IMPACT20: The National Conversation Report: An interview with Tera Allas CBE

Tera Allas

The Director of Research and Economics at McKinsey shares her views on career counselling, employer errors and how artificial intelligence can revolutionise recruitment.

On the landscape for young people

The world of work is changing dramatically as companies take on more technology, digitalisation and automation. Younger people, on average, will have fresher skills to bring to that mix. But getting that big break – that first internship or first job, where you can train and learn from your peers and bosses – can be really tough.

On recruitment

For young people, I would say put the less formal skills on your CV with a paragraph that describes you as a person. Employers who focus just on qualifications are going to be missing a lot of talent. There are new ways of testing people, using artificial intelligence, that are less about what degrees people have or where they’re from, and more about what skills they need in a particular job. Firms that recruit this way tend to be much more successful in reaching out to untapped pools of talent.

On the pandemic

The coronavirus crisis has turned the jobs market on its head. While businesses across the travel and hospitality sectors have been decimated, big retailers and delivery companies are expanding. In the US, we partnered with Eightfold.ai to help facilitate this massive shift in labour, widely considered the largest since World War II, by launching an online marketplace called Talent Exchange, which matches candidates with available roles and helps employers understand how their workforce has been impacted in a single dashboard.

On work experience

All students need real-life work experience. And that opportunity shouldn’t be dependent on their network or their background; it should be built into every single course and offered as part of the training. Employers continue to fall into the trap of only giving internships to people with “connections”.

On youth unemployment

In 2014, we founded Generation, an independent non-profit, to tackle the global youth employment challenge. The mission: to prepare, place and support people into life-changing careers that would otherwise be inaccessible. Working side-by-side with employers, Generation has helped tens of thousands of young people around the world to find jobs.

On scaling up

We need to find better ways of replicating what works. There are so many brilliant initiatives and schemes out there – but we need to find a way of benchmarking them, outlining the costs and then cataloguing them so that small companies or local leaders can say, “I love what they’re doing. Let’s do it in our area.” We need proper evaluation, not just anecdotes.

On ethnic diversity

In Britain, we have some of the best universities in the world attracting global talent, yet even when BAME students overcome the hurdles that prevent them getting to university in the first place, they do not have an equal chance at succeeding. Their retention rates are lower and they get worse grades, despite having better or the same grades at A-level. So there is something about the culture and behaviours at university that seems to be affecting these people. Graduates from a black and ethnic minority background then face significant employment and pay penalties when they join the workforce. All employers should keep a record of how they’re hiring people and to what degree they are representing and promoting minorities.

On career counselling

I have a suspicion that people are still doing degrees that won’t be needed in 10 or 15 years because a computer will be doing those jobs. We need to make sure that students have access to information on the job market and work trends, plus career counselling so they can make better-informed decisions.

To create a more inclusive society, I would...

...eradicate subconscious bias and make sure we have minority representation in all parts of society, from politics and business to education and the media. Our latest research [Diversity wins] shows that the most diverse companies – and those who take bold steps to strengthen inclusion – are now more likely than ever to outperform their peers financially. This has to be a boardroom priority.