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TecHRseries Interview with Cherie Curtis, CEO & Executive Director at Revelian

Cherie Curtis, CEO & Executive Director at Revelian joins us in this chat to breakdown the key benefits and growing importance of implementing psychometric assessments into a typical B2B and tech hiring and talent development process. Catch the excerpts:

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Tell us a little about yourself Cherie…and your journey as CEO at Revelian…

I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a psychologist, a CEO, a peer and a mentor!

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I’ve been involved with Revelian for 17 years, having started my career here as an intern while I was completing my qualifications in I/O Psychology. There are many facets to my life and I’m grateful for all of them. I had heard about a new start-up that was disrupting pre-employment testing, which in those days meant long and arduous paper and pencil tests. Onetest, as we were then known, wanted to change all of that with Australia’s first online pre-employment test, which would assess a person’s cognitive ability and only take 20 minutes to complete. Candidates could do it whenever and wherever suited them, and clients would get the results straight away. I just knew I had to be part of this, so I got myself hired as an intern and had the privilege of working on developing the company’s (and Australia’s) very first online assessment.

In the time I’ve worked at Revelian I’ve been in multiple roles, progressing to Head of Psychology in 2005 and then CEO in 2015.  I’ve led a number of new product innovations, adjusted the structure of our business to enable us to scale, sought and achieved a strategic change in our ownership and now am focussed on a smooth and rewarding integration with our parent company Criteria, who acquired us in February of this year.

Throughout this time, I’ve been privileged to have worked with (and continue to work with) truly outstanding people, whose talent, commitment, courage, and skill have made my role as their leader a genuine source of pleasure and pride. Together we’ve achieved some incredible innovation and growth while never losing sight of our culture and those things that make Revelian a special place to build your career.

How has Revelian evolved over the years?

Revelian’s journey has been characterised by change – which you would expect from an organisation whose roots are in disruption and who has continually driven innovation for each of our 21 years.

We’ve evolved in many ways over that time, the most obvious being our product development where we have launched a series of world-first game-based assessments, Theme Park Hero, Cognify and Emotify. We’ve scaled our business to enable us to work with customers around the world, and deliver assessments to jobseekers on every continent. We’ve evolved our customer engagement models, our brand and market positioning, how we provide technical support. We’ve introduced AI and Machine Learning into our product development in an ethical way. And we’ve evolved from being a small family-owned company to now being a part of one of the leading providers of pre-employment assessment solutions with our acquisition by Criteria earlier this year.

One thing that hasn’t changed are the values that have underpinned our business from the very beginning: hard work, commitment, courage, innovative thinking, willingness to experiment, belief in what we do, an uncompromising approach to product quality and customer centricity.

Why would you advise HR leaders especially in B2B / Tech to implement psychometric assessments as a part of their overall hiring process? What are your top tips for ensuring businesses ensure they optimize this part of their hiring process when doing so? 

There’s a well-known adage in our industry that candidates are like icebergs: what you see on the surface in things like resumes and interviews is only a small portion of the bigger picture. Valid, reliable psychometric assessments give you the ability to see beyond what candidates want you to see and get down to the attributes that really matter and have the greatest impact on your organisation’s bottom line.

We strongly believe that adding objective, proven, science-based insights into your hiring process helps you make better people decisions. And psychometric assessments, if well designed and properly validated, give you those insights. Used correctly, psychometric assessments mitigate the risk of bias in the selection process, support efficiency in volume hiring, facilitate strong team composition and organisational fit, which has positive flow-on impacts on productivity, retention and engagement.

We often say to our clients that recruitment is not only a hiring campaign, it’s a marketing campaign. The experience the candidate has throughout that process directly impacts how they feel about your brand, and what they tell other people about it. So we encourage employers to use assessments to augment what is already a well-structured and engaging process for the candidate. For example, using a game-based assessment early in a recruitment exercise not only provides excellent insights into a candidate’s cognitive ability or emotional intelligence, it also gives the candidate an enjoyable experience that demonstrates the employing organisation’s culture and approach to being innovative.

Make sure you are selecting the assessments that measure the most appropriate traits for the role you are recruiting. The psychometric tools you use need to be quantifiable and should contribute to your business-critical outcomes. The best assessments are developed by teams of experienced software engineers and qualified psychologists.  If you’re working with the right provider, they will be able to assist you in assessment selection.

A reliable test will produce consistent insights to inform a fair and ethical hiring decision. There’s no doubt that things like AI are streamlining recruitment processes and assisting employers to identify and secure good candidates quickly. But speed doesn’t always support fairness or accuracy. A poorly designed test with algorithmic bias will skew results and expose you to risk, which no one wants.

What are some of the other essential assessments and screenings (non-technical!) that you feel should be part of the usual business-to-business hiring process today?

An assessment is one component of the process and the hiring decision-making criteria and should be treated as such. But it’s a very important one. A well-designed hiring process should also include structured interviews (either face or face or virtual), job samples as appropriate to the role, relevant credential checking and other verifications. Appropriate application form questions to complement resume submission can also be useful. But it’s a balance – a process that’s too robust can tip over into becoming onerous and lead to candidate disengagement. Equally, a process that’s too tech heavy, or too “light” can lead to questions around how seriously the employer is taking the hiring exercise.

Can you talk about some of the most innovative hiring trends you’ve seen in the recent years?

Certainly we’ve seen more adoption of AI-driven hiring processes, which come with the caveats I mentioned earlier. There have been some very high-profile “fails” in this area, so I’d advise approaching this with caution and research. It’s certainly not the hiring success panacea it’s purported to be in some circles.

By necessity, this year many employers have had to change up their hiring methodologies and processes to deal with the challenges of COVID-19 and remote working, and some of our clients have done some really clever things in this regard. As just one example, one of our clients who relied heavily on face to face assessment centres and in person onboarding over a couple of days, has shifted to a series of virtual micro sessions requiring shorter candidate participation over a longer span, to minimise candidate fatigue and retain engagement. The usual group interactions observed in a physical assessment centre were moved online via Zoom breakout functionality so that the employer was still able to assess the candidates’ ability to work as a team.

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As a business leader, how would you advise HR teams to drive organizational culture and employee best practices despite the challenges related to Covid-19?

There’s no one right answer here as so much depends on the organisational size, complexity, structure and the types of roles employed. But there are some common practices that can be applied to any organisation.

The first and most obvious is communication, perhaps more frequently and in different ways than ever before. When things are uncertain, people are looking for consistency and answers, and their looking to their leaders to provide that.  So the leadership team must be visible and accessible – they can’t just assume HR will do this for them.

Your leadership team should also be consistent in the core messages they are delivering, and be open to questions, comments and information sharing. Employee engagement is at it’s heart an emotional connection to the business and its culture. So it’s at times like this that the emotional intelligence of leaders and managers is critical. You need to be able to accurately perceive the emotional state of your employees, understand what that means for them, and be prepared to work with them in managing and regulating their emotional responses.

The second is find new ways of doing things we’ve taken for granted when we see each other every day. ​Connection is critical to supporting emotional wellbeing, and to keeping organisational culture alive and well. A lot of us are still working from home at least in part and don’t have the benefit of the regular water-cooler chats or the desk drop-by’s. So finding other ways to do this – without imposing on our colleague’s or teams productivity – is really important. Video chats, virtual face-to-face sessions, enhanced use of collaboration tools, online groups or forums – there are a plethora of tools available to do this and HR can really be the driver of these sorts of initiatives.

Another important role HR can play in ensuring best practices around productivity, well-being and engagement is helping employees (including leaders) in setting and keeping boundaries. In the first week we transitioned to having the whole business working remotely, most of the Revelian team found themselves working longer hours and taking fewer breaks than if they’d been in the office.  ​People will cope much better with working from home, in general, if they follow a routine and schedule which allows them to keep work and life as separate as possible, with designated times for switching off and winding back. And as leaders and HR professionals we need to role model this. Even if you’re up working late at night or on weekends, it does not help your staff to be getting emails or texts from you at these times!

As the workforce and work culture evolves; what are some of the key changes to HR and overall hiring processes that you feel should be implemented?

Now’s the time to use technology to your advantage in maintaining a robust, objective hiring process that’s still as “human” as it can be. There are so many great tools available to enable this: online assessments and video interviewing being two obvious ones in the pre-hire stage, and there are some very clever tools emerging in post-hire around team building, onboarding and employee development.

It’s very much a balance though. Candidates expect, and frankly deserve, to be treated as human beings in the hiring process, and human interaction, even it’s is via a screen, remains an essential part of the process. I don’t see that decreasing in importance any time soon, if fact you could argue that it should increase in emphasis for roles where there is less possibility of physical interaction with potential colleagues. It’s how we deliver that interaction that is adjusting and becoming more tech reliant.

How do you feel HR can play a bigger role during this time to ensure businesses and teams stay productive and have adequate resources?

In our business, and in many of our clients’ businesses, HR is a strategic partner to the business leaders, not a support function. People and culture professionals add value in so many ways and particularly during this time where leaders may need advice, support and new thinking around engaging and retaining their teams, and bringing people together in different ways to work on business priorities. As an example, in our business our People & Culture function has been a key driver of our COVID response plan, assisting our business to transition to remote working, supporting mental wellbeing, enabling communication and connection, checking in with employees and supporting managers and teams to adjust to new ways of working.

In my view, HR has an important role to play at any time – in workforce planning, and the entire employee lifecycle from attraction through selection, onboarding, engagement, performance management, remuneration, career planning and succession and organisational design. I’d encourage all leaders and managers to take full advantage of what your HR partners can offer.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at Revelian; what’s a day in the life at work at Revelian?

Our culture is driven by our values, and I can genuinely say we live these every day:

  • Be Brave, Be Bold: we are passionate, courageous and innovative.
  • Collaborate and Deliver: we collaborate with accountability, offer respectful opinions, take action and deliver
  • Ethics are Everything: scientific rigour, integrity and accountability underpin everything we do.

We see these play out across the business in a variety of different ways – from the sales and customer success teams passion for delivering client solution excellence, to the innovation found in our product team creating new assessment products based on science and independent validation, to the robust interactions of our senior leaders and managers as we debate and agree on the direction of our business.

If you look on our website you’ll see our team page is not displayed in organisational hierarchy. This is deliberate; a big part of our culture is the recognition that no one is more important than anyone else. We all contribute in our different ways and bring our unique and diverse skills and talents to the team to drive our success.  We make a point of celebrating that success and each person’s contribution to it. And we know how to have fun.

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A few parting tips on what companies and HR heads should keep in mind as they shape their strategies in 2021 amid the new normal?

Unsurprisingly, my tip here is to introduce psychometric assessments into your hiring and talent development processes if you’re not already doing so. As I mentioned earlier, adding objective, proven, science-based insights into your hiring process helps you make better people decisions. And whatever the “new normal” looks like, good people decisions will continue to be an essential component to business success.

Revelian

Revelian is a Brisbane, Australia-based organization specialising in the development and delivery of psychometric assessments used by employers to inform hiring decisions.

Cherie Curtis is an Organizational Psychologist and the CEO of Revelian.
Cherie joined Revelian (then Onetest) in 2003 as an intern, progressing to Head of Psychology in 2005 and then CEO in 2015. Cherie has been recognised as the nation’s top leader in the 2016 AIM Leadership Excellence Awards and was a finalist in the 2015 Qld Telstra Business Women’s Awards.