How Mobile Games Can Help You Identify Your Next Great Employee

By Abigail Carlton, Associate Director for Secure Livelihoods, The Rockefeller Foundation and Guy Halfteck, Founder & CEO, Knack

Those of a certain age probably heard it time and again while growing up: “Video games will rot your brain.” You definitely didn’t hear parents telling their kids that video games would help them land the right job in the future.

But the exponential growth of technology has changed the economy: the way we work, find jobs, and, more critically, the requisite skills people need to succeed. As a result, companies often struggle to know what to look for, and how to identify the most qualified applicants. When it comes to entry-level positions, young job seekers who may be a perfect fit for the job are often overlooked because their natural skills, abilities, and intelligence do not come through in traditional hiring processes.

This is where video games come into play.

Using games to discover hidden potential and to match talent with jobs is quickly gaining traction in the workplace as a powerful tool to engage, identify, hire, develop, deploy, and retain the best business talent. For example, companies can use mobile games to predict a person’s likelihood for high job performance across a broad spectrum of occupations, spanning financial services and manufacturing to technology, healthcare, and logistics. And, as digital natives, young job seekers are naturally drawn to the idea of showcasing their talents and interacting with employers through mobile apps.

We wanted to discover if unemployed youth with varying levels of education and job experience have the ability to perform successfully in a range of entry-level jobs at Fortune 500 companies. To achieve that, The Rockefeller Foundation and its grantee Incandescent worked with Knack—a technology start-up that builds mobile video games that use machine learning, neuroscience, and data analytics to uncover a job applicant’s skills and competencies, predict better on-the-job performance, and match the right people to the right job opportunities.

Working with agencies and programs that serve opportunity youth (young people ages 18-24 who are out of school and out of work), we enlisted more than 600 participants to play mobile games designed to identify a person’s “knacks” (i.e., traits, abilities, talents) that predict high job performance in entry-level roles in customer service, claims processing, restaurant service, and financial analysis. The results were then compared to entry-level workers currently employed in those roles. The findings were striking.

Eighty-three percent of youth who participated scored at or above the average score of a company’s “average performers” for one or more of the jobs—and 65 percent of the youths’ minimum scores were at the average of the company’s designated “high performers” for one or more of the four jobs.

In a market that rewards bottom-line business performance, companies can no longer afford to ignore the high-quality talent that remains unemployed and underutilized. This study dispels many of the myths about youth hiring, like the idea that more experience always translates to high performance in a job, or the notion that a certain level of education is required for success at the entry-level. The findings also showed us that companies who are willing to test new technologies and data-driven approaches may benefit just as much as the youth themselves. Science-based talent assessments, like Knack, that harness the power of predictive behavioral data analytics have the potential to expand opportunity for more people, while simultaneously developing a winning workforce development strategy for employers through targeted talent sourcing and job matching.

As a follow up to this initial study, The Rockefeller Foundation is supporting Knack to expand the rollout of its talent identification and job matching app to benefit disadvantaged youth in the United States and abroad. Knack is partnering with leading employers from across the automotive, industrial goods, banking and financial services, insurance, accounting, consumer packaged goods, beverage, logistics, hospitality, and food service industries to direct their demand for entry-level talent to the Knack platform.

For example, Daimler Trucks North America, the first U.S. employer to join this effort, did so because they are looking to attract new talent and build their workforce pipeline in order to continue to grow and advance their business. In parallel, Knack is joining forces with numerous workforce agencies and community organizations across the country to engage youth to help them discover their “knacks,” and match them with career opportunities that realize their potential.

New technology is making it possible for employers to identify talent that is best-suited for their open positions in unprecedented ways, based on a candidate’s innate abilities and talents—regardless of socioeconomic status, zip code, or formal credentials. This makes us very optimistic about the future of young people, our economy, and society at large.

Abigail Carlton is Associate Director for Secure Livelihoods at The Rockefeller Foundation. In this role, she develops and implements strategic grant-making initiatives to expand opportunity and create more inclusive markets in a changing global economy. Abigail is a lead for the Foundation’s U.S. Youth Employment initiative, a multi-year effort focused on working with private sector employers to increase employment among young people with limited education and work experience. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Start Small Think Big, a non-profit organization that helps low-income entrepreneurs across New York City start and grow their businesses. A graduate of Cornell University and Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy, Abigail lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.

Guy Halfteck, Founder & CEO of Knack grew up in Israel, where he served as a ship vice-commander in the Navy. He later studied law, economics and game theory at the Hebrew University, Columbia, and Harvard. He started Knack after getting turned down for an early-career leadership program at a top New York hedge fund. That experience led Guy to look for a better way to showcase one’s talent than the traditional credentials, pedigree, and interviews. Going back to his notes from a game theory class he took at Harvard, he realized that they held the key to solving this problem. Building on these insights, Guy brought together a team that included people from game design, computer graphics, psychology and computational neuroscience, software engineering, and machine learning to develop a technology that uncovers people’s hidden talents and matches them with the right education and job opportunities—all through mobile games.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.

Hiring & Retention Practices, Innovation, Workforce Development,
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