Geplaatst: 8 Mar, 2024

Artificial intelligence and Sports: Eric Castien (BrainsFirst) provides answers

Greek newspaper ‘Peloponnisos’ spoke with the Dutch research journalist-author and founder of BrainsFirst about the entry of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into football and sports in general. And also specifically about ways to predict if a teenager can play at a high level.
by Vagelis Gerogiannis

Let’s go back to 2009, to Real Madrid’s training center, where football greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo train. For everyone there, it’s just another training session, but not for Eric Castien. The Dutch writer feels the answer to the question “What makes the difference between a really good player and a world-class player?” is revealed on the pitch.

The answer is that it’s all in the brain. A few years later, Castien, in collaboration with the neuroscientists Ilia Sligte and Andries Van de Leij, founded BrainsFirst. A company that developed Talent ID services today used by major clubs to identify talent from a very young age and to predict through a specific process whether they will be able to compete at a top level. All this happens thanks to professionals in elite level sports, neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence.

Eric Castien gave an exclusive interview to the newspaper “Peloponnisos”.It’s an interview worth reading…

– How can you predict the future of a football player from an early age? Are you able to tell if a 13-year-old can compete at a high level a few years later?

“To be able to play at a high level, one must observe a large amount of information, make decisions quickly and correctly, execute accurately and at great speed. All these skills are related to the functions of the brain, known as “brain power”. We assess this brain power with neuroscientific games, which challenge all different parts of the brain.
We tested more than 5,000 players. From Champions League level to the highest amateur level. From 16 and up we have a good estimate of a player’s cognitive bandwidth.
We can predict whether their brain power at the age of an adult will be able to meet the demands of elite football. If the brain is not fast, powerful or accurate enough, the player will need to (also) compensate a lot for it with other skills (such as technical or physical).At the highest level it is almost impossible to keep compensating for that.”

– Could a cognitively underperforming player play at a high level?

“The probability is quite low. Conversely, a player with a lot of “brain power” is very promising cognitively, but if that player does not perform well technically, mentally and physically, it is still difficult to meet the demands of elite football. We help clubs make better talent decisions to mitigate investment risk in, for example, recruiting players for their academy.”

– How can you “marry” neuroscience with football?

“Soccer is primarily a brain game or brain activity. Without the brain the muscles, bones, lungs or anything else is of no use. The so-called ‘cockpit between the ears’ determines whether one can play at a high level.Therefore insights from neuroscience are extremely helpful for club management.”

– Does the human brain decide everything?

“This is also a philosophical question. This also concerns the (sub)conscious. It is clear that brain functions play a key role in human performance, thus on the football field.”

– Can you tell us some of the 53 factors you measure?

“It’s about executive functions. For example, many attention skills such as concentration, directing attention, distracting attention, or shifting attention. Or working memory – factors such as the ability to filter out (non)relevant information’. You can see it as the ‘processors in between the ears’.

– Which major football clubs are most interested in working with BrainsFirst?

“It seems like a pattern that many of our clients, – forward-thinking clubs like Real Sociedad, Eintracht Frankfurt, PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, Feyenoord Rotterdam or the Belgian federation -, are constantly trying to beat the richest clubs who can buy the biggest talents. To build tomorrow’s future stars, you must recognize the potential of those stars today. There we help them with objective data that predicts future performance.”

– Is it possible that in the future with the development of Artificial Intelligence, it will be predicted in which country he will be able to compete or specifically in which type of team and specific system?

“If there is a lot of data available, such as physical, event and brain data, it will become increasingly possible to predict potential performance. This is about probability. Of course this will never be 100% accurate. For example, you don’t know if or when someone will get injured.”

– How does Artificial Intelligence affect football?

“Maybe not the game itself, but how it is played, approached and managed is already influenced by applying AI In various ways. There is already an incredible amount of information available. To see data-patterns, separate them from incidents, understanding what is information and what is noise, make predictions: AI helps improve decision-making. Both in talent identification and talent development. And in pitch performance. However, there is still a long way to go in interpreting and contextualizing the data. The expert’s eye plus the data is the best combination.”

– What has Artificial Intelligence already changed in football? Will we even be able to predict what will happen in a game?

“Artificial Intelligence has already changed the way club management makes decisions, managers choose tactical strategies, clubs buy and sell players, doctors prevent injuries and so on. Football is so complicated that there will always be exceptions and surprises. The good thing about AI – if the data is consistent, valid, reliable and objective – is that it reduces opportunism and subjective decision-making.As long as human beings play the game, no 100% overall score in predictions will be achieved.”

– – Is there a chance in the future that we will see coaches using an AI assistant?

“Of course, like in chess. It will be able to receive strategic or tactical advice based on scenarios. For example: “Analyzing the opponent’s defensive game today, I advise you to replace player X with player Y in the second half to significantly increase xG (expected goals).” Or “continue to invest in academy player X because of the expected future value, rather than player Y, even when Y is performing better today”.

– How do you comment on the phenomenon that more and more programmers and data scientists are hired by the big clubs?

“It depends on what task needs to be done or what goal needs to be achieved. I recommend using data combined with the expertise of experts and people with experience. Especially in decision-making we want to reduce all kinds of human biases. Generally there should be a bridge between theory and practice. Unfortunately, there is often a “glass wall” between the data department and the football department. A data scientist without football knowledge and a football expert without data knowledge have the risk of misinterpretation/misunderstanding. Of course, lack of knowledge sometimes leads to “fresh perspectives”. I would recommend hiring at least one “football data translator”, bridging football expertise and data expertise.”

– Is sport threatened by Artificial Intelligence? Could sports become more predictable and therefore more boring in the future?

“As long as you let human beings (and not robots) play the sports, it will be fun, amazing, relatable, emotive. BrainsFirst helps to identify brilliant football minds known for their creative ways of playing. That’s what the majority of fans want to see: players with unusual solutions to problems on the pitch.”

– If you were the president of a big club, in any team sport, in which areas would you choose to make use of Artificial Intelligence?

“Everywhere there is room for improvement. Add AI to augment human intelligence, be aware of ethical behavior and fair decision-making. And be careful and make sure you keep understanding what’s going on so you kind of have control over the basics.”

Read the article on the website of ΠΕΛΟΠΟΝΝΗΣΟΣ Read More

Geplaatst: 5 Dec, 2023

Legia Warsaw & BrainsFirst kick-off ‘game intelligence’-project

Brain-based talent identification enters Ekstraklasa

The Polish club, currently leading the national league, and the Amsterdam-based Sports tech company BrainsFirst started their collaboration this month with a focus on the identification and selection of the most promising football talents. The common goal is to make the process of talent identification & evaluation more fact-based, data-driven, and scalable. Better player selection leads to more home-grown players in the first team and a more positive transfer balance for the Polish club.

BrainsFirst offers its validated assessment games platform, by combining gamification and cutting-edge neuroscience technology. Originated at the sidelines of Real Madrid & FC Barcelona and researched amongst 1200+ European pro players, BrainsFirst succeeded in decoding “game intelligence”. The company enables Legia Warsaw to assess the football brain potential of a player. This kind of data is considered a crucial piece of the overall talent puzzle. According to previous experiences in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Eredivisie, Primera Division, and Jupiler Pro League, applying BrainsFirst as an early-funnel player recruitment step leads to more justified admissions & rejections and consequently a higher efficiency and returns in the overall process.

Co-innovation leads to success

Legia Warsaw have recently launched a department to put together all data and research to make better-informed decisions when it comes to developing youth football players. Przemyslaw Zych, manager of Legia Lab Academy, explains: “We constantly look for relevant innovation and see cognitive data in respect to a very specific profile of a future professional football player as an added value for us. We want to have a holistic view on talent and to understand as early as possible the probability of the talents to meet those high requirements of elite football. BrainsFirst has proven to be an experienced and reliable partner for this aspect.”

BrainsFirst has had its initial experiences already since 2014 with partners like PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord Rotterdam, AZ Alkmaar, and the Dutch FA. Meanwhile, its client base has grown exponentially in the Top-10 European leagues. Now they enter Ekstraklasa. “Legia Warsaw decided to choose this approach of talent identification & evaluation with a long-term perspective. They prove to have a clear vision and want to use the tools of today to succeed in the future. We are very excited to work with this legendary club,” says Eric Castien, BrainsFirst’s founder.

Crucial part of the talent puzzle

When (youth) players play the game, data is collected and a unique representative brain profile is made. “Everyone is good and less good at something,” says Castien. “The games give you more insight into that.”

The method measures players on potential rather than what they already can do. To cope with the complexity of modern top football, it is not only necessary to be good technically, physically, and motorically. Certain brain functions must also be of a high level, otherwise for example, ‘in-match information’ is processed too slowly to participate at top level.

Castien: “In talent recognition, the current performance of a young player is often taken as the main indicator, while this has a strong bias, such as physically. Players with a biological advantage at age fifteen, might at that moment be better than their teammates. They are often seen as the high-potentials of their generation, but some years later they are usually physically caught up by their peers. By adding a cognitive component to talent recognition, as a club you gain a better insight into whether someone is also ahead in that area. This allows you to see the bigger talent picture.”

About BrainsFirst:

BrainsFirst BV was founded in 2012 to define the context-specific required cognitive functions of elite football players. Since 2014, the data collection, analysis & interpretation leads to a considerably higher number of justified admissions & rejections in talent academies. Dutch clubs like PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, Feyenoord Rotterdam, and the national association KNVB are long-term partners. Since 2020 clubs in Germany, Belgium, Mexico, England, and Spain have implemented the software in their talent recruitment process. For more information read here or reach out to Eric Castien.

Geplaatst: 30 Nov, 2023

Access to Brain-Based Talent Management for All

BrainsFirst Launches Certification Program: 100.000+ brains assessed in 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of talent acquisition and personal development, BrainsFirst has taken a significant step forward with the launch of its certification program. With an astounding 10,000 individuals engaging in the BrainsFirst Games only last month, the question arises: How can we extract the maximum value from this unique gamified assessment? It’s by becoming a certified BrainsFirst expert.

Opening Doors to Exclusive Expertise

Last month’s surge in participation reflects a growing recognition of the BrainsFirst assessment as a transformative tool. Whether applied in predictive recruitment, onboarding, team dynamics, career coaching, or personal development, BrainsFirst provides a scientific foundation for decision-making across all kinds of talent management areas. Companies utilizing BrainsFirst aim to ensure skills-based matching to unleash employees’ full potential and prevent stress or burnout. They strive to improve candidate experience and create a fair, bias-free and inclusive selection process. However, BrainsFirst envisions an even broader impact.

A Community of Certified Brain Experts

The launch of the certification program signifies a commitment to building a community of certified experts equipped to disseminate BrainsFirst knowledge globally. This initiative aims to extend beyond the corporate realm, reaching coaches, career counselors, and anyone professionally interested in understanding and unlocking the potential of the human brain.

Inclusive Learning for All

One distinctive aspect of BrainsFirst’s certification program is its inclusivity. As a proven professional in the field of HR, recruitment, or coaching you can elevate your skills to extraordinary levels without needing a prior background in neuroscience or psychology. The program empowers a diverse range of individuals and fosters a community of brilliant and curious minds who carry the BrainsFirst expertise out into the world, wherever it is needed.

Insights and Tools for Transformation

Our certification program offers invaluable insights into the cutting-edge BrainsFirst assessment and the intricate world of brain data. Program participants gain the tools necessary to unlock the full potential of individuals, thereby enhancing both personal and organizational performance. The program transcends traditional boundaries, catering to those eager to delve into the realms of neuroscience and human behavior.

Early Bird Opportunity

To sweeten the deal, an early bird discount is available for those quick to enroll in the 2023 certification program. However, with a limited number of spots, the window of opportunity is narrow. Seize the chance to be at the forefront of a transformative movement and gain a competitive edge in the evolving landscape of talent and personal development. If you are not able to join this year, but you are really keen, reach out to to see what we can offer you in 2024!

No-Brainer: Get Started Today

For those ready to embark on a journey of knowledge and expertise, BrainsFirst invites you to explore the certification program. Whether you aim to revolutionize your career coaching approach, enhance teamwork dynamics, or simply understand the intricacies of brain data, this is your chance to make a difference.

For more information or to secure your spot; reach out to Harm Meurders. Don’t miss the chance to be a part of the BrainsFirst revolution—where science meets potential, and expertise knows no bounds!

Geplaatst: 16 Nov, 2023

Selecting Talent with Precision: The Art of Skills-Based Selection

Understanding Skills-Based Selection: An Essential HR Approach

The concept of skills-based selection has become a pivotal aspect of modern HR practices. It emphasizes the objective evaluation of candidates’ competencies, both in their existing skills and their potential to acquire new ones. This approach ensures that hiring decisions are grounded in data-driven insights, leading to better matches between candidate skills and the requirements of specific roles. In this continuation of our series on skills-based HR practices, we will delve deeper into the critical process of skills-based selection and its impact on talent acquisition.

Defining Skills for Strategic Selection

Skills-based selection begins with a clear definition of skills. Identifying and categorizing skills pertinent to your organization sets the stage for a structured and efficient selection process. Distinct categories, encompassing both hard and soft skills, provide a comprehensive framework for evaluating candidates’ abilities. Connecting these skills with job frameworks offers a data-based foundation for the skills required in various roles, enhancing the precision of the selection process.

Tools and Methods for Skills-Based Selection

Implementing skills assessments is a core component of skills-based selection. These assessments come in various forms, such as written tests, practical exercises, behavioral interviews, or cognitive evaluations. Each method serves to objectively evaluate a candidate’s capabilities and match them with the skills crucial for specific roles. Incorporating game-based assessments, like those offered by BrainsFirst, can provide deeper insights into a candidate’s cognitive skills, allowing for a more holistic evaluation.

Brain Skills and Their Role in Selection

At BrainsFirst, our unique approach involves identifying and classifying the cognitive building blocks that underlie human performance – what we refer to as “brain skills.” Or deep skills. By linking these cognitive skills to extensive job databases, we provide a comprehensive language for discussing skills, bridging the gap between an individual’s cognitive abilities, their potential, and their actual skills. This approach offers a nuanced understanding of candidates’ abilities, adding a new dimension to skills-based selection.

Hiring for Performance versus Potential

Skills assessments are invaluable for verifying a candidate’s claimed skills, particularly hard skills. This aspect, known as “hiring for performance,” ensures a match between a candidate’s abilities and the job’s requirements. However, equally crucial is assessing a candidate’s potential to acquire new skills, which requires evaluating their cognitive profile. Understanding an individual’s natural talents and their capacity to learn new skills shapes the concept of “hiring for potential“.

Preparation for Future Skills

Skills-based selection isn’t just about current needs, but also preparing for the skills required in the future. Evaluating cognitive abilities and potential aids in identifying candidates who not only possess immediate skills but also demonstrate an aptitude for adapting and acquiring new skills as the business landscape evolves. This forward-thinking approach is crucial for organizations to stay ahead in a dynamic job market.

Embracing the Future: Skills-Based Selection in HR Practices

In conclusion, skills-based selection is the future-proof linchpin of effective talent acquisition. By defining, categorizing, and assessing skills—both current and potential—organizations can make informed decisions that align with current performance and future needs. Tools like BrainsFirst facilitate confident navigation of the skills-based landscape, ensuring that organizations are prepared for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s job market. Embracing skills-based selection isn’t just a trend; it’s the future of HR and talent acquisition.

Ready to Explore Skills-Based Selection Further?

Stay tuned for the next installment in our series, where we’ll dive deeper into the practice of skills-based interviewing. To learn more about our approach to skills-based talent management, book a meeting with our experts. Skills-based selection isn’t just a concept; it’s a transformative process shaping the future of HR practices.

Geplaatst: 2 Nov, 2023

Defining Skills: The Cornerstone of Skills-Based HR Practices

From Ambiguity to Clarity: Crafting a Robust Skills Framework for Your Organization

In the first part of our series on skills-based HR practices, we explored the fundamental concept of skills and the pivotal role it plays in transitioning to a skills-based organization. Many organizations often struggle to make this shift, primarily because they underestimate the significance of clearly defining skills. In this follow-up blog, we will delve deeper into the process of building a skills framework or skills taxonomy, which is the cornerstone of skills-based HR practices.

The Pitfalls of Skill Ambiguity

One of the common pitfalls in the journey towards skills-based HR is the ambiguity surrounding what skills actually entail. Without a clear understanding of skills, it becomes challenging to implement effective skills-based practices. Before you realize you are head over heels into a new skills platform or skills management technology and cannot see the wood for the trees. Skills are meant to promote clarity instead of confusion. They should bring a level of consistency to uncertain, unreliable, and unpredictable HR practices. And they should bring fairness by breaking talent down to its foundation replacing rather superficial and biased perspectives. Simply put: They should simplify HR processes rather than overcomplicate them. So, what exactly should you put into your skills framework, and how do you define skills?

Defining Skills: A Critical Starting Point

Before embarking on the skills-based journey, please take a step back and ask yourself why you are doing this. The essence of skills-based practices is to bring the focus back to what truly matters: people’s skills. These skills encompass not only the existing capabilities within your organization but also the skills demanded by the labor market and those needed for the future. A well-defined skills framework should be your guide in achieving these goals. If not the equation is short: Trash in, trash out.

Practical Definitions and Measurability

Practicality is crucial when defining skills. Skill definitions should be clear, concise, and easily measurable. Ambiguous or vague skill definitions can lead to confusion and inconsistencies in talent management. To ensure that your skills are both practical and measurable, consider the following questions:

  • What is the skill’s purpose? Begin by understanding why this skill is important in the context of your organization and industry.
  • How is this skill relevant to specific roles? Clearly articulate how each skill contributes to various job functions within your organization.
  • Can you measure this skill? Determine the methods or metrics you’ll use to assess and measure the level of proficiency in each skill.
  • How can you categorize skills? Organize your skills into logical categories or clusters, making it easier to navigate your skills framework.

Generically, a skill can be defined as a specific ability that an individual possesses, allowing them to perform particular tasks effectively and efficiently. It should be articulated in a manner that is both clear and easily understandable, enabling straightforward measurement of proficiency. Ambiguity in skill definitions can lead to complications in assessing and managing talent. How do we prevent this? We define skills as the most fundamental level of abilities. In this article, we refer to skills as ‘human skills’, unless we notify otherwise.

BrainsFirst’s Unique Approach: Talent for Skills Validation

At BrainsFirst, we’ve introduced a distinctive approach to defining skills that can significantly enhance your skills framework. We identify and classify the cognitive building blocks that underlie human performance, which we refer to as “brain skills.” These human performance fundamentals reveal everyone’s set of natural abilities, indicating a certain talent for specific skills. This approach enables organizations to define skills in a clear, concise, and measurable way. These cognitive skills are the foundation for a wide range of tasks, from basic activities to complex job roles. What sets our approach apart is that we’ve linked these cognitive building blocks to extensive job databases like O*NET and ESCO. This linkage provides a comprehensive, data-driven, and measurable foundation for your skills taxonomy. 

The Role of Brain Skills in Skills Frameworks

Brain skills serve as the bedrock for higher-level skills like programming, teaching, or time management. That’s why they are also called “deep skills”. They are easily measured through our game-based assessment, the NeurOlympics, and offer a reliable foundation for building your skills taxonomy. By mapping the cognitive skills of your employees, you gain valuable insights into their natural talents, which remain consistent over time. This information is pivotal in creating skills passports, a powerful tool for talent management, especially when we talk about employee development and career pathing.

The Key Takeaway

Building a robust skills framework is the first crucial step in adopting skills-based HR practices. As long as you do not pay enough attention to this step, the results will be suboptimal. Defining skills is not just a formality; it’s the basis upon which the entire skills-based journey rests. It’s about clarifying what skills mean in your context, ensuring practicality, and establishing a clear roadmap for your organization’s talent management.

In our next installment, we will delve deeper into the practical aspects of skills-based selection and assessment, continuing our journey along the talent management cycle. Book a meeting with our skills experts for practical guidance on embracing skills-based practices and building a more agile, adaptable, and future-proof workforce.

Geplaatst: 17 Oct, 2023

Building a Strong Foundation: The Power of Skills-Based Job Frameworks

Defining, Assessing, and Preparing for Talent Management in the Modern Workforce

We hear about skills-based hiring, skills-based learning, and skills-based organizations everywhere. But what does it really mean, and how can organizations harness its potential effectively? As HR and talent acquisition professionals, the transition to skills-based practices can be a game-changer, promoting clarity, consistency, and fairness in talent acquisition while also strategically benefiting the organization. In this series of five deepening blog posts, we will explore the journey towards skills-based HR practices across various stages of the talent cycle. To kick things off, let’s start by unraveling the concept and taking a closer look.

Defining Skills: The First Step

To embark on the path of skills-based HR practices, organizations must first define what they mean by “skills.” This foundational step creates a common language for communication and sets the stage for success. What constitutes a skill, and what doesn’t? What challenges may arise when defining skills within your organization? What types of skills exist, and which ones are crucial for your specific needs? The answers to these questions are essential for both the present and the future, as they help identify which skills are currently present within your organization and which ones are needed. By creating skills-based job frameworks, organizations lay a solid foundation for implementing skills-based practices in the future.  To establish skills-based job frameworks within your organization, here are three key steps you can follow:

  1. Define and Categorize Skills: Begin by defining the skills that are relevant to your organization and industry. Identify both hard skills (technical competencies) and soft skills (interpersonal, communication, leadership, etc.) that are essential for various roles. Categorize these skills into different groups or clusters based on their relevance to job functions. For example, in a technology company, you might categorize skills into programming languages, project management, teamwork, and problem-solving. This categorization helps create a structured framework for skills assessment. Connecting your framework to job databases such as O*NET and ESCO helps to build a solid and data-based foundation.
  2. Conduct Skills Assessments: Once you’ve defined and categorized the skills, implement skills assessments as part of your recruitment and talent management processes. These assessments can take various forms, including written tests, practical exercises, behavioral interviews, or even cognitive assessments like those provided by BrainsFirst. Assessing skills systematically allows you to objectively evaluate candidates’ capabilities and match them with the skills required for specific roles. Moreover, it helps identify gaps in the skills of current employees, enabling targeted training and development initiatives.
  3. Regularly Update and Refine Frameworks: The job market and industry requirements are constantly evolving. To maintain the relevance of your skills-based job frameworks, regularly update and refine them. Stay informed about emerging skills and trends in your field, and adapt your frameworks accordingly. Seek input from employees, hiring managers, and industry experts to ensure that your frameworks align with current and future needs. Additionally, consider technology solutions that can assist in tracking and managing skill data efficiently, making it easier to keep your frameworks up-to-date.


By following these three steps, you can establish robust skills-based job frameworks that not only aid in talent acquisition but also contribute to strategic workforce planning and development within your organization. Such frameworks provide clarity, consistency, and fairness while ensuring that your workforce remains agile and adaptable in an ever-changing business landscape. This framework is the most crucial part. Skills can be nothing more than words. You need to assign meaning to them. You can have the most amazing skills-taxonomy or skills-management platform, but one thing will never change: If you put trash in, you get trash out. No technology or software can help you with that.

Brain Skills: A Unique Approach

At BrainsFirst, we’ve developed a unique approach to defining skills that can be a game-changer in this context. We identify and classify the cognitive building blocks that underlie human performance, which we refer to as “brain skills.” These cognitive skills are fundamental for tasks ranging from making a cup of coffee to executing complex recruitment campaigns. What sets our approach apart is that we’ve linked these cognitive building blocks to vast job databases like O*NET and ESCO, which encompass thousands of occupations and their corresponding skills, competencies, interests, and knowledge fields. In essence, we provide a comprehensive language for discussing skills, bridging the gap between cognitive abilities, an individual’s potential, and their actual skills.

Hiring for Performance and Potential

When it comes to hiring, candidates often list a variety of skills on their resumes, but verifying these claims can be challenging. This is where skills assessments become invaluable. If you want to ensure that a candidate possesses specific skills essential for excelling in a role—especially hard skills like Java programming—utilizing skills assessments becomes crucial. This approach is referred to as “hiring for performance.” However, it’s equally important to assess a candidate’s potential for acquiring new skills on the job, particularly if there’s room for growth. In this scenario, an individual’s cognitive profile plays a pivotal role as it reveals their natural talents and predicts which skills they can easily acquire and which might present more significant challenges. Here, we’re talking about “hiring for potential.”

Preparing for Tomorrow’s Skills

At BrainsFirst, our expertise lies in helping organizations prepare for the skills they’ll need tomorrow, not just today. By assessing cognitive abilities and potential, we assist organizations in identifying candidates who not only possess the skills required for immediate performance but also exhibit the capacity to adapt and acquire new skills as the business landscape evolves.

Embracing Skills-Based Practices

In conclusion, building skills-based job frameworks is a crucial step toward enhancing talent acquisition and organizational effectiveness. By defining and classifying skills effectively, organizations can foster transparency, consistency, and fairness while making strategic decisions based on current performance and future potential. With tools like BrainsFirst, organizations can navigate the skills-based landscape with confidence, ensuring they’re prepared for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s job market. Embracing skills-based practices is not just a trend; it’s the future of HR and talent acquisition.

Interested in learning more about our approach to skills-based talent management? Book a meeting with our brain experts and stay tuned for the next blog in our series, where we’ll delve deeper into the practice of skills-based selection.

Geplaatst: 5 Oct, 2023

Decoding HR Decision-Making: The Neuroscience of Choice

Exploring the Two Systems of Thinking and Their Impact on HR Recruitment Strategies

Welcome to the first episode of #neuroscienceinsights, where we explore the science that guides our choices. In the limitless labyrinth of the human mind, decision-making is a fundamental process that shapes our daily performance at work. Varying from the simple job-related choices we make daily to the decisive decisions defining our own or other people’s career paths. In this blog post, we dig into the fascinating world of neuroscience to gain insights into HR decision-making, drawing from the groundbreaking work of Daniel Kahneman, as presented in his bestseller book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

The Two Systems of Thinking

The Nobel laureate began his research in the late 1960s. He introduces us to two distinct systems of thinking that govern our decision-making processes: the so-called System 1 and System 2.

  • System 1: This is the fast, intuitive, and automatic mode of thinking. It operates effortlessly and rapidly, allowing us to make quick decisions based on intuition and past experiences. System 1 helps us navigate familiar situations with ease, such as recognizing a colleague’s face or executing routine calculations.
  • System 2: When faced with complex problems or unfamiliar situations, System 2 kicks in. In contrast, System 2 is the slow, deliberate, and analytical mode of thinking. It requires conscious effort and mental energy. This system enables us to process information more deeply, evaluate alternatives, and make thoughtful decisions. This is more time-consuming.

Neuroscientific Insights into System 1

Neuroscience, the study of the brain and its functions, has been instrumental in unraveling the mysteries behind the complex process of decision-making. From this angle, it is interesting to understand the role of different brain parts in decision-making. System 1, our fast-thinking mode, is deeply rooted in our brain’s evolutionary history. It is designed for survival and efficiency. Especially the modern agile work cultures require this kind of fast-paced behavior. Not everyone is a fast thinker and jobs that require this skill can be frustrating for the System 2-‘naturals’. Here are some neuroscientific insights into how System 1 operates:

  • The Amygdala: This almond-shaped structure deep within the brain, often called the reptilian brain, is responsible for processing emotions, particularly fear and pleasure. It plays a crucial role in System 1 by quickly assessing the emotional significance of stimuli. When faced with a potential threat, the amygdala triggers a rapid fight-or-flight response without conscious thought, demonstrating the automatic nature of System 1.
  • Pattern Recognition: The brain is a pattern-recognition machine, and System 1 excels at recognizing familiar patterns, which is essential for quick decision-making. This ability to recognize patterns allows us to effortlessly understand language, interpret facial expressions, and navigate our environment.

Working in a medical emergency room, as a bartender behind a popular cocktail bar, or on an options trader floor is typically depending a lot on System “Fast”. The recruitment process typically leans towards this rapid mode of decision-making. Whenever you have a role to fill, you either post an ad or source for candidates that fit a specific list of requirements. The jobs you fill vary, but once you get going muscle memory usually kicks in and you run through the same tried and tested tactics, often on autopilot.

Neuroscientific Insights into System 2

While System 1 operates automatically and intuitively, System 2 involves deliberate cognitive processing. Here are some neuroscientific insights into how System 2 functions:

  • The Prefrontal Cortex: The headquarters of System 2 thinking is located in the frontal lobes of the brain. It is responsible for complex cognitive functions such as planning, organizing, problem-solving, and decision-making. When you’re carefully weighing the pros and cons of a major company decision, your prefrontal cortex is hard at work.
  • Energy Consumption: System 2 thinking consumes a significant amount of energy compared to System 1. This is why prolonged, deep thinking can be mentally exhausting. Our brain allocates resources judiciously, shifting between these systems based on the demands of the task at hand.

Examples are looking for a colleague in a conference crowd, parking a van in a tight space, or determining the quality-to-value ratio of your canteen lunch. Fewer recruiting teams move “slowly”. Slow isn’t a measure of speed, it’s indicative of a different objective. There isn’t an immediate role to fill. The goal is to find “quality” candidates to add to your pipeline. Job ads fill roles, but they don’t work for this kind of recruiting. Here, proactive sourcing is the answer. “Slow” recruiting is strategic, you’re searching for candidates that could make a “10x” impact in your organization.

The Interplay of Systems 1 and 2 – Biases, Learning, and Multitasking

Understanding the interplay between these two thinking systems is crucial for comprehending how we make decisions. System 1 serves as our rapid decision-maker, helping us make countless choices effortlessly. However, it’s not infallible and can lead to cognitive biases and errors. System 2 acts as a check-and-balance mechanism, stepping in when necessary to override automatic responses and engage in more deliberate, thoughtful decision-making.

System 2 also comes into play whenever you learn something new, like when starting a new job or role. In the beginning, every choice you make, like distinguishing between important and less important tasks or deciding how to complete simple administrative processes, is very conscious and takes a lot of focus and concentration. Once you get used to your new job, these processes get automated and shifted to system 1, which is evolutionarily valuable and efficient as it saves you a lot of energy. Now, there’s space again for fresh input and learning new things. This transition from conscious effort to automation exemplifies the brain’s remarkable adaptability and capacity to optimize decision-making processes.

Some bad news here for multitasking lovers. In fact, research suggests that multitasking can be detrimental to productivity and efficiency because it often results in reduced quality and increased errors. Multitasking, a common challenge in our fast-paced world, highlights the intricate balance between System 1 and System 2 thinking. Typically, our cognitive resources are limited, and we excel at focusing on one task at a time. However, the secret to effective multitasking lies in automating routine or simple tasks to the point where System 1 can handle them effortlessly, freeing up System 2 for more demanding activities.

Best of Both Worlds – Optimize your Recruiting Strategy by Combining Systems 1 and 2

The science of decision-making, as illuminated by neuroscience and popularized by Daniel Kahneman in “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” reveals the impressing complexity of the human mind. You’d think that you’re more of a commanding officer who’s always in control but in reality, most of us are thinking based on Systems 1. “Fast” recruiting will usually be a company’s bread and butter, most teams are set up to run this system. Ideally, though, your company should use a blended approach that includes some strategic pipeline building. This helps to future-proof your company and ensures that you’re well-stocked with talent for future roles.

It underscores that our decisions are not solely products of reason or intuition but are shaped by the dynamic interplay between two distinct thinking systems. Contact our strategic experts to optimize your recruiting strategy. As we continue our journey into the fascinating world of the brain and cognition in future episodes of #neuroscienceinsights, we’ll explore a diverse range of topics that promise to unravel the mysteries of the human mind. Stay tuned for more insights from the realm of neuroscience!

Geplaatst: 28 Sep, 2023

Harnessing Data-Driven Decision Making in HR: The Power of Game-Based Assessments

Why HR Should Care About Data and what Value it can Bring Us

Decision-making based on data did feel harsh to many HR professionals. Now even those romantic ones understand that objective information is not replacing their gut feeling, but it at least gives them grip when making decisions in uncertain situations. In a world where intuition has long been revered as a guiding force in decision-making, the tide is shifting towards a more analytical approach. Like the business landscape HR departments are evolving rapidly. In this article, we’ll explore why data-driven decision-making in HR is urgently needed and how utilizing neuroscientific game-based assessments can not only make recruitment processes more fair and reliable but also transform the workplace into a more interesting and engaging environment.

The Magic of Combining Human Judgment with Data-Driven Decision-Making

Intuition, the innate ability to simply “know” what is right or wrong, has held a special place in human decision-making. It’s often associated with great minds like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, who extolled its virtues. While intuition can be a valuable starting point, it’s not the sole pillar upon which decisions should rest. Relying solely on gut feelings can lead to flawed conclusions. Like in the medical world, a doctor needs to combine the expert’s view with reliable data points like heart rate and blood pressure. In the mix of expertise and facts, the correct decision is hidden.

Data-Driven Decision-Making in HR: A Game Changer

According to a survey by PwC, organizations that embrace data-driven practices are three times more likely to experience significant improvements in decision-making compared to those that rely less on data. In almost every business unit or department, the shift towards data-driven decision-making is evident, but here HR lags behind. Probably professionals in this field of expertise accept being informed or even corrected about cars, machines, or buildings, but rely on their opinions when it’s about their own species: people.

Why HR Needs Data-Driven Decision Making

 Considering that people are a company’s most significant expense and its greatest asset, the delay in embracing data-driven HR practices can be detrimental. HR teams need visibility into various aspects of their operations, such as hiring, attrition, turnover, and diversity. By leveraging data, HR leaders can unlock valuable insights that connect people to business outcomes.

The Role of Game-Based Assessments

The majority has a clear wish to embrace HR data but lacks the knowledge or the tools to actually change approaches. One exciting tool in the realm of data-driven decision-making HR is neuroscientific, game-based assessments. These kinds of assessments go beyond traditional methods, such as resumes and interviews, by evaluating candidates’ cognitive abilities, attention, and problem-solving skills in a game-like setting. This is what organizations using these fair, reliable, and talent-centered tooling reports:

  • Objective Evaluation: Game-based assessments provide an objective way to evaluate candidates’ abilities, reducing bias in the hiring process.
  • Predictive Accuracy: The scores offer predictive insights into a candidate’s potential job performance, increasing the likelihood of successful hires.
  • Employee Engagement: Integrating the skills-based talent profiles into HR processes can make work more interesting and engaging for HR professionals. They get the opportunity to make their work more visible and find ways to optimize and improve their processes.
  • Skill Development: By incorporating data-driven HR practices, HR teams are invited to acquire valuable data analysis skills, enhancing their professional growth.

What Comes Next for HR Professionals?

Embracing data-driven decision-making in HR is not only essential but also transformative. It empowers HR leaders to make informed choices, unlock critical insights, and connect people to business outcomes. Moreover, incorporating neuroscience game-based assessments can add a layer of excitement to HR processes, making work in HR departments more interesting and rewarding. As HR professionals become data literate, they will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of their organizations. Get in touch with our data experts and let’s make use of data to shape the future of HR together.

Geplaatst: 26 Sep, 2023

Unconscious Bias in Recruitment: Blocking Equal Access on the Labor Market

Recognizing the Problem and Ways to Move Further Away from Unconscious Bias in Recruitment

It’s not a problem that human beings are biased. The real problem is that the majority of people are not aware of this fact. The lack of diversity in companies is a widely discussed issue, with more than half of HR professionals acknowledging that their current policies fail to improve the situation. The selection approach, both for external and internal candidates, is key to achieving more diversity and an area where many companies fall short. Most talent acquisition processes are (unintentionally) detrimental to achieving diversity goals. This is primarily due to the unconscious bias of professionals involved in the selection of new employees. In this blog, we set a clear definition of unconscious bias in recruitment and how you can reach DEI goals in your organization.

Recognizing the Problem of Unconscious Bias

As the saying goes: “The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” In the world of attracting and hiring talent, the problem is unconscious bias in recruitment. Every person is affected by unconscious bias, including recruiters and hiring managers. This bias, often unintentionally, creeps into the selection process. The human brain, wired to process information quickly, tends to make snap judgments based on limited data, such as a candidate’s name or photo. As soon as a candidate’s information, such as a resume, is read, the brain begins to draw premature conclusions. This is not the intention of the HR professional, but it still happens, and it is naive to think it will stop automatically from happening. Solving the unconscious bias in recruiting issue starts with acknowledging its existence.

Understanding Unconscious Bias

There are numerous (cognitive) biases to be distinguished. Some of the most well-known in HR: 

  • Fundamental Attribution Bias: We judge others based on personality or character rather than on the situation. Martin is late for his interview, so he must be a poor planner. 
  • HALO and Horn Effects: We assume that one positive characteristic of a person must mean they automatically have other positive qualities, too. Hilde is attractive, so she must be trustworthy. The Horn effect is the opposite. Linda does not look well-groomed, so she may not be trustworthy.
  • Anchoring Effect: We heavily rely on the initial piece of information as an anchor for all further decisions. The first candidate you meet is disappointing, so the next one must be a top candidate compared to the first one.
  • In-group-out-group Bias: We favor in-group members over out-group members. The interview with Hannah, who like me enjoys running, went great. The conversation with Marjan, who doesn’t exercise at all, didn’t go well – there was no connection. 
  • Authority Bias: We assign more value to and are more influenced by the opinion of an authority figure. For example, Willem is the director, so he must be right.

The Critical First Step to Overcome Unconscious Bias

Objectifying the recruitment process begins with the very first step—applicant screening. Many traditional processes, like CV reviews, inadvertently introduce unconscious bias in recruiting. A resume may contain information such as age, background, or even a photo that can influence early judgments. To mitigate this, it’s essential to focus on the skills and qualities a candidate needs for the job, rather than their background or appearance. This way you shift from an opinion-based process to a data-driven one.

Game-Based Assessments: A Solution

One innovative solution to reducing selection bias is the use of game-based assessments. Unlike traditional assessments with inherent bias, these assessments can measure cognitive abilities, which are more indicative of a candidate’s potential to excel in a role. They are also less influenced by language proficiency and background. By introducing game-based assessments early in the selection process, organizations can prioritize potential over experience and reduce the impact of unconscious bias in recruitment. This approach very much fits in a future-oriented HR policy, where talents are evaluated looking forward instead of backward.

Real-Life Success Stories: Getting Rid of Unconscious Bias in Recruitment

The Municipality of Rotterdam provides a compelling example of the effectiveness of game-based assessments. By forming two selection committees—one reviewing CVs and test results, and another solely evaluating game-based assessments—they achieved significantly different shortlists of candidates. Ultimately, the candidate who excelled in the game-based assessment, despite having less impressive credentials on paper, turned out to be the best fit for the role. And he still is.

Implementing Change: A Promising Path Forward

Recent research by Harvard Business Review shows three new and promising ways to combat unconscious bias by incorporating DEI into decision-making. These make DEI immediately obvious or salient the moment it actually matters most: when consequential decisions about hiring, promotions, and performance evaluation are made.

  1. Hire for more than one job at a time: Collective hiring decisions lead to more choices in favor of diversity. Not surprisingly, when considering that diversity is a group property.
  2. Prompt managers to consider diversity in their promotion process: Making diversity more salient can increase promotions for employees from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
  3. Show diversity training videos right before formal people decision: The multinational telecommunications company Ericsson was able to hire significantly more people from underrepresented groups with this strategy. It seems to be way more effective to make people aware of DEI at the moment of decision-making than during onboarding.

How Can We Start Combating Unconscious Bias Today?

Unconscious bias in recruiting may be a part of human nature, but with the right strategies and a commitment to change, organizations can ensure that selection bias doesn’t stand in the way of building diverse, innovative, and successful teams. Let’s strive for fair and inclusive workplaces where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive. Contact our diversity experts to start eliminating bias from your selection process.

Geplaatst: 21 Sep, 2023

Mismatch Brain and Job Raises Burnout Concerns Among Young Professionals

How Matching Cognition and Work Can Reduce Job-related Burnout Risk

Job-related burnout has become more than a buzzword in the professional world and for a good reason. Besides affecting someone’s mental health it touches both productivity and overall job satisfaction considerably. And it’s not limited to a few demographic groups. Among the groups most susceptible to burnout are young professionals, particularly women. As the number of job-related burnout cases continues to rise, it’s crucial to explore effective prevention strategies. In this blog, we take you along on the cause of job-related burnouts and also on one promising approach to prevent burnouts:  the alignment of cognitive abilities with job roles.

The Job-Related Burnout Epidemic Among Young Professionals

‘Burnout’ as an occupational phenomenon has been a problem for a long time. Sadly, it is still growing. A recent NOS article sheds light on the alarming increase in job-related burnout cases. The competitive nature of the modern labor market, long working hours, and the pressure to constantly excel can take a toll on the mental well-being of these individuals. It is not limited to a specific industry or job role, making it an issue that demands attention across the board. HR departments don’t deny it, while at the same time struggling to solve the problem.

The Role of Cognitive Abilities in Job-related Burnout

‘Not able to meet the requirements’, refers to both supply and demand. When out of balance, this probably causes trouble for both employees and employers. To address the work floor epidemic effectively, we must consider the role of cognitive abilities in job roles. Every individual possesses a unique set of cognitive skills, including problem-solving, creativity, attention to detail, and more. When these skills align with the demands of a job, employees are more likely to experience job satisfaction and lower levels of stress and burnout. Balancing brains and jobs should be key in designing teams and workforces. 

The Power of Cognitive Fit: 3 Goals

One of the terms used for this balance is ‘cognitive fit’. When there is a strong alignment between cognitive supply and demand, employees are more likely to thrive in their roles. On the contrary, a significant mismatch can lead to stress, frustration, and ultimately job-related burnout.

Here’s how matching cognitive abilities and job roles can make a difference:

  1. Enhanced Job Satisfaction: When employees are in roles that match their cognitive abilities, they are more likely to enjoy their work. They feel a sense of accomplishment and engagement, which are key factors in preventing burnout.
  2. Improved Performance: Employees who are well-suited to their job roles tend to perform better. Their natural cognitive strengths enable them to excel in their tasks, leading to better results for both the individual and the organization.
  3. Reduced Stress Levels: A mismatch between cognitive abilities and job demands can lead to chronic stress. By ensuring a better fit, organizations can reduce stress levels among their employees, promoting mental well-being.

Implementing Cognitive Matching in the Workplace 

To address the rising job-related burnout concerns among young professionals, organizations should consider the following steps:

  • Assess Cognitive Skills: Implement assessments or tools that help identify the cognitive abilities of employees. Understanding these strengths and weaknesses is essential for making informed talent-matching decisions.
  • Redefine Job Roles: Evaluate and, if necessary, redefine job roles based on cognitive demands. This might involve reshuffling responsibilities or creating new positions to better suit employees’ cognitive abilities.
  • Promote Flexibility: Allow for flexibility in job assignments. Sometimes, employees may possess a range of cognitive abilities, and offering them opportunities to explore various tasks can enhance job satisfaction.
  • Provide Training and Support: Offer training and support to help employees develop their cognitive skills. This can include workshops, career programs, or access to online resources.

To all HR Leaders of Today: What Now?

HR is looking for clear evidence-based approaches to tackle the worrying rise of job-related burnouts. Science is backing the pursuit of a company-wide brain-job-balance. According to a Harvard Business Review, matching cognitive abilities to job roles is a promising strategy that can lead to improved job satisfaction, better performance, and reduced stress levels among young professionals.

By acknowledging the importance of cognitive fit in the workplace, organizations can create a healthier and more productive environment for their employees, ultimately contributing to the well-being of their workforce and the success of their business.

The job-related burnout epidemic is a significant challenge, but with the right strategies in place, we can work towards a future where young professionals can thrive in their careers without sacrificing their mental health. BrainsFirst helps organizations in various industries to redesign jobs, roles, and skills. With tangible results in terms of job engagement, employee well-being, productivity, and quality of hire.

Want to know more about how to effectively prevent job-related burnout? Get in touch with our cognitive fit experts to discover how our cognitive assessments can assist you in identifying essential skills and matching talents who will actively contribute to your company’s goals.