes out? is it helping you with your quality of hire? is it helping you with speed and being faster and more agile or is it reducing hiring costs? Does it touch any of those three?
Yeah, it? Yeah, I hate to say this because we’ve I know we’ve said it a few times it is still so early. Right. And so it I can’t answers that leading to a quicker hiring decision yet. I think it’s just giving us more insight. Yeah. And I think it’s enabling us to make even more informed decisions on on, you know, who should be moving through the process?
I think it’ll, it will, first of all, we’re just this, this gives us an excuse to do the show a year from now and and really follow up on what we’ve learned. But But the other thing is, I think, I think, I think one of the things that I would, I will think will shake out is quality of hire. Because I think if I were to go into the DNA of EY challenging people that kind of like challenges people that, that kind of, they thrive in a challenging environment, they thrive with challenges, etc. That’s probably, you know, again, if, if, if, if that person isn’t hardwired there, then they’re probably not gonna thrive there. But, you know, to be sussed out, but you know, I don’t want to, we will.
Absolutely right. Yeah. I mean, the, the need to be agile. Yep. You know, we’re solving complex problems. Critical thinking is important. The ability to Team effectively with people, you know, from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. But I agree with you, I think, over time, we’ll be able to look at that, I just think it will take some time, honestly, because somebody, it may take time, right to see that quality of hire. It’d be obvious, right prior to not having used this in the past, but I think where, what what we’ve seen other organizations experience, moving to experiences, yet certainly the quality of hire, I think it also helps expand our talent pool. And I think that could have a really positive effect on on the diversity of talent that we’re bringing in. You know, whether it’s gender background, or you know, even other things like school, right, just because we’re looking at a common experience that everybody’s going to go through. So I think we’re excited about what it will experience what we’ll be able to benefit from it. But in a short period of time, we’re just excited that it’s been well received. Right? And it’s providing really helpful insight. It’s,
There’s value. Yeah, there’s real value there for, for all involved. For, for the hiring manager, and everyone in recruiting and for the candidate. So Larry, we, we’re, this just gives us an excuse to talk in six months or a year from now and go back through it. Because then you’ll have a bunch of data and you can actually tell me, okay, all right. Well, you have now, here’s all the analytics. Thank you. Thank you. I know that I know you’re super busy. I appreciate your time. And thanks for coming on the RecruitingDaily podcast.
Well, thank you, William. It’s been a pleasure. really enjoyed the discussion and I look forward to talking more as we get more information.
Alright, and for everyone. Thanks for listening. And until next time.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.