PwC: Using Traits to broaden how to recognise more when employing young people with different experiences in learning
Jessica Tucci is National Employer Brand Leader at PwC in the People and Culture division. She describes the PwC approach to employing young people as changing in the last few years to ensure the company’s methods of recruitment and selection enables a broader and deeper pool of talent while also providing better matches between people and roles.
Jessica describes the main difference (from old ways to new ways of employment) as being about trying to create ‘a more equitable and fair playing field by combating unconscious biases’. Recognising more about a person is key to a collaborative, capable and productive workforce, but it’s also key to realising a young person’s potential.
Rather than continuing to follow the model where a young person submits their CV and is assessed on what school, education institution they attended, a specific qualification or ATAR score, each person is asked to complete a trait analysis as the first touchpoint in the recruitment process. This approach opens up more people to a level playing field from the get-go.`We can better understand a person's fit for different types of jobs, as the system we use is a live demonstration of how a person responds in situations, rather than a self-report of personality.’
The system Jessica describes is not an exam or test, but a way to capture who a person is and what they have been able to learn from the experiences they have had. For many young people it can be illuminating for them to understand their preferences and traits and how they can add value in different work environments.
Jessica describes the reliance on a CV, marks and scores or degrees as limiting – as it doesn’t really reflect or reveal what kind of person will fit or perform well into a particular position. It also cuts out a whole cohort of young people who may not have a lot of experience putting a resume together or know what is worthy of including to indicate they are the perfect person for a job, regardless of their background.
‘One way to describe this is to say we automate it – at the front end – to give everyone the same opportunity. We do a trait analysis to interpret and understand a person’s traits – and then that is assessed against areas of the firm so we can see what kinds of matches we can make between people and the kinds of roles we have.’
The traits Jessica refers to include assessing things like effort, emotion, risk tolerance, attention, focus, fairness, aptitude for learning, decision making, or even how generous someone is. They are very hard to identify when looking at a more formal CV with a list of achievements and are often a key part of what will enable a young person to thrive in a role.
Most young people can learn the things they need to learn once they have the job, but most traits are deep seated and underpin how a person performs in different situations. For example, how well they work in a team or alone, or whether they prefer a cautious approach to addressing a problem or are quick to respond. Some roles require a particular type of person and in other instances it can help to see how a young person could grow into or be challenged by a role. It is also beneficial for people, as when they are in a role that matches their trait styles, they are happier, more comfortable and able to leverage their innate strengths.
‘One young person may have had a lot of help from their parents, or tutors to complete their homework or had access to more extra curricular experiences. That person may score well academically as a result. Others may not have had as much support and perhaps don’t score as well, but they may have developed traits such as resourcefulness and a hard work ethic from having to do a lot by themselves, which are traits that are also very relevant for many roles. Therefore the academic results alone are not enough to understand job role performance or job suitability, rather the traits people develop due to their life experiences are important in helping determine suitability and potential for different types of jobs. The high scoring person’s traits may also mean they are considered for the role – it is about making judgements on a range of things that we can recognise.’
The model that PwC uses incorporates a way to analyse things like a person’s quantitative reasoning to their motivation levels right through to their numerical agility.
It’s a broader and deeper way of understanding how someone works, understanding what someone knows and can do and who they are, and in Jessica’s words 'it's certainly giving us a broader spectrum of access to different people, so we are not making an upfront biased decision on a school or one-off mark. We have a method that means we can also talk about a person’s potential in a role – and the unique qualities they can bring.’
The trust factor is also important, with the traits tool being underpinned by empirical research and backed by neuroscience and administered by a qualified learning team so that they can interpret the report as a first entry point for students. It’s not the only tool PwC use but it gives people access to jobs they may not otherwise put themselves forward for.