Talent pool not gene pool?

The flickering flames of the candelabra briefly illuminate the antique silverware on the crisp, white linen sheets laid over the magnificent oak table. The rich, scent of cherrywood tobacco hangs in a delicate plume over the stately room. Beneath that fug, young captains of industry salute one another’s wealth as they carve up the world between them. Precocious cigar chomping young gents with slick hair, porcine faces and three piece suits, their chins dripping with swan gravy and 500 year old whiskies.

‘So it’s agreed, I’ll take PM, you can be Chancellor, Tarquin takes the IMF and Crispin can be our man at the Exchange. Chavvy Kev can bash rats with his hands.’

Obviously this is precisely how the world works hitherto, right? Well, not quite, but it is fair to suggest that there is something of a class division in this country and at times it’s been something of a rigged game when the ‘non-U’s come up against the old boys’ network. However that may all be about to change with a new social mobility index that has been introduced with many large blue chip multinationals voluntarily throwing their hats in the ring. After the democratization of university we now have a situation where many of the top jobs in large firms aren’t held by the cabal of privately educated 1%ers and now ability is being prized above background.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many companies who for years have championed bringing in the best possible talent for the role regardless of where they’ve come from and I’m not suggesting that being a feckless git with a track record of petty crime should entitle you to the same chances as industrious, hard working individuals as that’s obviously not the case. But levelling the playing field has to be a good thing, not just for you, the individual but also for business more broadly. Too often managers try to replicate themselves when making hiring decisions and that leads to a kind of institutional approach to business decisions – sometimes, often even, having people with differing values, a different approach, fresh ideas can provoke positive change and remove the myopic thinking that has led to business ennui.


There is demonstrable evidence that change is not only a good thing but actively beneficial for companies, research has shown that the University of Southampton produced the highest proportion of top-performing fund managers but that most stock pickers came from Oxbridge (Citywire). This one example shows how the depth of a candidates’ parents’ pockets can be the difference between job success or failure regardless of their capacity for the work. But – as I say, hopefully that is set to change with companies as diverse as KPMG, Deloitte UK, JP Morgan and Enterprise Rent-A-Car all making the top 10 list of the companies doing the most to encourage social mobility in their hiring and recruitment policies.

Now this is right at the beginning of its being rolled out, but, regardless of how seemingly patronising it is, it is a necessary and crucial step in revitalising business by populating companies with fresh eyes, new blood and hungry talent but it also allows anyone, regardless of their origins to dare to dream bigger than they might have allowed themselves.

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