Talent Innovators – Ocado’s Abbie Lopez and Henry Clendon

We talk to Abbie Lopez, Emerging Talent Specialist and Henry Clendon, Emerging Talent Adviser at Ocado Group to find out which talent project they’re most proud of, and why.

Ocado Group is the fastest growing technology business in the FTSE100. It is the biggest online-only grocery platform, and its mission is to transform online grocery through cutting-edge technology and automation. It works with some of the world’s biggest, most innovative, and forward-thinking grocery retailers, helping them re-define the online shopping experience for their own customers and to be leaders in their markets.

The Innovators

Abbie Lopez, Emerging Talent Specialist and Henry Clendon, Emerging Talent Adviser at Ocado Group

 

What talent project are you most proud of?

We have transformed our graduate recruitment process, using artificial intelligence and digital assessment tools to help us hire more diverse people and save time – both that of our candidates and hiring teams. In doing so, we’re now far more inclusive and have found great people who fit our current and future needs.

The process had such a dramatic impact that 33% of the people who came through this year wouldn’t have been able to get through before. This is because we previously screened on academic achievements; if someone didn’t have ABB results from an established university, they’d have been discounted. This decision making was about internal resources, so to have completely reworked the way we do things, open it up and to get early successes is awesome.

We can be more competitive as a business – people coming through have fresh ideas and dynamism.

It’s true of every business, but massively so here, that everything is changing so rapidly. By removing academic qualifications from our search criteria, and instead looking for behavioural qualities, we can be more competitive as a business as people coming through have fresh ideas and dynamism. It’s why our Emerging Talent Programme is highly supported in the business – it gives us an edge. We look for how candidates adapt to and embrace change, how curious they are to learn, how they apply what they learn and whether they can move from one part of the business to another seamlessly.

For context, we work with Aon’s Assessment Solutions. At the core of our new selection process is a series of online assessments which include measures of future-readiness, agility, curiosity, and learnability, plus a gamified cognitive ability test to understand adaptability to change and working memory. Candidates who reach certain assessment scores are then invited to complete a recorded video interview using Aon’s Video Interviewing AI platform. Up to this point, everything is automated, requiring no travelling for the candidate or resource from Ocado.

Diversity is essential because we’re growing and changing as a business from retail to tech.

Diversity is essential because we’re growing and changing as a business from retail to tech. Not many businesses are growing at the rate we are, and next year alone, we plan to recruit another 500 tech specialists at all levels. We don’t just ask for Senior Software Engineers, we want graduates who can grow with us, building a long career. This is amazing for candidates and in fact, one of our very first interns is now CEO of our technology brand. We also have graduates who joined in 2008 and are now heads of departments. This helps us have great senior buy-in for onboarding and orientation, and even our CEO comes in to talk to new candidates as he sees this as such an important part of the business.

We have c20,000 employees internationally, including 12,000 drivers, warehouse pickers and engineers, through to our head office where we have HR and finance employees, and then our innovation sites [DB1] where robots are tested. Grads who join us can go through all our business areas and even work internationally.

Measuring success: the key achievements

Our new process is awesome. We’ve not only increased the diversity of candidates being attracted to us, but also those who successfully progressed through the process.

We’ve assessed and hired high calibre people, saving nearly 600 hours of interview time, even with a 300% growth in people applying for roles and a 650% increase in video assessments.

On top of that, 40% more candidates passed the application stage. They get an engaging and immersive experience and learn what it would be like to work with us.

Additionally, the gender split of graduates hired this year is 53% female/47% male, a change from 36% female/64% male last year.

We are also attracting applicants from a far broader talent pool and have hired 73 graduates from diverse backgrounds, assessing only on capabilities and competencies needed now and in the future. We’re able to identify talent and progress them, promoting the growth internally.

What did we learn?

We have learned to trust in technology and artificial intelligence in recruitment.

We’ve learned it saves us a lot of time, fast tracking elements of the process and achieving things we didn’t think possible. Seeing it in action, and seeing the results, we now know AI is a tool that can do great things for us. It gets rid of bias that humans couldn’t.

We’re also able to quality check candidates, which is especially important considering the number of people applying. There can be nervousness of this in a business, but the feedback has been great, with assessors saying there’s been a really good quality of candidates. None have slipped through to the assessment centres where we wondered why that happened.

We know we can trust in artificial intelligence for assessment.

Before seeing the successes though, we had some sleepless nights. We felt as if we were on a cliff edge trying something so new, with overwhelming numbers of applicants. Plus, we wouldn’t know if the system worked until we met them in our assessment centres. It was a bold choice but completely right for our brand.

We know that we and our candidates are in safe hands, everything is in place, and we can personalise elements – just because an Ocado Group employee hasn’t spoken to a candidate, it doesn’t mean to say they haven’t been looked after. Candidates spoke very highly of the process and we know we can relax and trust in artificial intelligence for assessment.

 

This is the second of a series of profiles on talent innovators, the first for Serco. Watch out for more.

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