Interview with CEO, Arctic Shores – Robert Newry

1. Tell us about your role in Arctic Shores?
My co-founder, Safe, and I established Arctic Shores in 2014 to bring greater objectivity and fairness to the recruitment and career development process. We were concerned by the challenges women and people from lower socio-economic status groups (and several more categories) faced when applying for jobs at leading employers. So we set out designing a new way to determine talent and since our launch in 2015, we have assessed more than 800,000 candidates and helped over 100 clients in 45 different countries improve their selection decisions.
As the CEO, I lead the commercial side of the business, based in London, and Safe as CTO looks after technology team at our Manchester HQ.

2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
The psychometric industry has barely changed in 40 years! The last major innovation was to move paper-based questions to an online format. As a result, the recruitment process was boring and overly reliant on cognitive tests, many of which disadvantaged certain groups in society. With the typical female graduate having to make almost twice as many applications as a male one, we felt there had to be a better way for companies to find the right talent and for people to identify careers they were best suited to.

We founded Arctic Shores with the aim to democratise the use of psychometric assessments, making them more engaging, data-driven and levelling the playing field for all sectors of society. It took two years to get the first iteration out and we are now working on the fourth update. It was hard at first because this was so new, but thanks to large companies like Siemens, PwC and Cisco being willing to experiment and innovate, we have been able to prove it works and build quickly from there.

3. How do you think technology is changing the HR Sector?
In the last 5 years or so, HR tech has moved from focusing on efficiency (applicant tracking systems, video interviews) to candidate engagement and diversity. In fact, there has been an explosion of investment in the sector which has led to a bewildering choice of new vendors offering everything from new forms of sourcing to chatbots and gamification. More recently AI has moved to the forefront and the challenge for HR has been to determine which area to focus on and how best to test some of the new technologies being offered. The job description for HR Managers now involves as much an understanding of data science as it does payroll and benefits!

4. How has integration of AI empowered the functions of HR?
AI powers a plethora of technologies and tools and we are now seeing new functions within HR like ‘People Analytics’ looking at new ways to gather insights from the vast amount of employee data many organisations naturally possess. We have seen AI supporting to model workforce shifts, automate repetitive and administrative tasks like responding to policy clarifications and scheduling. The point is that AI is freeing HR from the low value-added tasks.

5. Can you explain how the combination of neuroscience, AI & gaming technology helps select better candidates?
The reason for combining these three areas was to enable a step change in the way a candidate’s suitability for a role can be made. Each area has made huge strides in the last ten years and we saw an opportunity to combine them to transform candidate selection. The tasks in our assessment are developed from research experiments founded on psychological, cognitive neuroscience and computational neuroscience principles of human behaviour. Using game technology (but not to make a game!) we carefully replicated the experiments to create a behaviour based (as opposed to a question based) assessment, generating over 5,000 data points in a 30-minute session.

The AI is applied to the specific data points that relate to personality measurement to generate 30+ personality traits. We then match a candidate’s personality strengths to those linked to success in the role. This is not a pure data science approach as we know that overly relying on data science without understanding the context and diversity of the data can lead to programmatic bias so involve experts in business psychology to validate and verify the data matching approach.

6. How does your app help career beginners?
Upon assessment completion, candidates receive instant feedback and career guidance. This report highlights the candidate’s natural strengths and through a well-known job categorisation framework gives them insights into the job activity areas they would be most suited to.

7. What technologies do you think will lead the future of HRTech?
The talk at the moment is all about artificial intelligence and machine learning but we are more excited by how gamification and neuroscience will continue to influence areas like e-learning, employee assessment and employee engagement. There is so much to come in terms of multi-user and team-based insights, business simulations, and how these can be linked to workforce planning and change management.
I also expect to see more and more of the existing solutions being made available to a wider audience as the popularity of true SaaS models extends to HR as much as it has done for finance; for instance, we will be launching a self-serve version of our platform in early 2020.

8. What advice would you like to give to upcoming HRTech Start-Ups?
Innovate to solve real HR and candidate challenges. That’s how my co-founder Safe and I came up with the Arctic Shores idea. We saw graduates’ application struggles first-hand—both in terms of the candidate experience and a lack of effectiveness. We see lots of ideas that are too niche.
Do something close to your heart that you’re truly passionate about. All the obstacles and hard times will be worthwhile and easier if you work towards a cause you truly believe will make a real difference to people’s lives.

Think carefully about how you will surround yourself with the right mix of people—from mentors, board members and investors to the team you hire.

9. What work related hack do you follow?
Use every tool you can to avoid admin and spreadsheets!
Stay really focused on the problem your product is solving and don’t be tempted to customise for a specific client – the product must be scalable and repeatable with the minimum of technical effort.
Be tough in your analysis of whether something you are doing or about to do is really going to add the most value to moving the business forward.

10. How do you prepare for an AI-centric World?
Embrace and understand it, from its capabilities to its flaws. AI has a lot to offer but it is not a silver-bullet. Bring in new skills to your team that can support and advise you on an AI based platforms.

11. What major developments are you currently working on?
We are very excited to bring our cutting-edge solution to SMEs with the launch of our self-serve platform in 2020. We are also planning on opening another international office in Germany next year to aid our global expansion.

12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
I like to describe the team at Arctic Shores as a group of misfits – people who have come from different sectors and areas of expertise united in their desire to change the way selection and career planning is done. We are a group of pioneers and every person wants to challenge and improve on the status quo. I have no background in neuroscience, AI or game technology, so it’s a privilege to work with such an amazing group of people who are professionals in these areas and delighted to share their knowledge. Because of the passion in what we do, I am able to rely on each and every member of the team to support the clients we bring on board with the same level of commitment and care I would bring if I was the person responsible for delivering the solution – that’s a huge relief for every founder!

13. Which books are you reading these days?

  • HR Disrupted: It’s Time For Something Different by Lucy Adams
  • Taming Tigers by Jim Lawless

14. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
Skyrise City – the Arctic Shores Assessment app!
Nest – Home security and to know my family are safe
Expensify – to simplify my expenses related to significant international travel
WeChat – for keeping in touch with Chinese clients!
LinkedIn – to keep up with industry and business news

Robert Newry CEO, Arctic Shores

Robert is Managing Director and Co-Founder of Arctic Shores, an innovative assessment provider that uses game-technology to determine personality and cognitive traits. Robert founded Arctic Shores in 2014 with a grant from Innovate UK and since then the company has grown to support 100+ organizations in more than 40 different countries. Robert is a regular speaker at conferences around the world on the use of gamification in recruitment. He studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University and did his MBA at Imperial, where he was a double prize winner.


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