Employers pledge support for action on social mobility

More than a hundred leading employers, including Morgan Stanley, British Airways and Bloomberg, have pledged support for a ten-point social mobility action plan.

The plan, developed by graduate employment platform Bright Network, was released after its research found three quarters of students (77%) believe the pandemic has worsened inequalities for job-seeking graduates.

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Senda Kavindele, interim head of inclusion, diversity and equity UK at professional services firm KPMG, which recently set working class diversity targets, told HR magazine: “Social equality is the defining challenge for the UK.

“The link between socio-economic background and adult outcomes is stronger here than in any developed country; and this has consequences for everyone.

“It is estimated to cost the UK £39 billion per year, and unequal societies have lower levels of productivity, mental health, and life expectancy.”

The plan's ten action points outline a process for integrating social mobility into the hiring process.

Starting by identifying exactly who they are targeting, then educating teams, the process builds to include company-wide support networks and mentoring programmes.

Once a system is created, organisations are encouraged to monitor progress, review application criteria, diversify routes into the company, and champion outreach in their community.

James Uffindell, founder and CEO of Bright Network, told HR magazine that when introducing a social mobility policy, it’s important to understand what the candidate experience looks like from the outside.

He said: “Try and put yourself in the position of a graduate applying for your organisation.

“What challenges and obstacles might they face and how can you adapt your processes to get the best out of all the candidates applying?”

Many students from traditionally less privileged backgrounds face challenges that recruiters may not consider

Four in ten (40%) of students of black heritage, for example, (a historically deprived demographic in the UK) said they were concerned about tests during the job application process, compared to just 29% of the student population as a whole.

Recruiters, Uffindell added, should focus on transferable skills for underrepresented applicants who might not have had access to internships and other work experiences.

“Collecting insight and deciding on the types of candidates you’re looking for can be challenging,” he added.

“It’s vital to support your own teams (inside and outside the HR function) in discussions around underrepresentation and the positive impact that a more diverse workforce can provide.”

Kavindale added: “A focus on social mobility and diversity more broadly isn’t just the right thing to do - helping build a fairer and more equitable society - but we know it also leads to improved business performance. 

“It brings with it fresh thinking, different perspectives and ultimately better outcomes for our business and our clients.”


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