Achieving diversification through social mobility


Discussions about diversity often result in the words ethnicity, age and gender being at the forefront of conversation, but social mobility plays an important role, too.

As stated by The Sutton Trust, low social mobility and lack of educational opportunity is arguably the biggest social challenge of our times: the income gap between the richest and poorest in society continues to widen, while education opportunities remain overwhelmingly dominated by children from the most privileged homes.

A company hiring individuals of different ages and ethnicities might hold the belief that this will create a diverse team, but what if the people within their workforce all attended the same university and have the same cultural and socio-economic background? Has diversity truly been achieved?

A 2018 report published by McKinsey & Company reinforces the link between diversity and a business’s financial performance, stating that companies have increasingly begun to regard inclusion and diversity as a source of competitive advantage with a real impact on the bottom line.

Employees with differing backgrounds can bring a range of opinions, attitudes and ideas to the table, helping an organisation to drive forward with innovation. Yet a large proportion of UK businesses recruit candidates based on demographic factors, meaning they are unlikely to build a team that can provide a wide range of perspectives. Research conducted by The Brokerage in 2018, with more than 30 of our corporate partners across financial services, suggests most companies focus on diversity in the way of gender and ethnicity.

Of the 30 company representatives surveyed, only one stated that social mobility was a focus of their diversity initiatives, but that HR teams are now beginning to understand that socio-economic status is a key measure of diversity.

news london
Employers say it can be hard to determine a candidate’s socio economic background

According to the Social Mobility Employer Index 2018, employers reported that nearly three quarters of their clients now care about socioeconomic diversity of their organisation’s workforce.

Businesses that consider their candidates’ socio-economic background, alongside skills, experience and other key factors, will be the ones to achieve true diversity in their workplace.

Creating a diverse workforce will ultimately help to drive their business forward while improving social mobility by providing equal access to jobs. Those who struggle to change the status quo risk suffering from groupthink, resulting in a lack of original ideas and opinions.

With a staggering 37% of employees in the financial services sector being educated at private schools, despite just 7% of the UK population being privately educated, those from more affluent backgrounds have an over-represented voice.

Could a sea change in recruitment practices be the key to solving this imbalance? The research undertaken with our corporate partners indicates that companies find it difficult to establish the socio economic background of their applicants, and so are unable to factor this into their recruitment decisions.

For companies looking to adopt recruitment practices to improve social mobility and diversity in the workplace, there are organisations like The Brokerage who work with bright individuals from local London boroughs who have the skills and qualities that employers require but do not necessarily have the means or know-how to kick-start their career.

Through organisations like The Brokerage, companies can be connected with bright, local individuals who are likely to have a positive impact.

Five tips to improve social mobility

1) Partner with an organisation that can help you recruit from a wider talent pool.
2) Review your recruitment process to ensure that there are no hidden barriers for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
3) Provide your employees with volunteering opportunities to reach out and support young people.
4) Open your business to the next generation of talent through insight days.
5) Shout about what you’re doing to encourage others.