Sam Joukhadar on: How SEB scaled their talent internally and increased their fill rate by 8%

Sam Joukhadar on: How SEB scaled their talent internally and increased their fill rate by 8%

  • 40 minutes
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Ep 25

In the face of a talent shortage, an AI revolution, and tightening budgets, talent acquisition leaders face a new challenge: How to prove the value of talent to their businesses.

One area that’s gaining attention is internal mobility, where talent acquisition and talent management are no longer seen as separate functions. As companies approach talent more holistically, is it time to redefine how we view talent?

On this episode of How We Hire, we spoke to Sam Joukhadar, Global Head of Talent Acquisition at SEB. Sam recently spearheaded a highly successful internal mobility initiative that saw SEB’s fill rate jump from 20% to 28%. Sam shares his strategy for coping with the significant challenges around internal mobility and offers advice on how TA leaders can prove the value of their teams and win.

Key takeaways

  • Why internal mobility matters and how to include it in your talent strategy
  • How to get buy-in from stakeholders and managers and turn internal mobility into an accepted process
  • Step-by-step formula to shaping your own internal recruitment process

On the show

Sam Joukhadar Global Head of Talent Acquisition at SEB
Linnea Bywall
Linnea Bywall Head of People & Operations at Alva Labs

Sam Joukhadar

Sam Joukhadar  is the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at SEB. Sam is an expert in everything to do with hiring, and is passionate about modernising and reorganising talent acquisition. Sam has an extensive background in TA,  and extends that experience and insight into talent acquisition and recruitment, making him an excellent resource for anyone looking to improve their recruitment strategies and drive organisational success. 

Linnea Bywall

Linnea Bywall is a former NCAA athlete turned licensed psychologist – and Head of People at Alva Labs. Linnea was recently listed as one of the most inspiring women in tech by TechRound and was featured as one of the 22 Innovative HR Leaders to follow in 2022 by AIHR Academy to Innovate HR. 

From attracting and hiring to onboarding and growing Alva's employees, Linnea's main mission is to change the world of hiring every day by challenging biases in recruitment.



  • Introduction-1:02
  • Making the case for internal mobility-Tips on getting buy-in from stakeholders -6:47
  • How SEB run its internal mobility pilot programs-10:11
  • Why internal mobility matters and how to include it in your talent strategy-14:04
  • What is it that people get wrong about internal mobility-16:50 
  • How to get managers to let go of retaining their talent to their team-19:07
  • Actionble tips on turning internal mobiltiy from a concept to an accepted process-22:01
  • The power of involving your employees to create internal opportunities for themselves and their colleagues-24:45
  • How the internal recruitment process differentias from external recruitment-27:15
  • How to evaluate employee candidates for internal roles-33:29
  • The percentage of hiring bias you cannot control and how to work around this-37:51
  • Tips on kickstarting your own internal mobility program-44:24

How We Hire Podcast Episode 25 Transcript

Sam Joukhadar (00:00):

So, when we are saying 100% that hire for potential and train for skills, we really mean it, and that's the main essence and core for all recruitment externally and internally. So, I'm not going to be surprised anymore when managers start to understand that even with a senior position, I can recruit someone who's more junior who scored very high in certain areas that are needed, and invest in that person and see similar results, maybe in a longer period of time, but eventually we're going to get there.

Linnea (00:35):

Welcome to How We Hire, a podcast by Alva Labs, with me, Linnea, licensed psychologist and head of people. This show is for all of you who hire or just find recruitment interesting. In every episode I will speak with thought leaders from across the globe to learn from their experiences and best practices within hiring, building teams and growing organizations.


Our guest on today's episode is Sam Joukhadar, the global head of talent acquisition at SEB. Sam is an expert in everything hiring, passionate about modernizing and reorganizing talent acquisition. Sam comes from a long background of roles within TA, but working with HR. Sam used to work as an instructor engineer in many universities. Sam's extensive experience and insight in talent acquisition and recruitment makes him an excellent resource for anyone looking to improve their recruitment strategies and drive organizational success. Welcome to How We Hire, Sam.

Sam Joukhadar (01:37):

Thank you, Linnea. What an intro. I feel like super hero, like Captain America. Brilliant.

Linnea (01:44):

Exactly. A lot to live up to now. So, we will focus mainly on internal mobility and internal hiring, which I know is a topic that is close to heart. But before we dive into that, can't you just share a little bit about your background, how you became the global head of talent at SEB?

Sam Joukhadar (02:05):

I don't know how I became the global head of talent. So, I think it was a different kind of incidence that led to that position in general. But I'll start from beginning. I moved to Sweden 2014. Originally I'm from Syria when the war started. And then back in the time I was still working with mainly focusing on IT and working within this engineering area, and then came to Sweden. It was cold, this first reaction I remember. So, I was just standing in front of [foreign language 00:02:39] three or four days, not knowing where should I go or what should I do, and it was pretty cold. And then at that situation I felt like it's maybe I should not just focus only on IT and explore different areas and just expand my search in circle. And recruitment was one of them and I found it very interesting.


So, I applied for certain positions within recruitment and I got the job, and then started working there as a technical recruitment 2015, then became manager and after that started working with SEB. And here when I was introduced to them and I realized that they are missing, they're not covering all aspects of recruitment and they can do really more, so I give them a call one day and that's what happened. "Hi guys, I feel that you lack in this and this and that, and I'm willing to support you creating this function for you. If you're crazy enough to jump on this board both with me and have some faith that we can make it, then I'll be more than happy to drive this change for you." And that was it. So, we started 2019. We were three persons. They didn't have any functions about recruitment internally. Everything at that scenario was outsourced. And then they made it as a pilot and the pilot was successful. And today we are more than 60, 70 persons spread out in different locations. So, this is how I end up in this position.

Linnea (04:07):

That's really cool. What was it that you saw that they needed and that you felt that you could bring?

Sam Joukhadar (04:12):

I felt like back in the time we didn't have this, for example, assessment like Alva. We didn't have a clear process. Recruitment agencies and external partners were taking the biggest part of how we run recruitment in a bank. So, you end up in different processes internally and different views around what is valuable, what is not. Also, I felt like they can do way more in terms of how to focus on the potentials instead of just reading CVs and stuff. So, that was the angle when I felt that there could be an extra job done there.

Linnea (04:48):

You curated some fascinating results of how much money they saved to bring home recruitment. Can't you just brag a little bit?

Sam Joukhadar (04:59):

Actually we're saving millions and we're still interested in having collaboration with strong suppliers in the market because I believe that it's in our strategic interest to keep connected to some strong recruitment agencies who are providing specialized services in certain aspects and certain areas. But in general, we're saving millions per year, more than 50 millions in each of the legal entities. And we are mainly legal entities spread out in different countries. So, that was a successful scenario. But it was painful as well because recruitment is something related to day-to-day routines for the managers and to implement big of a change starting from change in the ATA system, including a new process for recruitment, increase the phases in certain areas and decrease the phases in certain area, include new technical assessment solutions, psychometric partners to help us with focusing on the potentials.


Also including a lot of processes internally, referrals, gigging. It wasn't an easy journey to do it when we are 17,500 employees, but we got a lot of support from our managers and they believed in us. That sometimes you realize how important it is, the stakeholder connections and the buy-in from the middle level of management, not only tops. This is very important because those are the one who's driving those initiatives in a practical way. So, yeah, it's been a fantastic four and a half years.

Linnea (06:39):

Given the importance of stakeholder management, when you look back at it, what was it that made it work?

Sam Joukhadar (06:47):

So, if you take the internal mobility as such, as a topic, it's very sensitive. Because you need to start from different angles. First of all, you need to start with setting definitions about sharing economy, which is not a new concept in the market, but a lot of us are more used to this headcounts concept, that those are employees and I have an access to those people and I can just as a manager or as a product owner or I can just distribute the task based on the team members I have. To change that perspective and start pushing the organization towards that, "Okay, guys, we need to think differently. We need first to identify the talents we have in this team, what kind of strength they have, to what certain percentage they are utilizing those skills and what is the remaining part that is not fully used, and then how I can see my team as a pool of skills, of talent, and use it in the right direction. And more than that, how to start sharing it with other teams."


So, that was the biggest mindset change when we are encouraging managers to start sharing their resources. So, start it with this. If you work so much on that then and get on a second level the buy-in from the managers and then have a clear processes around how to do this long-term gig and a long-term sharing of resources supported of financially. How we going to share the cost of those employees if it's divided between two areas, for example. How we going to just address the things we have in terms of contracts? There is a lot of legal things behind this. What are we going to do in case that a person wasn't in the same local geographical area? And also, how to convince the managers with data to make a better kind of decisions.


And especially when we talk about prediction and proactive actions. So, what we did is we did the pilot at the beginning when we start to really convince the managers that, okay, we need to shift the focus to share some people across. At the same time we're going to start to focus on proactive recruitment internally. So, we are predicting that you're going to end up in this situation in this month of the year based on the data that you had with your staff in the last three, four years. So, we managed to convince them by data, by clear process, by understanding the benefits of doing internal recruitment, internal mobility. And some of them went with us. Some of them didn't. So, it wasn't a success from the beginning.


I remember the first pilot we did, it was 95% of the managers find it extremely difficult to share their talents or accept that their talents will be included or headhunted internally by the talent acquisition department to another managers, which is a very natural reaction. Then you need to be consistent and talk more and more and more that if you give, you will take from other teams and by having this very smooth movement between the areas you eventually you will be the one who's beneficial. And it happened after that, but it took us more than two years of talking in order to change the mindset.

Linnea (10:08):

And in this pilot, what was part of that?

Sam Joukhadar (10:11):

We started with technology as a department because there is the turnover rates and the challenges in the market. So, what we did at the beginning is we asked the manager if it would be okay to study their team. So, we started identifying the turnover related to certain roles. Let's say that, Linnea, you're working within HR. So, what is the benchmark study around turnover rate for people who have your profession? Is it two years and a half? Okay, we registered this in our systems. And then when our employees are so close to get to that percentage, like that timeline, then we give them a call from HR. "Hi, you've been sitting in your position for two years and a half and we're so happy that you are happy in your position and stuff. And if you are willing to change job, we have this opportunities for you."


So, that's the predictive approach based on data and based on the turnover rate. So, this is one of the pilots that we did. And before we get in contact with those people, we contact their manager first and ask for an approval. "Is it okay to contact your team?" And that's the tough part because some of them will say yes. Some of them will say, "I need those talents. I work so much to get them where they are and then to let go, it's so difficult." And for some other managers it's super good because they see a potential in how we can develop the talents internally instead of losing them externally. And that was one of the pilots that we did.


The second pilot is we are launching right now, which is giving a possibility for people to think differently. I don't want to be labeled, Linnea, as head of talent acquisition anymore. I want to be labeled as, I'm a person who has the skills, use me wherever you want. I'm good with people. If I find there is an area who can just increase that kind of interest that I have, then it should be part of my role. Recruitment should be other parts. Working with sales should be a third part. So, what we are providing right now to SEB, anew hybrid way of creating your own profile.


Let's not be sticked all the time to what the job description is telling you. And we are launching this now in May when everyone can have a possibility to have a certain percentage of specific roles even if they don't align altogether. I can be, for example, IT technician and a receptionist. I can be a lawyer and working with a finance aspect. I can be someone coming from financial sector and working with marketing. And we going to give a chance for people first to analyze their backgrounds, understand their strength, understand their potentials. And we're using Alva for this, by the way. Once you identify your strength, then how can I fully use it? Is it communication with people? Is it social aspects with making connections? Is it facilitation? Is it presentation? Is it numbers? Is it attention to details? And what kind of possibilities I have across the company?


Then I reach out to those managers and tell them, "Hey, I see myself working 60% there, 30% there, 10% there." And that's what we are aiming to do, changing the really traditional way of looking at a job. Especially right now with AI, you need to be forced into proceeding in that direction because it's affecting our life in a big time. So, right now talent acquisition as a function is a bit merging big time with both employer branding and with AI. So, you need to be broader in terms of how to handle your future.

Linnea (13:53):

I have a gazillion follow-up questions but I guess it's still worth to just take a step back and, why is internal mobility such an important part of a company's talent strategy?

Sam Joukhadar (14:04):

Brilliant. I think it's regardless of the cost saving that you're doing by focusing on internal talent, I think it provides a brilliant opportunity for our staff to grow. It will shorten the onboarding period for upper managers, provide a different mindset and fresh views, and connect different departments between each other by sharing this knowledge and experiences, and make it easier to communicate instead of just working in silos. Also, I think that it's important to increase the level of engagement by providing a secure career path for our employees internally. Now we're going through a difficult times and there is a different crisis around us, and the geopolitical situation is affecting us big time. So, how to make sure that you provide stability. And stability doesn't mean that you sit in your position for five years. Stability is to have options within your current employer even and grow. So, from all this angles we shift the focus from externally to internally.

Linnea (15:10):

I think this is truly inspiring. And just out of curiosity, how common is it that organizations in your size are this provocative and new-thinking when it comes to internal mobility?

Sam Joukhadar (15:22):

Not common. We are, especially as a bank, very traditional and conservative in terms of addressing change. And if I tell you that my life is super easy and whatever I want, I make it happen in SEB, despite all the love that I have for SEB, I will be a bit exaggerated. I think as any other big constitution and organization like SEB, change needs time. So, you need really to be persistent in what you want, clear in your communication, addressing five steps ahead in terms of drawing a picture that is accurate. And you need really to have a trust of the people around you. So, what helped me is, okay, we promised that we are going to do a successful pilot in terms of including this in-house team and we made it.


We promised with other things, we made it. So, having the trust of the manager really helped, but it was with a huge level of resistance in certain areas, which is normal. Doubts. Even some managers were really not fully understanding the concept. But the more you are resilient in terms of addressing how do they think, the easier it become. But a change without a struggle, without a resistance, is not a change. So, that's why I feel so happy when we are driving it. And now we are almost at the end of it, so I think people are more relaxed.

Linnea (16:52):

And you mentioned a lot of resistance, a lot of, I guess, concerns. What is it that people get wrong about internal mobility? Do you have some examples from when you implemented it? What freaked people out?

Sam Joukhadar (17:03):

I think from both sides. We did a lot of mistakes and some managers were really... The biggest mistake we did at the beginning when we tried this is we didn't connected our theories to clear data. And then we thought that by presenting a big concept like sharing your talent internally or proactive recruitment based on data and predictions metrics, that we are providing a solution. And then we forget that managers needs to be included in the decision making. So, we take a step back. We took a step back, provided data, paused the project, got the buy-in from the managers, and then we kick off the entire project. But most of the things what manager thought, it's that it's not fair that I, for example, let's consider me, manager x, I put 30% of my time developing my talent and 40% recruiting my staff and 10% having a great psychological safety environment and a great dynamic between everyone, while other manager, like let's say manager y, put only 10%, 10%, 10%, and then you're taking my talent and putting it there. It doesn't feel fair.


I work so much for this so I don't want you to take my resources. And that's kind of questions we addressed in different locations. And some of them are right. Some of them are really putting so much emphasis on how important teams are and I hope that the majority are doing this. So, this is one of the questions. But the more you talk to the managers and try to put to what is beneficial for you as an organization, the easiest this task become. And then of course what we did is we set clear KPIs for the managers. What is the percentage that you want really to share with other teams so it becomes fair for everyone? But those were the kind of things we faced at the beginning.

Linnea (19:00):

You make it sound so easy now. Like "Oh, we had some resistance and then now everyone's on board." How did you actually solve that?

Sam Joukhadar (19:07):

Lots of one-on-ones. Lots of [inaudible 00:19:12]. Lots of nice lunches. A lot of communication that took place. And in certain situation we use many great examples and role models to promote for the concept. We use a lot of popular profiles in the company to be our ambassadors to push it forward, starting from your big head of divisions and stuff. We brought a lot of external people and specialists to talk about this topic to convince our managers even. Because it's something to hear it from us internally and something to hear it from different scientists outside the organization. And it's still difficult. So, we're not 100% there.

Linnea (19:58):

But that sounds like a good strategy with bringing in external experts and sharing good examples, but also taking the time to, I guess, convince the important people with, it sounds like, bribe lunches and one-on-ones.

Sam Joukhadar (20:17):

If you can summarize it.

Linnea (20:20):

That's fantastic. No, but I think you should never underestimate the need to spend time on internal stakeholder management and getting people on board. I think that's a smart move and I think we can all learn something from your journey there. So, I think it's relevant to highlight.

Sam Joukhadar (20:39):

Linnea, it happened in different occasions regardless of what is internal mobility as a topic. When we tried to implement Alva Labs in a company that was even a bigger kind of topic because many were against, many were supportive. And then when you tried not only to include it, to change the process to apply this for all the candidates at the beginning, that was a bigger of a topic as well. How are you going to scale the candidate? [inaudible 00:21:08] leave with all these questions. And eventually you need to have some pilots. Pilot is the magic word for everything if you want to just really make things happen. Have a pilot, get the results, have alternative scenarios, compare the results together and present them to the managers. So, this is what happens when you do case A, case B, case C. What is your decision? And that's where we are today. Work in progress about everything and many, many pilots.

Linnea (21:35):

I think that's a tip to the bank, which is a good comparison in this conversation given where you work. You mentioned that you will now investigate and assess the talent that you have so that you can more easily share those talents in between teams and departments. But can't you just explain a little bit about how does the internal mobility process look at SEB?

Sam Joukhadar (22:01):

So, first it's like we have a smart department internally called learning and development. And learning and development, they have invested millions in terms of upskilling, reskilling potential talent inside the bank. So, all our employees got access to this platform when they will be provided with different kind of courses, majority of them are free of charge, to really upscale themselves. So, that's step number one, understanding as I mentioned, your strength, your potential, doing many assessment internally. At the same time, make sure how to be able to communicate around your strength with your direct manager. That's step number one. Step number two is having a clear procedures that allow people to move between departments. Clear recruitment processes. Like, "What should I do if I was interested in this area. If I identify my strength and where I want to work, how will I make the next step? To whom should I reach out? To which department?"


So, we need to make sure that this is clear for our employees as well. Third part is more about technicalities related to everything. The cost, the salaries, the movement, the transfer internally, the contract, all of this. You need to make sure that you're on top of that and provide an easy and smooth process for those people to do it. And last of thing is how to follow up. Because we're providing those solutions on the longer run. We're not asking you to move for three, four months. You can just stay in the setup for five years if you want to. You can have this hybrid way of working or just move to another department permanently. It's up to you to decide the frame that you want to work. So, a flexibility from us as an employer and provide that kind of safety that your job is still there if you want to go somewhere else. And you can try and you can go back here or you can just move permanently if you feel 100% safe.


So, that needs to be incorporated in their back of their minds as well. So, those are the steps that we followed. But it all starts with the manager's support, because they are the one who's having direct connections with their team. They are the one who's just left with red flags around certain potential levers and they communicate with HR. So, we reach out to those people and try really to provide different opportunities internally. So, in order to make internal mobility work, you have different elements: the employees, the managers, HR, with the support with the systems enabling this process to work.

Linnea (24:38):

Do I understand you correctly where the initiative is quite heavily driven by the employees themselves?

Sam Joukhadar (24:45):

Yes, for now it is right now. But however we have in this prediction formula that is based on data, we have the liberty in many, many situations to reach out directly to the employees as I was telling you and tell them that, "Hey, you're that close to be closer to what the benchmark is telling us that you're about to leave. We want to check up. Are you doing okay? Are you considering?" So, we do this with one of the biggest divisions that proactively we reach out to people. We don't wait for them. So, it goes both ways, not only this direction.

Linnea (25:19):

Have you seen any results from that? Can you see that people are staying for longer by doing so?

Sam Joukhadar (25:25):

Yes, I think especially when it comes to the developers. We saw that developers within specific areas, C-sharp and Java, are staying a bit longer. And it's a difficult time, Linnea, to be transparent, to judge how successful the project is. We think it's successful. However, there is external circumstances that made it even more successful, that what are we going on with this inflation and a risk of recession. So, people are scared. So, when they are a bit more worried around what is happening in market, they have a tendency to stay put where they are. But if you look at the percentage of movement inside the bank and the turnover rate in general especially within some tech areas, it has been increased.

Linnea (26:08):

Oh, that's fantastic. And how many of a percentage of all the roles that you need to fill can you fill with internal candidates?

Sam Joukhadar (26:16):

I don't have clear numbers actually. I do have clear numbers but they're not there. But I think what we managed to do, we moved that... It's an approximate kind of percentage, we are approximately went from 20% to 28% in the last year.

Linnea (26:34):

Wow. In a year you moved it from 20 to 28%?

Sam Joukhadar (26:39):

Yes, and our target is even to go through around 35%, but we are a big organization as well. We're 17,500. So, it's easier. And it's more difficult when you are smaller size of organization, of course.

Linnea (26:52):

Yeah. And I guess, because one thing that I feel that a lot of organizations are doing wrong when it comes to internal mobility is that they assume that they know the candidate and therefore know how they will perform in a different area, which might not be the case. How does your internal recruitment process differentiate from your external recruitment process?

Sam Joukhadar (27:16):

That's a brilliant question because usually this is a very common mistake when we think that we know what is best for our staff, and then sometimes it's like we forget simply just to ask the question, "Where do you see yourself," and challenge people in general. So, in order to be able to address this change internally, we had to change our profiles internally inside SEB as well. So, from talent acquisition we moved to digital talent acquisition, which is less focused on headhunting externally and more focused on the interactions digitally through different channels, whether they are covering the employees internally or externally.


At the same time, in order to be able to give an advice for the employees to make the right decision, we had to change our profiles to become more advisory. And becoming an advisor is not an easy steps. You need really to understand your organization, have a great knowledge of the area that you're covering, be equipped with some sort of solutions or systems that can give you the benchmark around what is potential roles for this specific person based on his or her profile. And the same time being able to understand the vacancies and understand where I can place people. So, we had to change internally to address those movement internally. We had to move from being talent acquisition that is focusing so much on getting the candidates, headhunting externally, LinkedIn, et cetera to become more of an advisors.


And have lots of discussions with our managers and create networks internally so we have a internal talent pool when we can interact with our employees and provide the different opportunities within their brands. So, that kind of shift we had to do and that's the main difference. We don't provide so much advisors for external candidates as much as we do it internally. Internally it feels like each one of our employees who are interested to change, they will get more of an advisor to become their buddy along the way. We don't have that possibility externally.

Linnea (29:24):

And this gets me super excited because I think a lot of the ongoing discussion now around talent acquisition with AI and ChatGPT and you won't need a recruiter because you can do all of those things with AI. I think this is exactly where more organization needs to go to, where they need to take the step away from just admin and InMails and just solving a bulk problem to being a truly strategic partner.

Sam Joukhadar (29:54):

Yeah. And actually that is the core of our people's strategy that we have designed and developed and adjusted in the Q1 this year. Because we are anticipating that the market is taking us into a direction that is really needed to take some actions from today. So, we put this five steps that we think talent acquisition is going into that direction and step number one is, I think that we need to start investing in our staff to broaden their scopes to cover different tasks, especially when it comes to employer branding area and talent management area and working more and more with data. Also, we think that they need to be smarter in terms of how they use all these tools within AI and see it as an opportunity and find the ways, regardless of what kind of policies you have internally and GGPI and all of this, to put it in use in order, as you said, to reduce the administrative task.


Also, we transferred the staff to become more digital, so less manual headhunting on LinkedIn and stuff. Instead of that, interact using the power of digital marketing, so how you do campaign, how to do targets groups, how to use Google Analytics for example in order to identify where are your talents. So, that kind of directions when talent acquisition should invest more. Then focus on the advisory and emphasize on the strategic thinking. And here is the most important point, that people should understand that talent acquisition is becoming all about market awareness, strategic workforce planning, supporting big recruitment initiatives, project management, and you need to be ready to handle that kind of nature of work. Also, understanding the full potential of people is important, including talent acquisition. So, how they merge their role with different areas, especially when it comes to the, as I mentioned, data insights and employer branding. Soon those three functions will be all merged in a way, so everything will be digitalized. So, you're right in your analysis. It's important to take steps for now.

Linnea (32:17):

And so we just have to get back up now. You just went over these five parts of your people strategy, right? Okay. So, the first one was broader roles. The second one was leverage tools.

Sam Joukhadar (32:28):

Yes. And the third one is focus on advisor emphasis on this strategic thinking. The fourth one is sharing economy and full potential employment to understand your strength and start utilize this in different sectors. And the fifth one is becoming more familiar with employer branding and data insights and include that in your day-to-day routines.

Linnea (32:50):

I think those are good headlines to bring with you. If you haven't started working on those five things, I guess you can steal with pride from this podcast.

Sam Joukhadar (33:01):

Yes, and I think we still need a few years before we are there in general. It's happening very fast, faster than what we think.

Linnea (33:08):

Yeah. Going back then to the process of internal versus the process of external, you mentioned that you are more of an advisory and that you kind of hold candidates hand more when it comes to the internal part. But when it comes then the assessment part, how do you evaluate if someone is [inaudible 00:33:24] for a position? Does that differ when it comes to external versus internal candidate?

Sam Joukhadar (33:29):

Some people might think that I'm right now more of a bias to Alva Labs and that's why I'm having this. Actually it's not. I really truly believe that you guys have changed our lives internally and externally. Because of you, I'm going to take this opportunity while you ask these questions, our perspective around what is important in our recruitment process has changed. So, when we are saying 100% that hire for potential and train for skills, we really mean it. And that's the main essence and core for all recruitment, externally and internally. So, I'm not going to be surprised anymore when managers start to understand that even with a senior position, I can recruit someone who's more junior who scored very high in certain areas that are needed, and invest in that person and see similar results, maybe in a longer period of time, but eventually we're going to get there.


So, that was a great start by having this data to support you making decisions at the very early stage of the process. Because we were doing it completely wrong. We were doing the assessment at the end. Now we're doing it at the beginning, and we have planned to do it for all the roles at the beginning because we're not 100% there. But the question for you was assessment by default is for all the people who are applying for SEB. It's like they're getting this assessment at the beginning. There is some roles when some managers still scared that if you do the assessment at the early stage we might lose some candidates, but we are in dialogue with them because we really want them to change their perspective. We are a big company with standards as well and the candidate need to understand externally that I'm doing this assessment not to be evaluated.


I'm doing this assessment to find the compatibility with this specific role, understand myself, and then find a job that's really in line with my skills and my potential so I become happier. So, we are going into that direction when externally they do this profile assessment and then after that they start meeting the hiring managers and the team and start doing the other things. The technical assessment, however, we're doing it at later stages and we're doing it today with Alva Labs. Internally there is a different kind of approach. So, some roles we are doing assessment if you are moving into a more complex situation.


So, we have these different test profiles where we can compare, especially if you are taking a managerial position. So, we need really to give insights to the managers around what to expect when you hire that person as a manager. And sometimes we are doing it when it comes to having drastic change in the role description. But the benefit of having one assessment for our employees and the majority of them did it, is that you can use this test profile in all discussions. So, you don't need anymore just to do it over and over and over, and all what you have to do is to compare it to different profile to really adjust the results. So, we don't do this fully internally as much as we're doing it externally.

Linnea (36:38):

But it sounds like still that you want to make sure that you make the right decision and you want to base that on relevant data points, but you can still adapt depending on what type of role that you're hiring for internally or externally. I think that makes sense.

Sam Joukhadar (36:54):

If it was in my control I would've just made it a mandatory step for everyone. I think I wouldn't dare to jump to any position for me myself without being equipped with clear data about the matching percentage. Because eventually we're doing a lot of biases and we're doing a lot of judgment and decisions based on what do we think is right, but where is science on this and how can just I really validate my decision if things change in the market? So, I think it's really subjective. Recruitment is very subjective, so we need to make it more evidence-based and scientific-based by having those assessments.

Linnea (37:35):

Yeah. No, for sure. I feel kind of blind when recruiting when I don't have that kind of data so I wouldn't be able to make a decision because then I would be too dependent on my own liking of that person and-

Sam Joukhadar (37:49):


Linnea (37:49):

... that doesn't help me.

Sam Joukhadar (37:51):

Can I share with you something that I was not supposed to talk about it so I cannot just reveal so much details? But I'm being transparent. My team here in Sweden, talking about Sweden here right now, are really trained to really understand their unconscious bias. They're really trained and we have many lectures about how to analyze, how to really make a decision, how you really understand the profile you have in a very objective way and, based on that, provide advice for the hiring managers. And I wanted to test this. So, we got a great opportunity from some PhD people who did a study on my entire team here in Sweden. And the study was to connect their brains with eye tracking system and provide a different images that has different profiles. And those people, they have certain names and stuff, and ask them a lot of questions and test their decision making in terms of how unbiased they are.


This wasn't only SEB. There was another two big companies and I cannot, of course, reveal their names. So, our test results came. It was great. I was so happy with that, [inaudible 00:39:08]. And in comparison to the other two companies, it shows that there is an awareness around the unconscious bias that I have. But were we bias-free? No. Would we ever be bias-free? I don't think so. So, that's really, really shocked me so much when I was... Even the results were really good, but still there is a percentage of bias that you cannot control. It's stronger than you. Even if you made the decision, Linnea, in saying that, "Okay, I'm not going to bias," but what shows the study that your brain had in that particular second worked against what you made up your decision. So, your brain was really biased regardless of what you did. And that scared me so much. And I remember, I went from the meeting despite that everyone were happy and I said that even this small percentage, we need really, really to have assessments because we are not going to survive without it.

Linnea (40:02):

Thank you for sharing. And I think you put your finger on something so important, but also so human. I often use myself as an example. I have worked with recruitment for 10 years now. I'm a licensed psychologist. I've studied psychology for seven years. I still suck at assessing people just based on my gut feeling. I'm a trained professional that should be able to understand people. I'm still only human. So, I think you make a good point of we can reach a certain aspect of a bias and by training and talking about it and really be mindful, but we will never truly solve it completely.


The only thing that will [inaudible 00:40:47] at the end of the day is a structured process with relevant methods to evaluate candidates. If we then go back a little bit to this internal mobility, because you sit at an organization with 17,000, I sit in an organization with 70 people. I'm still super excited to start using some of your tips and tricks that you've shared here. But for the listeners, if they are intrigued, how should one, I don't know, evaluate if internal mobility is something that you should invest in?

Sam Joukhadar (41:19):

I think internal mobility regardless of the size of the organization is needed everywhere. Of course the mechanism, how you do it and how easy it become and flexibility, because sometimes you need certain people in certain positions. And even if you're going to end up in that kind of conflicted situation when, should I think more of what is best for those talents that I have inside the organization, or I always should think of my business? And that's a very valid point. It's easier when you have a bigger scope with larger size of organization, but I think it's important for everyone. And as I said that it could be easier with internal, with a smaller size of organization, to really start moving and talking about identifying the potential of the people and see them as a pool of skills instead of just 70 persons. You might be 70 persons having, say, 400 different skills and that's how to use those things and move into this agility when I just make decisions based on the skills, not based on who is doing what.


From that angle, I think you need to do that eventually because I don't have clear statistic around the percentage of potential that we're using in specific roles for our staff. It varies from position to another. But what I'm certain of is none of us is using today 100% of his skills or her skills in the role they're doing. There is more that you can give. So, from that perspective, I think that it's important for everyone and it's even more beneficial for the companies. Imagine that there is many of your staff today who are finishing their job in less time and they can do even more. And some people they need longer time because that could be different reasons of course. So, how to make that equation easy for everyone? So, it's only about focusing on skills and moving into easier situations of moving talent based on the needs.

Linnea (43:26):

I think this is a really just fresh way to view employees and talent because it's not just, as you say, a number of headcounts. This is how many people we have. We have 400, maybe in your case 400,000 different skills that you can play around with and play 3D chess with within your organization.

Sam Joukhadar (43:46):

And then if you have a system internally to measure this, do you imagine the possibilities when you have any projects? So, it would be endless possibilities.

Linnea (43:56):

Yeah. Okay, so if people are as pumped as me, what would be the quickest, most cost-efficient way to get started?

Sam Joukhadar (44:05):

If you are interested to find a job?

Linnea (44:09):

No, no.

Sam Joukhadar (44:11):


Linnea (44:12):

I have a job that I kind of like. But if you're as pumped to start working with internal mobility in-house, how should you get going?

Sam Joukhadar (44:24):

First, if you don't have a system internally to do this right now, ATS system is connected to Suite Systems called Talent Management Systems. And this usually talent management system identified the employees that you have and they have a clear description about their skills and profiles. If you don't have this, start with something else. Go to LinkedIn. Create a pool of your employees and emphasize on the portals that you guys should all have profiles, and then create a pool of that and start really to assess this pool from that angle. So, have a control over the talent that you have. LinkedIn could support you. And some people will question this. They said that if I encourage my employees to have LinkedIn profile that I will increase the risk that they will be attracted by other companies. You should not think from that mindset because the benefits of understanding your employees is way higher.


Once you have this pool internally, then start by analyzing the strength that you have inside your team and this pool, and then connect that to data related to the turnover rates. Get those statistics. Either you get them from market or you get a bit previously on the data you have from HR about specific roles and how long they stayed in your organization. This number should be available in this organization. Once you identify the strength and the talent you have, and then identify the turnover, start having the communications with those talents internally. Keep an eye on them. Have a systematic way to address this and notification systems when they can just tell you that this person is reaching this percentage and get on call with this persons.


And also start talking about the importance of movements between different locations and invest something internally on upgrading the level of skills you have internally. Don't be scared that if you invest in your staff that you're going to lose them for other things. That's the wrong mindset. Just invest more and see the magic happen when they are moving, because they're going to bring so much value by being a bridge between different areas. So, this is a quick start where you can just, in a practical way, kick off this project regardless if you are 10 or 70 or 700.

Linnea (46:36):

I think that's a great way to finish this super interesting conversation. I don't know about you, but I learned a lot, so I'm super happy. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you, Sam. Thank you so much for joining How We Hire. And for everyone listening, hope you tune into another episode. Thank you for today. Bye.