blogs news cognisess predictive people analytics n

‘Good afternoon, Seattle. I’m listening’

Chris Butt, CEO and Founder of Cognisess: Microsoft Roadshow 2017 Takeaways

Just over a month since taking part in the Microsoft Global Startup Roadshow 2017, the dust has settled enough for me to take in the lessons I learned after an extremely valuable — and busy — 5 days in Seattle and California at the end of April.

The opportunity to mingle with, and learn from the executives from the highest echelons of Microsoft’s organization, and share the stage, training sessions, customer introductions, and networking opportunities with 14 top Microsoft Accelerator alumnus from across the globe was an extremely useful, and also grounding experience.

As a CEO, the Roadshow offered insight into how to navigate the ecosystem of a global enterprise like Microsoft, the advantages of partnering with of such an organization, and the possibilities it could offer for a company like my own.

After mentorship sessions and presentations from some of the most senior staff on the Microsoft bill, one of the main things that stuck with me was their straightforward and down to earth manner. Rather than taking the stage as tech-celebrity keynote speakers, the presentations offered human, relatable reality checks.

One of the presentations which really struck a chord with me was by John W Thompson, the chairman of the board for Microsoft.

 Being a CEO is a human role

As an MIT graduate with a 45 plus year career in the leadership of the world’s leading tech companies including current chairman of Microsoft, former chairman and CEO of Symantec and former VP and General Manager for IBM, it is clear than John Thompson is a man who knows his stuff about the software industry.

From the outset, Thompson gave a bird’s eye view of evolution of the software industry from its early beginnings to where it is today, and in doing so offered real context to how the industry has changed, and the effects this has had on the realities of effectively managing businesses in this field.

While discussing the incredible level of maturity we have reached in the software industry today, Thompson regaled us with stories of successes, bumps in the road, and straight out failures which have made up his own personal journey. Rather than simply playing the ‘poster boy’ for success in Silicon Valley, he offered a more realistic picture of the trials and tribulations of managing global companies.

Thompson retold his experiences building a company which expanded too quickly and had to retrench when it couldn’t raise further funding, leading to pressure from investors to scale down or close. He spoke of how emotional a time this was for him as a leader, and how it brought him to tears letting valued team members go.

The fact that most startups fail is somewhat of an elephant in the room in the tech industry, but Thompson’s message was a positive one: to trust your instincts, to really become a part of a company and care about its stakeholders, and that resilience is important but that it is even more important to be realistic.

As the current CEO of a growing company, with a long career in the world of startups, it was a breath of fresh air to hear such an honest appraisal from someone with so much experience.

The only way to prepare to be CEO, is to be one

During his presentation, Thompson focused on the realities of being a CEO, of being a chairman, and of being both at the same time.

Normally, once a company goes public, a board of directors will elect a chairman to act as the main link between the interests of investors and shareholders, and the CEO of a company. However, while becoming less common in recent years, in many companies, the CEO, who holds the top management position in the company, also serves as chairman of the board.

Thompson told an interesting story about how when he was first asked to be CEO for Symantec, the board offered him the position of both CEO and Chairman. Unsure as to whether this was the right step for the company, or his career, he called upon various contacts for advice. Unanimously he was told to accept both positions at the same time.

The advice which Thompson was given by his trusted contacts was that you will never fully understand the gravity of the position, and you will never understand how it feels to be at the helm of a company, until you take the leap into the position of CEO.

There is only so much you can do to prepare for this, you are either ready or not and the truth will soon tell.

Building a business is not easy, and if you are doing it right, it never will be.

When I left the intense Microsoft Roadshow and travelled 6000 miles back to Bath, UK where my team is based, I stepped back into an equally frantic world of taking on staff, projects, deadlines, meetings and searching for funding.

This was when I realized just how valuable Thompson’s presentation had been to me as a CEO.

While there will be ups in your career, like being part of something as amazing as the Roadshow or an Accelerator, leading a company is like climbing a constant incline. For every two steps forward, you will be forced to take one step back.

Without being negative, or bringing people down Thompson offered a well needed dose of reality. In openly discussing the ups and downs of managing a company, he told us “ I understand the pressure you are under” and brought home the point that however good things seem to be going, in this highly changeable and competitive industry, there are dangers out there, and you are not there until you are there.


For information about Cognisess and analytics engine Deep Learn™and how we help organisations with Predictive People Analytics then contact us at for a demo.

Cognisess at the IHG Europe Owners Conference

Chris Butt IHG BerlinThis week Cognisess CEO Chris Butt and Chief Scientific Officer Dr Boris Altemeyer attended the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Europe Owners Conference in Berlin. The event brought together franchise managers from all over Europe to share their ideas and successes.

The conference focussed on the future of hospitality and technologies transforming the way IHG works, with opportunities for IHG managers to share ideas and immerse themselves in the latest brand innovations. With interactive sessions, showcases, immersive experiences and networking opportunities, the conference brought together IHG’s diverse community of Owners, General Managers and Colleagues from across Europe.

Identifying “what good looks like” for IHG

Cognisess has been working with IHG since 2015, identifying “what good looks like” for General Managers, protecting core hotel and brand values while improving staff retention. Cognisess has also been involved with IHG’s Future Leaders Programme, helping to identify and develop future leaders in the industry. Analysing millions of data points, Cognisess is able to predict the future potential of candidates and employees, generating benchmarks for new General Managers.

During the conference Cognisess presented a number of “pen portraits” outlining the shared attributes of General Managers belonging to the different IHG brands. There was also live polling to guess the emotions represented by a number of facial expressions put up on screen.

IHG General Manager portraits

Chris Butt, CEO of Cognisess, said: “The Berlin Conference has been a great opportunity for us to widen and deepen our relationship with all the IHG brands. As part of the company’s 2020 People Vision, Cognisess’ platform is being used to understand, analyse and match candidates and employees to the right roles and importantly to the right brand. Using Deep Learn™, we’ve already found significant differences and predictive attributes across the hotel brands.

“It’s been notable in speaking to GMs and Hotel Owners just how significant the hotel leadership positions are in setting the tone and context for the guest experience. Many of the Hotels are complex operations and the balance of the team is crucial. The analysis we’re doing across both workforce data and people analytics will highlight the significant attributes of the best performers and those who have the potential to succeed.”

IHG’s vision for meaningful insights

In their Europe HR Operations 2020 Vision & People Strategy, IHG said: “Adding value and meaningful contribution to the business through insights will remain at the forefront of our approach.

“Cognisess Pro is the only application that identifies the talent and potential of a candidate across multiple performance areas – working with the Cognisess team we are creating personalised assessments and benchmarks to suit the culture of the brand to ensure more accurate candidate screening for both frontline and general manager roles. Measuring cognitive, emotional, wellbeing and personality provides the most comprehensive assessment of a person’s neuro-wellbeing.”

Paul Spencer, Head of Operations Europe for Hotel Indigo, part of IHG, said: “Cognisess has enabled us to better understand the profile of our senior managers across our business. Using its assessments and people analytics, we’ve been able to accurately identify the key attributes of high performers and apply the benchmarks to recruit more effectively – saving us time and ensuring best fit candidates across our brands.”

IHG Berlin collage

The IHG Owners Association aims to improve revenue for the hotels, further strengthen the value of IHG’s brands and enhance the experience for guests. The Association represents the interests of owners and operators of more than 3,400 InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) hotels worldwide in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, Mexico and Latin America.

For more information about Cognisess, and to find out how we can help to improve candidate recruitment, employee productivity and organisational design in your business, get in touch with us at

New Cognisess partner: TheTalentFinders

Cognisess continues to partner with those pushing the boundaries of recruitment science. TheTalentFinders uses the Cognisess Deep Learn™ engine to provide its customers with “the best technology available”.

TheTalentFinders, based in London, pride themselves on being at the forefront of their profession, leading the way in developing and shaping the talent industry and having their fingers on the pulse of whatever’s likely to happen in the future. The founders have over fifteen years of experience in recruitment, talent management, development, assessment, employer brand, retention and succession planning.

Alan Walker, Co-founder of TheTalentFinders, said: “Partnering with Cognisess – as part of our TalentMap service – allows us to bring to our customers the best technology available – and enables our customers to make better talent acquisition decisions & improve employee development.”

TheTalentFinders TalentMap service uses gamification to access employees and candidates, measuring individuals against benchmarks and using advanced analytics to predict potential and future performance. At the forefront of this technology, Cognisess is the perfect partner.

For more information on partnering with Cognisess and taking advantage of the very latest in machine learning technology and predictive people analytics, contact us at

Cognisess on digital transformation in the workplace

Zack Weisfeld, MD of the Microsoft Accelerator, is attending the Mobile World Congress this month to join a panel on the topic of “digital transformation in the workplace”. He will be talking about a select number of Microsoft Accelerator start-ups, including Cognisess. Here we share our thoughts on the topic.

–          Are businesses ahead or behind in understanding employee requirements and embracing digital technology?

In our market exploration we’ve found that, in general, businesses are both aware of the new technologies and of the needs of employees. The bottleneck we experience is the gap between knowledge of the needs and issues, and understanding the extent of the impact of the solutions. This makes decision makers hesitant to invest in technology that could be a turning point for a business and make a huge difference to employee satisfaction and wellbeing.

To address this need for knowledge, Cognisess has introduced a Feedback Loop into the Deep Learn™ machine learning platform. This allows continuous tracking of the impact of the recruitment strategy and employee engagement activities delivered through the system. Linking this with 360 Feedback capability, the impact of the technology on the needs of the employees is finally accessible.


–          Has the rise of productivity and collaboration tools used by employees over the past few years actually made us more productive?

From what we have seen in terms of technology use in the past few years, the introduction of new services has certainly made a difference to the overall productivity of organisations and people within them. However, the limiting factor here is the initial level of ‘job-fit’ that has been achieved.

A person who would generally be more suited to a different job role, would be much more productive in the role with higher job-fit. Cognisess uses machine learning and advanced job profile matching based on cognitive performance assessments and social cohesion measures to maximise job-fit. This leads to higher performance with higher perceived motivation by the employees, and reduced churn.


–          What is the future of assistive technology such as machine learning in the workplace and how will employees embrace the technology?

Assistive technology such as machine learning will change the workplace dramatically in the next few years, and has already begun doing so. Cognisess already uses machine learning to create ‘best-match’ job profilers using millions of data points, including language use and text analysis. This helps athletes enhance their performance by understanding how their brain operates best.

For employees, embracing machine learning provides valuable insights. Having this information available will be a significant improvement to job satisfaction in many areas of work, as guesswork can be taken out of the equation when making decisions. Given the powerful Azure platform and live data feeds to ML, waiting for quarterly reports can be eliminated, as real time data allows for the best decision making background – at any point in time.


–          What do you see as the biggest market trends in 2017 and 2018?  

According to Bersin, some of the big upcoming market trends include performance management and real-time engagement evaluation. Cognisess has regular feedback built in to the system, alongside online assessments, all accessible by mobile.

There are increasing numbers of tools such as jobs boards, candidate assessments, video interviews and application tracking systems all designed to streamline the process of hiring. And there has also been growth in the area of wellness and fitness monitoring, which Cognisess also includes in its offering.

The field of people analytics has exploded, increasing diversity in the workplace and allowing predictions to be made on which people will perform best in certain roles. In this area, machine learning and automation are the big trends. Cognisess Deep Learn™ machine learning engine enables complex data to be combined and used to predict future success.


–          What does the industry need to do better to help companies?

Cognisess offers an all in one solution to significantly reduce the cost and time taken to get recruitment technology into effect within businesses.

In a recent article from ERE Media, Unilever described their use of a multi-platform process. The first step is an application and LinkedIn sync, the second a Pymetrics assessment, the third a HireVue video interview, before a full day even at Unilever. This all makes up a two-week process.

In contrast, Cognisess provides the ability to complete an application that includes comprehensive assessments, written information and a video interview all in one, reducing time and cost.


–          How do you see the employee experience evolving and what technologies will they be drawn to in the future?

Cognisess’ all in one approach not only benefits employers, but candidates too. Accessing one simple and intuitive platform where they can follow through clear steps to fill in their details, complete assessments, and record video interview responses.

And once employed, these individuals can go on to receive 360 feedback from their colleagues, monitor their own health and wellbeing, and continually monitor their skills and improve their self awareness and personal development.


For more information on the Cognisess platform and the Cognisess Deep Learn™ machine learning engine, contact us at

Apprenticeship Levy: Selecting the right apprentice with Cognisess

In April 2017 the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy will begin, with all companies with a total pay bill of over £3million having to give 0.5% of this to the Government to fund apprenticeships.

With more young apprentices being hired, often with little or no previous work experience, Cognisess provides a way to select those most likely to succeed.

As an organisation hiring young apprentices, it’s easy to worry about the risks. Without prior work experience or a good knowledge of the work they would like to do, some young people may be more likely to leave a job. However, the benefits of finding the right young people who will fit the culture of your company and develop quickly are significant.

Skills Training UK – an employability provider – states that 92% of employers who take on apprentices believe that apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce*. Hiring an apprentice who works their way up the ranks of your organisation means they know your business inside out.

By analysing cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, behaviour, core skills and personality, Cognisess Deep Learn™ helps to match the right people with the right roles for their unique talents and skillset.

Apprenticeships are a great way of addressing skills shortages, and we can help to identify those who will flourish.

Get in touch with us at to find out more about how we can help you to recruit the best apprentices for your business.

Cognisess attends first ever Microsoft Founders’ Summit

For the first time, an international group of founders from 40 Microsoft Accelerator startup alumni came together to share what they’ve learnt. Cognisess CEO, Chris Butt, was part of the 2 day event held at Chicheley Hall, north of London.

Cognisess is an alumus of the scheme, having completed the programme in 2014. The Microsoft Founders’ Summit was an opportunity for founders from London, Paris, Bangalore, Berlin, and Seattle to come together, regardless of product lifecycle stage.

There were presentations on sales and communication techniques, tips on hiring the best talent and working on key company values, and a session on listening and negotiating, with founders also talking about their own experiences.

Chris Butt, CEO said: “Being with founders who are going through the same pain is invaluable and unquantifiable. It really is a marathon and building resilience is part of what makes a successful entrepreneur and business.”

Chris was recently a panellist in the selection process for the next cohort of promising tech entrepreneurs to be part of the Microsoft Accelerator.

A total of 24 companies were in the running to become part of the scheme, which provides the tools, resources, connections, knowledge and expertise to grow a successful company.

Microsoft said: “We are focusing on driving real business impact for the companies we work with so the rigour involved in the selection process in critical.”

Others on the panel included Gonzalo Ruiz, MSFT Accelerator CTO, Erica Young, Partner at Anthemis, Shweta Sharma, MSFT Accelerator Mentor, Gurminder Panesar, Wiggin, and Alec Saunders, Senior Director of MSFT Growth Partners.

For more information on the Microsoft Founders’ Summit, take a look at the Founders’ Summit 2017 Mashup video.

Cognisess attends Mercer’s Future of Work Night in partnership with Bloomberg

Cognisess CEO, Chris Butt, and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Boris Altemeyer, presented the Cognisess platform and Cognisess Deep Learn™ machine learning engine to senior figures in the recruitment world at Mercer‘s Future of Work Night, in partnership with Bloomberg

The night began with a panel discussion “How will we prepare our businesses for the future?”, followed by six HR tech startups, including Cognisess, presenting their new thinking.

Fiona Dunsire, CEO of Mercer, described Cognisess as “a disruptive recruitment tool for 16-25 year old segment”, while others commented on the work of Cognisess democratising human capital.

Chris at Future of Work NightThe panel included Helen Shan, CFO at Mercer, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Research and editor of ‘The Future of Business’, Cy Murray, Global Head of Reward and HR Policy at Apollo Tyres, and David Wood, Radical real-world futurist and Chair of London Futurists.

Chris said: “According to Mercer, 65% current primary children will work in new job types that don’t exist yet – what a stat. Our aim is to better equip students for the jobs of the future, whatever they may be, by focussing on cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, behaviour and personality rather than previous experience and skills.”

For more information on the Cognisess platform and Cognisess Deep Learn™, visit our press page or contact us at