Earlier this week Penguin announced that it will be removing its requirements for a university degree for all new jobs to attract a "more varied candidate pool". Group HR director Neil Morrison based the decision on "increasing evidence" that there was no simple correlation between having a degree and performance at work.
Personally, I think this is great news for the industry and a step in the right direction to bring publishing into the 'new world'. Having said that, at Bonnier Publishing, I don’t think we’ve ever specified a degree as a requirement for a job and I don’t believe we ever will.
We employ around 500 people and as far as we’re concerned, if you’re talented and share our values, you have a great chance of joining us, regardless of your background. Sure, sometimes a degree is an advantage in certain roles but it’s not a pre-condition to getting the interview in the first place.
I can make this statement from personal experience. I went to university for a day and left because I instantly knew I would rather start a career. Actually that’s wrong, I went to university for three hours but there was a tube strike so I had to wait until it was over to leave.
I had academics from the course ringing me up, telling me to reconsider and that I was 'ruining my life'. Well I’m now the c.e.o. of the fourth biggest publisher in the UK, so I guess they were wrong. And if I can achieve that without a degree, so can anyone.
At Bonnier Publishing, I surround myself with smart people. But when I look around at my management team, I actually have no idea who has a degree and who doesn’t (though my HR director tells me it’s half and half).
However it is certainly not the case that we don’t value degrees – we do. But whether you’re 16 straight out of school, or a Cambridge graduate, what matters more is the spark of determination in a candidate’s eye and the desire to reach their potential.
In my experience, recruiting a mix of people is also good for business. People with different backgrounds and experiences challenge each other more. And if we can’t learn to think differently as an industry, how can we expect to move forward?
Richard Johnson is c.e.o. of Bonnier Publishing.