The roundtable meeting ‘Social Mobility as a Tool for Economic Growth and Global Competitiveness’ was held as part of the Russian Investment Forum on 15 February.
In opening remarks, moderator Andrey Sharonov, President of the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, noted that the topic gained importance with the launch of the Leaders of Russia contest and the project ‘Russia – the Land of Opportunities’, as well as the recognition that selecting leaders and educating professionals should be a constant process.
Before starting the debate, Sharonov held an online poll among the 67 participants asking “Do social mobility mechanisms work in our country?” The response “Social mobility channels exist but one should know how to use them” gathered 56.8 %, 32.4% of respondents replied “Don’t work or work poorly”, and 10.8% opted for “They work”. Citing his personal experience, Andrey Sharonov argued that “social mobility mechanisms exist, and they work.”
In principle, “social mobility is not a formal definition and not a door with a sign but a community where people can grow, and it should not necessarily be a pyramid. In flat organizations, you cannot measure success by shoulder straps, there are no stairs there, people have other work criteria there,” the moderator concluded.
Wrapping up the discussion, Sharonov held another online poll asking “What is social mobility for you?” and announced the results: 44.4% see it as “an opportunity for self-realization”; 38.9% understand it as “communicating with the tutor”; and for 16.7% social mobility means career growth.
Vladislav Davankov, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Russia – the Land of Opportunities, stressed that the task of building transparent social mobility mechanisms was set by President Vladimir Putin, and tools and platforms were being created for this purpose. The organization ‘Russia – the Land of Opportunities’, which was set up at the federal level in 2018, currently runs 15 such programmes covering more than 1.5 million people. And at least 12 contest initiatives are to be launched in 2019. “We are also closely monitoring similar regional programmes with a view to scaling the best of them to the entire country,” Davankov explained.
Pavel Sorokin, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, expressed his vision of the problem. In his opinion, “for social mobility to work, the state system should be ready to employ and dismiss people based on their performance. And this should be a norm in the system of any healthy society. Not a single social elevator will work if the system does not rotate staff,” he emphasised.
He also pointed to low registration figures for the second competition “Leader of Russia”, with just 13% in Moscow, 6% in St. Petersburg and a mere 0.5 to 1.5% of the potential levels in the regions. “This means that people either lack trust or are unprepared. It you are not prepared to help yourself, nobody will help you,” Sorokin lamented.
Elizaveta Litvintseva, a gold medalist of the Student Olympiad ‘I Am a Professional’ and a first-class engineer at Lukoil-Engineering, thinks that “you should realize yourself where you have your interest and not where you were sent by someone else. Competitions provide an opportunity to become the first among equals and choose where and in what capacity you want to work and not where you were thrown by a twist of fate.”
Ilya Semin, head of the Professional Internships Project at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, considers that “social mobility in the first place means opportunities. We either use them or not. The website Профстажировки.рф was launched in order to facilitate the search of internships for students.” He also stressed the need to link the topics of student papers to the profiles of their potential employers, while high school students and first-year university students should have an opportunity to look at different professions from inside. Micro internships should be organised for them. “To be happy, one does not necessarily have to occupy a high position in the public or private sector,” Semin remarked.
For her part, Valeria Zabolotnaya, rector of Sberbank Corporate University, said that “Sberbank is developing due to the development of people at different levels: institutional, corporate and individual.” “We should speak not about social elevators but about stairs because only stairs suggest individual efforts,” she noted.
Julia Uzhakina, Director General of Rosatom Corporate Academy, underlined that “we desperately need clever staff. Our mission is to help people discover their possibilities and potential. We are convinced that social elevators are needed but the elevators should be different. Apart from elevators we also need bridges to ensure opportunities for horizontal growth.”
Aleksey Ivanchenko, Deputy Chairman of State Development Corporation VEB.RF, reckons that “social mobility first of all means people and relations among them.” “What does one need to be successful?” he asked, and replied: “Work hard, set ultimate targets and achieve them, assume responsibility, that is, to be the man of result; build relations with people oriented vertically, horizontally and in other directions – this is the key factor of any social mobility, and learn, learn and once again, learn, without stopping, everyday.” “When you think of it seriously, you no longer see it in terms of career but you see it as the purpose of life,” Ivanchenko concluded.