Social mobility and technology - a necessary partnership for the new reality

Filmed just prior to the current crisis, Munashe Mashongamhende, Pearson interviewed Stephen Reilly, Founder of Grad DNA to hear what he had to say about the creation of a new mobile-first testing app and the importance of social mobility.

Many of the responses stand out, even more so now than they did four months ago; resonating with how quickly organisations have had to adapt to embrace technology and the impact that the pandemic is having and will continue to have on social mobility. Many thanks to Stephen for the insights.

There are lots of articles about future proofing yourself for the changing workplace. What skills do you think are most important for candidates who are applying for new roles?

I think from a skills perspective, certainly problem solving, critical thinking, but also from a personal perspective I think showing a little bit of resilience as well, the workplace is changing but not only from the type of work we are being asked to do but the way organisations structure themselves as well, so certainly personally I would like to see organisations or teams being more collaborative, open, honest and I think organisations that require that or encourage that from their workers are really going to thrive.


Why do you think social mobility is so important for the future of work?

I think it’s hugely important, for all of us…for us, our friends, our family, that if you are going to apply to a job that everyone has a fair crack of the whip, that everyone has the same opportunity. We now have the technology…to level that playing field and I think we almost have an obligation to do so. I know that organisations have been very reliant previously on past experience, on CV’s, on people that have got work experience, or worked for certain organisations or big brands. Organisations that are a little bit more focused on work potential, capability, especially in the changing world that we are where we are looking for people that are more tech savvy, more agile in the workplace, more responsive to working in different ways, if they narrow their talent pool their the ones missing out. So I think, it’s not only that it’s absolutely fair that social mobility is hugely important but if organisations want to strive they do not want to contain themselves to what they used to consider as the best applicants and start looking at the capability of the wider talent pool.


What role will technology play in the wider future of employment?

So we already have a lot of tech. Venture capital firms are investing a lot already in HR technology or RecTech as they are in FinTech but I still think we’re a little bit nervous about how we use it. HR traditionally is a little bit more reserved in the way that it procures technology or implements it in the workplace. I think we have the tech, it is going to play more and more a part of the future but we do need to resist try to squeeze in our old traditional, analogue processes into what we’ve got which is this potential of this amazing tech stack for the HR community that we often ruin by trying to put in a long drawn out analogue process, so we don’t get the best use of the technology available to us.


You set up Grad DNA 3 years ago. Why was that?

I spent the majority of my career working in-house heading up talent acquisition teams, working with big applicant tracking systems, and I just knew that the process for applicants, testing wasn’t efficient, could be improved, so I decided to take a step out of corporate life and set up the Grad DNA business.


That follows nicely into my next question, so what inspired you to create the application?

So I think it was more round efficiency and knowing we could do things differently. I guess it was one of those things when you’re working for a corporate, I needed to get a little bit of support which I did from friends and family. Talk through the idea with my peers and then made the jump and I was lucky enough to get some funding as well, which is also nice when you know other people outside of your inner circle, actually believe in what you are trying to achieve.


Why is convenience so important?

I think in everything we do now whether we are buying a train ticket or a concert ticket or doing anything in our lives, things have become more convenient, especially with the way we engage with our phones. So to me it’s a natural step that if an organisation is trying to attract the top talent, to come and work for their organisation, why wouldn’t they make it convenient? Especially where their competitors, they might be smaller organisations or SMEs coming through, or their competing in their larger organisations, if you’re not making things convenient are you losing your talent to your competitors?