How a family business became a global powerhouse
Motivated by his own drive for self-awareness, Martin Reed, son of co-founder Ray Reed, joined Thomas International in 1991 and has helped to transform the brand into a global powerhouse. He worked his way up the organisation, stepping down from the role of chairman in 2018 to take on the position of non-executive director. Here we talk about the founding of Thomas, modern recruitment challenges and the ways people use technology to create happier and more inclusive working environments.
Motivated by his own drive for self-awareness, Martin Reed, son of co-founder Ray Reed, joined Thomas International in 1991 and has helped to transform the brand into a global powerhouse. He worked his way up the organisation, stepping down from the role of chairman in 2018 to take on the position of non-executive director.
Here we talk about the founding of Thomas, modern recruitment challenges and the ways people use technology to create happier and more inclusive working environments.
So, how did your career in psychometric profiling begin?
I wasn’t much of an academic child and I left school at the age of 15 with few qualifications. By that time my father Ray Reed had launched Thomas International to help people and businesses unlock potential through psychometric testing. I asked whether I could do one of the assessments and it showed that I was a stubborn, rebellious character best suited to a job in sales. Armed with this information, I started my career in marketing, sales and real estate.
This was a life-changing moment for me because I’d never considered my future before then. After working my way through the industry, I wanted to head back to where it all started. So in 1991, I joined Thomas as a sales consultant. I grew passionate about the concept of profiling as it gives people an opportunity to understand who they are and what drives them- it’s this type of knowledge that helps people focus on their strengths, rather than weaknesses, and find a role that’s right for them.
I’m also a firm believer that people rarely leave jobs because of the company; they leave because of bad management. So I wanted to be part of an industry that helps companies develop a more holistic culture within their organisation.
Tell us about your time at Thomas?
Starting off as a sales consultant at Thomas, I later worked my way up to sales director, then managing director and CEO for the UK and International Group. During this time, I witnessed tremendous change within the business. We grew internationally, launching operations in 45 countries during the early 1990s. In 2000 we developed an online version of our products, which now accounts for 94% of the revenues.
Your father co-founded the company, what was his mission?
When my father started the company 40 years ago, instant psychometric profiling didn’t exist. The only option was to hire a psychologist, often at great expense, to conduct an assessment process that could take days or weeks to complete. My father’s mission was to make psychometric testing affordable and easily accessible for businesses of all sizes. He started the business after years of working as an HR director and truly understood the need for these products. At first, academics were dismissive of our profiling strategy, but now it’s extremely well respected across the world.
You’ve been in the industry for 30 years, what are the biggest recruitment challenges you’ve seen over the years?
Back in the 1980s, the British population was renowned for its entrepreneurial spirit. But over the past 40 years, this sense of self-resilience and drive has been eroded. When I started working for Thomas for instance, our testing showed that around 30% of people had an entrepreneurial profile, a figure which dropped to 9% by 2018. Although school children are still demonstrating the same entrepreneurial qualities, this natural innovation is being knocked out of them before they enter the workforce.
I believe the rise of social media, and the subsequent mental health problems it can cause, is one of the key factors behind this. According to Health Assured 38% of adults believe that social media can encourage harmful behaviours, insecurity, anxiety and depression. Profiling is now more important than ever, as it can help to identify some of these issues early on. By intervening before the problems have had a chance to escalate, schools, colleges and companies can find new and better ways to support individuals in the recruitment process to increase their self-worth and fulfil their potential.
Looking back at the decades, you mentioned diversity is still an ongoing workplace issue. How can companies improve this?
Unconscious bias in the hiring process is a big challenge and it needs to be addressed. In many cases, hiring managers make their decisions based on just a few seconds of conversation, which is an unfair evaluation of candidates. This is why it’s critical that solutions are introduced, so that the process is fair and unbiased, right from the get-go.
It’s also essential for CEOs and managers to hold individuals accountable and have difficult conversations early on when needed, especially if bias hiring is an issue in their company. By intervening early on to address any outstanding issues within teams, managers can prevent discrimination, bullying and low morale from impacting the business later down the line. Diverse minds breed better business decisions, so having these conversations will drive inclusivity from the top.
What do you expect to see over the next decade?
The drive for flexible working will continue, but it needs to be carefully managed. I don’t feel that people can achieve the same connections with their teams in an online environment, which could be detrimental for business in the long-term. It’s been a challenge for many people to work from home, especially if they have partners and children trying to work in the same space. Discipline is vital, and many people have found themselves unable to separate their home and work environments, which leads to less productivity.
As things return to normal, we might see conflict between those who are offered flexible packages and those who aren’t able to do their jobs from home. At the same time, I do believe that if it’s used in the right way, hybrid working solutions can reduce wasted commuting hours, and help people to work in a way that better suits their needs and schedules. Achieving the right balance will be something that every company needs to determine for itself over the next few years.
I’m also a strong advocate for developing a healthy relationship with social media that encourages good communication and collaboration, without spreading misinformation. This will help shape our future leaders and encourage a sense of community, whilst protecting people’s mental wellbeing.
And finally, what are your hopes for Thomas?
Thomas has always been a place of innovation and being a part of introducing the world to psychometric assessments 40 years ago is something I’m very proud of. Moving from pen and paper to desktop and digital, we’ve always been one of the first in the market for providing cutting edge products. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead and I’m sure we will continue to be a dominant force for another 40 years.