Gavin Mulcahy, Director reveals that his company Sova Assessment is a global assessment company, combining the best of psychology with the latest digital technology in a seamless end-to-end talent assessment platform for use at every career stage.

Sova Assessment works closely with organisations to deliver configurable, digital, fair, accurate and affordable talent assessment solutions that provide a future-focused view of people and potential, allowing for data-driven decisions at every stage of the employee journey.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

Focused on the growth of Sova within Ireland, driving brand recognition and expanding our client base by ensuring the delivery of robust, engaging and candidate-focused assessment solutions that are specifically relevant to Irish requirements.

What are your biggest challenges?

  • Making science work in the real world, combining our core psychological expertise with the creative use of digital technology, challenging existing thinking to reimagine what can be achieved.
  • Engaging clients on the benefits and ROI that can be achieved by embracing and leveraging psychometric assessment within their selection process.
  • Enhancing the candidate experience and continuously looking for new and innovate ways to deliver immersive and unified assessment experiences.

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

  • In a landscape where organisational agility and transformation are always on client agendas it’s imperative that businesses find and nurture the people they really need. By enabling our clients to understand and prepare for success both now and tomorrow we make sure they remain competitive in a rapidly transforming world. It’s possible to measure these qualities of agility and transformation within assessment frameworks to ensure recruitment and talent development is aligned with a future-focused business strategy.
  • Competition for the right candidates is increasing and organisations expect an engaging, fair and explainable selection process accessible from anywhere. Even if candidates are unsuccessful in their applications, ensuring that they have a positive experience of the organisational brand is key. Technology means that it is now possible to make assessments, whether online or face to face, engaging in terms brand look and feel and the use of digital technology to enable a seamless and positive experience. It is also vital that candidates receive appropriate and targeted feedback on their performance and to understand where they stand in the application process.
  • AI and machine learning have been applied to assessment solutions in a haphazard way, often left to imitate humans and so reflect their biases. Our way of solving for this issue is to attach a human to any AI process – a psychologist alongside a technology expert – this makes sure machine learning and AI is used ethically, intelligently and responsibly to analyse data, generate data-led insights and accurately predict future high performers.

Looking specifically at the Irish recruitment market, with almost full employment, some of these issues become even more important to consider. Attraction and retention of talent in a candidate-led market is crucial, and whilst some consider assessment to be a barrier to recruiting the right talent, this is largely because of legacy assessment systems that are fragmented, opaque and don’t give enough context to the role or organisation. We have been working on ensuring that not only is the candidate experience excellent, but by measuring for agility and ensuring candidates are matched to the values and culture of an organisation, the candidates that are able to flex and adapt in their roles are hired.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

We are still living with the legacy of assessment systems that were simply putting paper assessments online, and became off the shelf, fragmented products. While these are generally robust psychologically, they are boring for the candidate, offer little insight into the role and organisation, and cannot easily be customised or scaled.

On the other hand, new over-simplified, tech-led systems such as gamified tests, while fun for the candidates, do not provide fair, explainable or accurate assessments and personalising them is often expensive and time consuming. Additionally, AI and machine learning have been applied to assessment solutions in a haphazard way, often left to imitate humans and so reflect their biases.

Sova’s approach is different. Organisations are required to be agile and innovative in order to survive and thrive in a fast-changing, tech-focused world, and so assessing for future-ready skills from their workforce is crucial. Competition for the right candidates is increasing and they expect an engaging, fair and explainable selection process accessible from anywhere, which we provide. Workforce diversity is recognised as essential to driving business success and therefore organisations are choosing hiring processes that recruit for diversity and without bias, key to our assessment models. Evidence suggests that shared organisational values and purpose are key to successful hires, and so we ensure this alignment is provided.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

One of the key issues HRDs face currently as they source products and services that deliver elements of the HR function is fragmentation. Although we have successfully moved from analogue to lots of high-tech point solutions that solve for particular problems, these don’t currently link together to deliver business outcomes or strategic focus.

A proliferation of core HR systems at the macro level will probably continue, but with less interest from HRDs in having a plethora of  “bits and pieces” plugin solutions, and greater interest in a smaller number of broader plugins that integrate with their core HR system, enabling these macro systems to become data-led and much more strategic. The explosion of HR tech we have seen over the past half-decade or so will begin to narrow down again, as many of these solutions have focused mainly on the technology and not had enough on domain knowledge, for example in psychology or compliance, to deliver robust solutions.

Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

Not for our particular market as there are many excellent technology experts and psychologists to help us expand our growing team. However, when we look at the changing context of the market more generally, and the work we’re doing for clients in future-proofing their organisations, the gaps we see in companies is for agile leaders and next generation leaders. Gone are the days when command and control was the style of leadership that delivered the most success for an organisation. In a rapidly changing, digitally-focused environment we need to leave behind traditional models of leadership. Assessing what makes a good leader both in hiring into our C-suites but also in the leaders of the future, requires us to focus on the skills and attributes that can ensure an organisation adapts and flexes to new challenges and disruptions. By assessing leaders for their ability to adapt, to be agile, alongside their ability to ensure the organisations they lead are also agile and future-focused, it is possible to keep up with and even stay ahead of the ever-steepening curve of change.

Leadership agility is a holistic approach to leading and managing complex change that requires an ability to manage paradox, and use head, heart, hands and spirit in service of business transformation. We can assess leadership agility and therefore potential for success in a role and in business, against ‘the 4 A’s of Agility: shared aspiration, emotional alignment, change acceleration, and a sense of achievement.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Candidate feedback, client feedback. Delivering ROI and business outcome metrics. The main metrics we measure against at Sova are increased efficiency of recruitment and assessment, reduced time to hire, improved quality of hire, increased retention.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Remember to listen and remember that listening is very different from hearing.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Establishing Sova in Ireland having relocated from London. Implementation of assessment projects with An Garda Síochána via the Public Appointments Service. Growing network and relationships within Irish market 

What’s next for your company?

Continuing to grow Sova within Ireland whilst also focusing on wider global growth. Leverage AI and machine learning. Increased automation and building out self-service functionality for clients and strategic partners so they can be self-sufficient in setting up and configuring assessments.

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2019?

Increase headcount in the Ireland office, grow client base and expand partner network