Mona Mourshed: Streamlining the Job Hiring Process

As countless employers and job seekers alike can attest, we’re in the midst of an extraordinary shift in the job market – and that includes the hiring process.

COVID-19 has changed our understanding of how people get hired, as well as the wages and work environments that employees seek. This  has wrought confusion and challenges at every level of the job market. The system can seem to be broken.

In today’s episode of the podcast, we speak to Mona Mourshed, the founding CEO of Generation, a global non-profit. Generation connects employers around the world with “a pipeline of new talent:” marginalized individuals, mid-career job seekers, and those without formal training. 

Listen in as Mona discusses the people Generation serves, the ROI for the organization’s employer partners, and how Mona’s collaboration with GLG as a social impact fellow has helped push the non-profit to even greater success.

ABOUT MONA MOURSHED: Dr. Mona Mourshed is the founder and CEO of Generation. She is a current GLG Social Impact Fellow and previously founded and led McKinsey & Company’s global education practice,. She also led McKinsey’s global social responsibility agenda.

Dr. Mourshed was selected as one of Fortune Magazine’s “40 under 40,” and sits on the boards of Last Mile Health, New America and Teach for All, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and previously served on the Board of Governors of the International Baccalaureate Organization.


Podcast Transcript

Eric Jaffe:  We make decisions every day. While some of them are small, others can have a huge impact on our own lives and those around us. But how often do we stop to think about how we make decisions? Welcome to Deciding Factors, a podcast from GLG. I’m your host, Eric Jaffe. In each episode, I’ll talk to world class experts and leaders in government, medicine, business, and beyond, who can share their firsthand experiences and explain how they make some of their biggest [00:00:30] decisions. We’ll give you fresh insights to help you tackle the tough decisions in your professional life.

As countless employers and job seekers alike can attest we’re in the midst of an extraordinary shift in the job market. And that includes the hiring process. Fueled in part by the COVID 19 pandemic, our understanding of how people get hired as well as the wages and work environments that employees are seeking, have all been turned on their head. This sea change has brought confusion and challenges at every level of the [00:01:00] job market. The system can seem to be broken. My guest today, however, knows how to make the hiring process more inclusive, more effective and more efficient. Mona Mourshed is the founding CEO of Generation, a global nonprofit. Based in Washington, DC, Generation connects employers around the world with what Mona refers to as a pipeline of new talent, marginalized individuals, mid-career job seekers, and those without formal training.

Mona’s success precedes her work at Generation. She [00:01:30] was previously included in Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40, founded McKinsey’s Global Education practice, and has degrees from Stanford and MIT. And her long experience has enabled her success at Generation. It boasts over 60,000 graduates in 16 countries, and over 1000 employer partners. Furthermore, 84% of program participants find a job within three months of graduation. Their income, Mona reports, rises to more than three times their previous wage. I was thrilled [00:02:00] to talk with Mona for today’s episode, one of my favorites of the podcasts. Listen in as we learn more about the people Generation serves, the ROI for the organization’s employer partners, and how Mona’s collaboration with GLG as a Social Impact Fellow has helped push the nonprofit to even greater success. I’m very excited today to welcome Mona Mourshed to Deciding Factors. Mona, welcome.

Mona Mourshed: Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.

Eric Jaffe: Maybe we could start with just your personal [00:02:30] background. What made you want to get into this kind of work?

Mona Mourshed: Sure. So education has always played a huge role in my family. My father was the first college graduate of his family, and that got him into Cairo University, that then got him an opportunity to study in the US. And I’ve just seen both in his story and in my own, and the stories of many others, just the amazing [00:03:00] propulsion power that education has for someone’s future. What really lies behind Generation is to be able to support adult learners in any country, in any circumstance, to be able to achieve success, opportunity through the program.

Eric Jaffe: What was your thinking when you went from being a senior partner at McKinsey to launch this nonprofit? How did you make the decision to [00:03:30] make that change specifically?

Mona Mourshed: So in my case, it was a very natural evolution. As you just noted, I had founded and led McKinsey’s Global Education Practice. And initially I was focused on K-12 and very much on how to support students to achieve literacy and numeracy gains and then graduate. And I thought, “Okay, if we can just get them graduated, then all will be well.” But all was not well. And at the time that the ideas for Generation were percolating, [00:04:00] this was the time of the Arab Spring, and I was based in the Middle East in Dubai, and just saw firsthand the amazing amount of strife that comes from unemployment and the tragedy that means for people’s lives, for community lives.

And that then shifted me over to then thinking about what happens after secondary school. So what happens in the bridge from education to employment? And not only was it happening in the Middle East, this was [00:04:30] also the time of the Occupy Movement, if you recall, and so it was happening across the world. So then I began doing through McKinsey more and more research and work on education to employment. And then at the time, McKinsey was considering doubling down on its social impact commitment, and creating a nonprofit. And so I put forward the idea for what then became Generation. And that’s really how it happened. So it was a very natural evolution in my case.

Eric Jaffe: And [00:05:00] then when you had the idea to start Generation, take it on a road show and try to get investment to get it off the ground, specifically how did that all happen?

Mona Mourshed: McKenzie provided very generously some initial funding and that got us going. And today we have 70 funders across the world, and we also are supported by employers and governments. Very much a seed capital, if you will type of situation. Then demonstrating the results and then being able to get more [00:05:30] and more supporters for the work.

Eric Jaffe:  I’d love to hear more about the problem that you and Generation are working to solve and a bit more just background about the organization.

Mona Mourshed: The problem we’re solving is unemployment on the surface, but really it’s about supporting adults learners to lift their lives from one trajectory onto a completely different one through employment [00:06:00] and the income that brings, both for themselves and for their dependents. So what we do is train and place adult learners into careers that would otherwise have been inaccessible. And so what that looks like in practice is taking someone who was a shoe shiner in Sao Paolo and supporting them to become Java developers, or taking someone who was a vegetable street seller in Nairobi and helping her to become a sales [00:06:30] manager at a multinational. The way that we do this is we begin by preconfirming job vacancies with employers. And we now have 8,000 employer partners since we launched in 2015, of all sizes. So small, medium, large.

And we then recruit our learners, and our goal in how we recruit is that we’re always searching for profiles that are different than what an employer [00:07:00] is typically hiring. Because the only way that we add value in this process is if we can tap into a pipeline of talent that employers currently aren’t seeing, but yet they have the capabilities to be very successful in the role. So we recruit our learners, then they experience a four to 12 week bootcamp that is profession specific. Today we work across now 40 professions, spanning tech, healthcare, customer service, skilled trades, and [00:07:30] green jobs.

And these bootcamps are 80% practicum. They were initially all in person, now they are all online or blended. And happy to say that we have the exact same outcomes through the online and blended versions. We offer social support services. Upon graduation, our graduates interview with our employer partners and then once they’re on the job, we continue the mentorship support for the first three to six months because that’s the period of greatest instability. [00:08:00] If our graduates get through the first three to six months, then their opportunity to thrive just goes up exponentially. And then once our graduates are on the job, that’s when our data gathering really kicks in. And so we gather data on our graduates at three months, at six months, at one year, and then annually thereafter.

So the net result is that today we have 60,000 graduates across 16 countries. [00:08:30] They have an 84% job placement rate within three months of program completion. They’re earning three to four times in income what they had prior to Generation. Two to five years after program completion, 70% continue to be able to meet their financial needs and 40% are saving for the future. We very much think of our impact in terms of breadth, depth, and durability. And we need to move all three of these forward simultaneously.

Eric Jaffe: [00:09:00] Now is the value proposition to employers that they will be able to hire people who are going to be better at the role than they would otherwise have access to, or that they’ll be less expensive, or that they’re doing something positive for humanity, or is it all of the above?

Mona Mourshed: It’s very much all of the above. I mean, let me just say a few words about what brings an employer to the Generation table. An employer has to be experiencing a pain point in order for [00:09:30] them to want to hire differently, because otherwise why change what you’re doing today? In our experience, one of three things must be true. Either the employer is facing high degrees of scarcity. So for example, they want to hire 100 people for a certain role, but they can only find 10. Second problem they could be facing is with regards to attrition. So it might be that average retention in the role is three to six months, or it might be that [00:10:00] there’s high degrees of poaching as for example exist in the tech sector. Or the last type of problem which we see is just productivity quality levels that the employer would like to improve.

So at least one of those three things must be true. In addition, it is terrific when our employers also want to do something to support the community in which they work and live. And so actively want to be able to recruit from [00:10:30] a pipeline that is different than their traditional pipelines. What we do as Generation is that, particularly for our larger employers who are hiring, hundreds of people from us is we actually will create the ROI case. So we’ll show, how were we able to reduce the cost per higher? How were we able to decrease the amount of time that it takes for our graduate to reach peak productivity and quality for that role? [00:11:00] How have we been able to increase retention in the role?

Eric Jaffe: I love it. And now let’s move to the employees themselves. Who are the unemployed and the underemployed? Why are they overlooked? And what are some common misconceptions in your mind about the unemployed and the underemployed?

Mona Mourshed: We can talk about this for a long time, Eric. So let me just begin by who are they? Of our 60,000 alumni, the majority [00:11:30] have a secondary school degree or a vocational degree. Let’s say 75% do not have a university degree. About 54% are female. The vast majority come from underrepresented communities in their country. And obviously what that means in each country is different. And about 40% have dependents for whom they care, whether it is children or elderly parents or siblings [00:12:00] for that matter. And in addition, for about 60% of our graduates, they’re getting their first job through Generation.

I will also say that we initially began with a focus on youth when we started in 2015. In 2019, we broadened our mission to encompass adult learners of all ages, and very specifically on the mid-career population. This is not a widely known fact, but essentially [00:12:30] the vast majority of the long term unemployed in OECD countries are age 45 plus. This population, when they become unemployed, it becomes dramatically harder for them to be able to successfully find another job. We’ve surveyed about 1500 hiring managers across seven countries, and we asked them, when you get CVs from potential [00:13:00] applicants, by age bracket, what share do you think are fit for purpose?

And so it turns out that only 15% of the CVs that they receive from the age 45 plus population, do they believe to be fit for purpose. So we said, “Okay, now for those age 45 plus people that you happen to have already hired, how are they actually doing in the role?” And what we found was that 87% of them are performing as [00:13:30] well, if not better, than their younger peers, and 90% are viewed as having as long retention potential, if not longer, than their younger peers. And so that in many ways is a case in point, Eric, about what being overlooked means. It becomes very difficult for someone who does not have the right trigger words in their CV or the expected degree on their CV [00:14:00] to be able to get even into position to have an interview, let alone successfully get the job.

Eric Jaffe: What kind of support do you provide to the employees throughout the process once they’re at their employer in order to ensure that they’re successful? And what do you think employers broadly can learn from what Generation does that you think is broadly applicable to the success of any new employee?

Mona Mourshed: Yeah. So let me take the second question first. So when we go to an employer, we [00:14:30] do what we call activity mapping, which means that we are observing what are the 30 activities that someone does in their day in a given profession, such as digital marketing. And then we’re looking to see, of those 30 activities, what are the five that really differentiate between a high performer and a lower performer in that role? And can you actually see it reflected in productivity outcomes, quality outcomes for that particular profession? And then in parallel, we’ve created what we call the ROI waterfall, [00:15:00] which is what is the current cost per hire? How many weeks does it currently take to get someone to peak productivity once they’ve been hired in the role? What’s the retention? And so on. And so what we have at that point is, what’s the map for our curriculum and what are the ROI numbers that we need to beat in order to create value for our employer partners? And so that’s the first place where I would say employers benefit from the engagement.

The second obviously [00:15:30] is in the hiring of our graduates. And I’ll say like 92% of our employers say that they would hire from us again. We have employers that have hired hundreds, even thousands from us. We are always looking to increase the number, particularly for the large employers who can do so, but I will also say it’s really important for us to have a vibrant pipeline of small and medium size companies. I mean, for example, in a country like Spain, 70% of the private sector jobs are sitting with small and mid-size companies. Now to [00:16:00] the first part of your question about what kind of support do we provide? A couple.

When our learners are in the program, they receive mentorship support. And when I say mentorship support, it is both about support for the actual content of the program, but also personal support with regards to, do you have the transportation plan? Plan A, plan B, plan C of what you will do with childcare and whatever it might be. Because these are the things… I mean, when you really look at what are the [00:16:30] greatest barriers to being able to give your best at work every day, it is often childcare and transportation can be two of the largest barriers to the community that we serve. And we have different types of mentorship models. Sometimes we have what we call professional mentors, so these are our mentors that we have hired to play this role. Sometimes it is peer mentors. So sometimes it’s Generation alums from previous batches, so from several years ago who are mentors to our [00:17:00] newly fresh alums. Sometimes it is professionals in the actual career, so it’s a digital marketing professional who is mentoring a digital marketing graduate.

Eric Jaffe: I personally grew up in a family where my parents were teachers and we were in the suburbs. And so in my career, I personally remember how intimidating it was for years to interact with people who seemed very polished, who seemed very [00:17:30] experienced. What I took from that was the importance of soft skills, of just having the confidence to know how to interact with people in a professional environment. And I’ve often thought about how hard that is for people who don’t have that background, who don’t come from that world because it is so intimidating. How do you handle that? The soft skills training, the confidence building, at Generation?

Mona Mourshed: So the bootcamp I mentioned that is four to 12 weeks long, and that’s profession [00:18:00] specific. What we do is once we’ve created this activity map that we discussed earlier, then each of these activities is broken down into the technical skills, behavioral skills, and mindsets that you need to perform that activity at a high level. And so we literally braid together the technical behavioral mindsets into each activity practicum that we have. In order for us to accelerate learning, we have to show you what it looks like in that context. [00:18:30] You have to learn what it looks like in that context. The point is you learn how to manifest those skills based on the profession that you are in. Let’s say that it is a nurse assistant role. It could be about how are you making a plan to see all the patients in your ward during your shift? And to successfully then have written up all of the notes that are then going to be transferred to the next person picking up your shift.

Eric Jaffe:  [00:19:00] Very interesting. I’ll zoom back out and ask the question that’s been on my mind since I learned of Generation, which is, is Generation sort of a triage for a broken education system? Or is it just sort of like a permanent feature of an otherwise working education system in your mind?

Mona Mourshed: It’s definitely the former. This is a triage for a broken system. I mean, the way that we designed Generation is that we looked [00:19:30] at what are all the challenges in the journey from education to employment. And then each of our seven steps is designed to blow up each of those challenges along the continuum. So for example, the most obvious is that first comes education, second comes employment, and this is viewed to be the natural sequence of life. But the reality [00:20:00] is that people go through education and then don’t find the job on the other side. So what we do in Generation is that we begin by finding the jobs. We work with employers to preconfirm that these vacancies exist before we launch cohorts to train people in the profession to then get that vacancy.

Another challenge is the one that we just spoke about. As we all know, technical skills alone are not going to support you to thrive in the job. So we [00:20:30] have interwoven the technical skills, behavioral skills, and mindsets together. We also know that so no that unless you have stable housing and have effective childcare, et cetera, that it’s going to be very difficult for you to focus on whatever it is you are learning. And so for that reason, we have social supports, both during the program and in the initial period on the job, and so on. The way we’ve designed Generation is [00:21:00] explicitly to tackle all the pieces that today are broken in the workforce system across the world.

Eric Jaffe: Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask also about the fact that you are a GLG social impact fellow. And so you have worked with GLG. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how that came to be, just a little bit about what your experience has been.

Mona Mourshed: So we love GLG. [00:21:30] I will say that up front. We’re power users of GLG.

Eric Jaffe: I’m a fan as well.

Mona Mourshed: So I have to say, I mean, although I had known GLG when I was at McKinsey, I’m embarrassed to say that it was only last year that I realized that there was a Social Impact Fellowship. Had I known that GLG offered the Social Impact Fellowship, we would’ve applied much earlier, but in any event we are here now. What’s tremendous for us is we [00:22:00] believe firmly in learning from those that have gone before us. And so we have no desire to reinvent the wheel. What we want to be able to do is very quickly understand a certain topic or phenomena so that we can bake it into whatever it is we are doing.

So I’ll give you the example of XR professions. So we have been investigating, launching XR professions, so both augmented reality and virtual reality. And so we needed to get smart very quickly on, okay, so [00:22:30] what are the different professions in the XR space? What does it take to get into them? Are these more freelance roles or are they permanent? What is the gap in the market? Which types of employers should he be going after and so on? And so we were able to, I think over four to six weeks, do something like 30 plus calls with GLG experts across the world to understand the dynamics for the industry globally and in specific [00:23:00] countries.

And that was such a remarkable gift. We’ve also been doing this on topics involving finance or professional development, or how to support our marketing efforts, or ways to rapidly achieve English fluency for certain topics, or network governance and how to manage a global network and so on. So it’s just been such a wonderful, wonderful gift. We’re actually already very distressed about what will happen when our GLG Social Impact Fellowship comes to an [00:23:30] end. So we will figure this out, but hopefully we can stay within the family.

Eric Jaffe: Of course. We’ll have to figure out a way to keep it going. And I mean, it does strike me that there’s some similarity actually between what Generation does in GLG does in that we’re trying to facilitate connections, people to get information where they don’t know how to find it themselves. And you’re helping employers find employees and vice versa. And what an incredible gift you’ve given the world with Generation. I mean, every employee that you’ve helped get a job you’ve changed the course of their life. [00:24:00] So really, really incredible. I’ll conclude on a final question here. What is your view of the kind of future of the hiring and employment landscape? How do you see things changing? They’ve already changed so much during COVID, but how do you see things in five or 10 years changing on the hiring landscape?

Mona Mourshed: So, Eric, I see that you’re saving the easiest question for the last. No, so here are some trends that I think are undeniable. Everything else is speculative. There’s obviously [00:24:30] been a dramatic explosion with regards to gig and freelance remote roles. And there is now increasing comfort because of COVID with that type of a work structure. That on the one hand creates opportunities for talent anywhere in the world. On the other hand, it also creates a lot of questions about how can you have the equivalent of a permanent full-time job income [00:25:00] when you are engaged in the gig freelance economy? And what must be true in terms of the supports around you so that you can still provide for your family and have health insurance and all those good things? So that is a very ripe area.

I will say, within Generation, we had always focused on permanent full-time jobs. That’s always been the Holy Grail and we are starting to actively experiment and design because it’s clear [00:25:30] this trend is not going to go away. It’s only going to accelerate. And so we have to figure out how to make it such that there is a stable income flow that comes from it. Second thing I would say is we have got to figure out how to have a more seamless inter-generational workforce than what is clearly the case today. And here in particular, I’m talking about entry level and [00:26:00] mid-level job roles. What we’re seeing is a significant share of mid careers, age 45 plus, who have to shift careers entirely as a result of whether it’s trends in automation or whether it is businesses not surviving or whatever it might be. But that trend is only going to get bigger. So ensuring that we have an effective way [00:26:30] to support mid careers, to not only be open and able to engage effectively, which they very much want to do, but to have on the employer side, openness to the mid-career profile.

The last thing I would say is call it the Great Resignation or any of the other terms, many more employers are seeing what happens when there is high degrees of scarcity, [00:27:00] even in professions where they didn’t think that there would be scarcity. This I think is an opportunity to rethink some roles because some of these roles, the reason why there’s scarcity is because they’re just not attractive roles as they’re currently structured. And so what needs to happen such that these are roles that are coveted and desired and what does that mean, not just for the role, but the way the work transpires. And I think this is [00:27:30] an opportunity to rethink, not just what professions do we need, but the whole architecture of the work process and therefore what roles are necessary due to that.

Eric Jaffe:  Well, I appreciate you looking into your crystal ball there and telling us about what you see in the future. Mona Mourshed, thank you so much for being on Deciding Factors. Thank you so much for being an amazing Social Impact Fellow and for everything that you do at Generation. We really appreciate the partnership.

Mona Mourshed: [00:28:00] Well, so do we, and thank you so much for the opportunity, Eric.

Eric Jaffe: That was Mona Mourshed, the founding global CEO of the transformational organization Generation, and a current GLG Social Impact Fellow. I left my conversation with Mona thinking about the ways her work highlights the inefficiencies in our job market. There are unquestionably so many job seekers out there with the ambition and the skills to become successful professionals, if only they could gain access [00:28:30] to the support systems and knowledge that organizations like Generation provide. Talking to Mona, I felt inspired knowing that organizations like hers are stepping up and doing this important and life changing work, even in the face of so many challenges.

We hope you’ll join us next time for a brand new episode of Deciding Factors featuring another one of GLG’s network members. Every day, GLG facilitates conversations with experts across nearly every industry and geography, helping our clients with insight that leads to true clarity. Feel free to leave us [00:29:00] a review on Apple Podcast. We’d love to hear from you. Or email us at if you have feedback or ideas for future show topics. For deciding factors in GLG, I’m Eric Jaffe. Thanks for listening.


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