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McKinsey calls for better socioeconomic representation to boost economy

McKinsey is calling on other firms to kickstart their social mobility agendas — by highlighting links to how better socioeconomic diversity benefits businesses and the wider economy.

The management consultancy’s renewed social mobility focus includes sharing best practices and follows increased media and government attention on the topic.

This includes headlines on how Santander and PwC will change their recruitment to be more socioeconomically inclusive and target-setting by the City of London’s socioeconomic diversity task force.

The task force now has a target for 50% of financial and professional services leaders to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds by 2030. Currently, 36% of leaders in these sectors do.

Encouraging other firms to kickstart their social mobility agendas, McKinsey has highlighted links to how better socioeconomic diversity benefits businesses and the wider economy.

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Colin Shaw, leader of operations practice at McKinsey shared his first-hand experience of how little socioeconomic diversity the sector used to have.

He said focusing on social mobility makes sense on a landscape where new pathways into work and new business aims are apparent.

Speaking exclusively to HR Magazine, he said: “We’ve just come out of the pandemic, there’s a cost of living crisis and the gap between socio-economic differences is right to be challenged.

“Furthermore, a lot of organisations are focusing on the environmental, social, governance (ESG) agenda but the part that isn’t front and centre is the S… and companies can do a lot to challenge that these days.”

According to Sutton Trust research cited by McKinsey, better widespread social mobility could boost UK GDP by 9%.

McKinsey’s own research Diversity Wins links organisational performance and diversity.

While Shaw explained that improving socioeconomic diversity can be a difficult agenda to get started on — not least because it is a complex, dynamic and highly contextual category — he said clear purpose and data have an important role in kicking off initiatives.

He added: “Socioeconomic diversity might be the hardest one to tackle. Firstly, you’ve got to get data; without data, you can’t see how good or bad you are.

“But it’s also about just getting started. To do this you’ve got to be purposeful. Just saying we’re going to start this and asking how do we start measuring and monitoring, and the rest will come.”

McKinsey tips on where to get started to boost socioeconomic diversity, published in Fixing the ladder: How UK businesses benefit from better social mobility, include using a hybrid working model, contextualised recruitment assessments and paid internships.

Daniel Laurison, associate professor at Swarthmore College who co-wrote a study into socioeconomic origins and work, said firms should also be honest in their self-assessment of where they are with regards to socioeconomic diversity.

He told HR magazine: “In order to make improvements you have to know where you are… and you have to know, as best you can, to find out what it's like for lower socioeconomic backgrounds to be there.”