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Why this human resource science makes people think it's magic
Tue, 14th Mar 2023

Tech demos are the place where the rubber hits the road. Marketing can blow smoke. Sales can oversell potential benefits. If marketing and sales are both convincing, they can get a potential customer in the room for the demo. But it's at the demo that everyone knows whether the tech has got what it takes or not.

That's why when I heard Mike Erlin, the CEO and co-founder of AbilityMap, recount the reaction of two HR executives to a demo of his team's tech, I took notice.

"They said it was like magic," Mike said. "Both of them. Like magic."

As someone tasked with using language to capture and express AbilityMap's qualities, I have been trying to put AbilityMap's difference into words for some time. How the technology collects and blends insights into work environments and transferable capabilities, based on people's innate qualities and preferences, into a powerful output that's highly predictive of job success. How the technology supercharges employees and takes the guesswork out of hiring. How this same tech that has delivered outsized returns for organisations like Movember and NEP, quality differentiation for recruiters of many sizes, Australian-born, high-growth companies the likes of Faethm and Hometime and even traditional institutions like NSW Health and Catholic Education Schools, can bring similar outcomes for SMBs, giving owners and their often under-resourced teams a big advantage.

The benefits seemed obvious to me. My experience as an employer tracks with virtually every other employer: doubt, uncertainty, and the sense that you are rolling the dice every time you hire. After all, we live in a world where employers report that they wouldn't rehire 30% or more of those they hired, knowing what they know about the employee a year later. This statistic says something's terribly broken with the way we've collectively been doing things. But like most things that are broken with no clear solutions in sight, many of us have become resigned to the situation, just grateful when things somehow work out.

But it wasn't until Mike used this word, 'magic', that I realised I had been missing something very important in telling the AbilityMap story. I had been using the not completely right kind of language to describe AbilityMap. I had been using abstract, dry corporate-speak language that didn't fully capture the emotive effect that this technology has on the people who use and prosper from it.

For example, some roles require courage. When tough decisions have to be made, or a big challenge tackled, the people in that role have to have courage. Very few CVs or psychometric tests are going to tell you whether they have courage. AbilityMap will.

That's the magic these two demo testers experienced. They saw the potential of the technology for their organisation, and it blew them away - within 5 minutes. Potential opened up for them like this: One of our last key hires was perfect on paper but never gelled with the team. What if I could find a person who fit hand-in-glove with the team? One of our last hires had been managing reactive roles exceptionally for nearly a decade, but they burned out after four months in a similar role in our organisation. What if I could detect and not hire the applicant who is going to burn out?

In other words, what would happen if you were never disappointed by a hire again? And what would happen if you had a technology that could flow this certainty through your entire organisation, empowering lateral moves and promotions, optimising succession planning, pulling back the curtain on what has been, up until now, an impossible-to-solve human resource puzzle?

It's this magic that Deloitte uses to build the teams intended to plug the gaps in Australia's sovereign cybersecurity skills readiness. It's this magic that gave Livewire a 100% retention rate in 2022 and prompted its CEO to say, "We don't hire anyone without AbilityMap." In fact, a recent sample of AbilityMap clients found that of the people they hired using AbilityMap they would "definitely rehire" 85% of them.

So where did this magic come from? It came from decades of trial and observation at the nexus of organisational psychology, recruitment and professional development. And it came from the coming together of a successful and ever-curious organisational psychologist, Kevin Chandler, and a former America's Cup sailor and elite athlete, Mike Erlin, who has focused on human performance in sport and business for his entire career. AbilityMap came out of frustration that despite billions of dollars spent trying to solve the problem and a universal frustration with hiring, managing and optimising people, clearly something was being missed, a critical piece.

That piece? The environment, and knowing what it takes to succeed in it.

Psychometric assessments are nothing new, but AbilityMap's secret scientific sauce comes from how environment and role are integrated into the evaluation of the person. Just like a person can thrive in one social setting or one particular set of challenges and expectations but struggle in another, AbilityMap is able to rapidly determine whether a candidate or existing employee is a fit for a particular set of conditions.

The magic is found in how it quickly surfaces those transferable capabilities and reveals how they will work, or not, in a particular work context. As a result, you really can see courage or a host of other critical capabilities and evaluate these accurately against requirements. It's like lining up two x-rays and finding the harmony between them –and that harmony translates into job happiness, productivity, vastly reduced attrition, and profit. It turns HRs into profit –not cost– centres for their business by driving top-line performance and doing it more effectively than before and more closely aligns them to the commercial objectives and cultural purpose of their business with a powerful, measurable tool. Further, for small business, it de-risks the threat of costly hires and saves a lot of valuable time.

If that sounds interesting, why not give it a test run?