Scalable tech can help employers reach socially mobile talent

Jul 13, 2023 | Diversity, Home Featured, Opinion

Scalable technology can enable employers to reach socially mobile talent across the UK, explains Zero Gravity.

You’ve battled against the postcode lottery. Founded an incredible business, with an Honour from the King and a mention on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List.

You’ve defied the odds, and take a second to look around from your place at the top – and find that there is no one else like you up there.

This was the experience of Joe Seddon, who smashed the class ceiling by founding the award-winning start-up Zero Gravity with the last £200 of his student loan.

From a tiny Yorkshire state school, a working-class background and a single parent family, there aren’t many founders from Joe’s background, with 75% of founders coming from advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, according to Sifted. On paper – an incredible story. In reality – a stark reminder that background is still a barrier to opportunity.

Joe determined that the reason for this representational disparity in elite universities and careers has nothing to do with an absence of talent in low-opportunity students.

Rather, an absence of a ‘Network Advantage’, a term coined by Zero Gravity referring to the intangible advantage obtained through access to a broad professional network.


The Network Advantage

At his recent panel discussion with David McKintosh (Chair of KPMG’s Social Mobility Network) and Camilla Weeks (KPMG’s Head of Graduate Recruitment) at the ISE Student Recruitment Conference 2023, Joe talked employers through Zero Gravity’s ‘Gap Zero Report’.

This detailed exactly how the Network Advantage privileges a lucky few, and disadvantages thousands of state-educated students.

Key findings from the Gap Zero Report demonstrated that the average privately-educated student knows nine people at Oxbridge, whereas the average state-educated student knows zero.

The report presents equally jaw-dropping numbers for employers, finding that state-educated students are more than twice as likely to report having ‘no professionals’ in their life to support their career growth as private school students.

They are four times less likely to know a lawyer, twice as less likely to know an accountant and seven times less likely to know a banker. Talent doesn’t enter the equation. It is down to the luck of who you know.


Untapped potential

When socially mobile talent is left to stagnate, it creates both a glaring social problem and squanders untapped economic potential.

How many great innovations, academic breakthroughs, and transformational leaders have been lost over the years because of the UK’s uneven playing field? If we could increase social mobility in the UK to just the Western European average, GDP could be £39bn higher.

Given the state of the UK, one must wonder: surely the switched-on businesses would set ambitious social mobility targets and make diversity recruitment a strategic priority?

Well – they are. But unfortunately, very few employers have changed their fundamental approach to recruiting early careers talent. The average employer still relies on talent coming to them, typically through open days aimed at recruiting diverse talent.

However, diverse talent often exists in the UK’s conversion ‘cold spots’. Constrained by geographic, socioeconomic and educational boundaries, these students are more often than not unable to attend outreach programmes and in-person activations.

Even the most motivated employer cannot hire the most talented student if – simply – they cannot find one another.


Identifying socially mobile talent

In order to transform a vicious circle into a virtuous one, employers must use modern methods designed to tackle the identification problem.

The solution is scalable technology, which employers can use to leverage their knowledge, networks, and employees to take a proactive approach to identifying, reaching and unlocking the potential of socially mobile talent across the country.

How tech such as Zero’s Gravity’s identifies, reaches and converts top socially mobile talent structured the second half of Joe’s presentation at the ISE Conference.

A talent algorithm enables data-led decisions to identify socially mobile talent without compromising on standards.

Scalable technology allows employers to reach talent from all four corners of the UK from the comfort of their desk, with more efficiency than hundreds of open days.

And virtual university and career mentoring converts the talent into high-performing graduate employees.


Zero Gravity

The Zero Gravity algorithm is a talent identification tool, finding the top 15% of performing talent from the bottom 40% of social advantage. By plugging directly into over 20% of UK state schools, Zero Gravity meets the UK’s leading socially mobile talent right at the start of their journey.

Once identified, students enter the platform – a piece of scalable proprietary tech in which a simple internet connection connects a student into the Zero Gravity universe. This enables them to access a support network and inside track which were previously reserved to those with the know-how.

The platform converts socially mobile talent by creating the first state school ‘Network Advantage’.

Additionally, there’s no risk of the students losing access to such a network if their location, education or other social circumstances change.

Students remain in the opportunity funnel, on their journey from school, to university, and then career, meaning that the platform bypasses the retention issue that fixed-location outreach programs face.


Employer benefit

For an employer, the existence of such technology targets the critical employer pain point: missing out on underrepresented talent who cannot be in the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’.

But with technology like Zero Gravity, employers can use the platform as a virtual database of talent, bringing the best in the country directly to those looking.

Entering into a partnership with Zero Gravity, employers can use data-driven insights to identify candidates, showcase their business, and provide one-to-one mentoring, proving to double their conversion rate.

Mutual pain points of economic or geographic barriers are circumvented entirely, creating a win-win situation for both student and employer.

Such a scenario was evidenced by David and Camilla from KPMG. They told Joe how KPMG’s partnership with Zero Gravity has both fostered a mutual Network Advantage – for socially mobile talent to know hiring professionals and for hiring professionals to know socially mobile talent.

No more does a student need to be in the right place at the right time with the right people. Tech brings the opportunity straight to the talent.


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Why the UK is still socially immobile and what to do about it

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