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Social mobility rises up the business agenda

The Social Mobility Foundation’s Employer Index 2021 has seen a surge in participation, with over 200 companies competing for recognition, compared to 119 in 2020 and 125 in 2019.

The organisation attributes this increase in interest to the impact COVID has had on the workplace.

The list now features its first Premier League football club, Everton FC.

More on social mobility:

Barrister Hashi Mohamed talks social mobility and how to make it to the top

KPMG sets working class diversity targets

Businesses must do more on social mobility

Jonathan Athow, HMRC’s social mobility champion, and director general of customer strategy and tax design, told HR magazine that organisations that want to do their part need to recognise the importance of equity.

“We all have a background and set of experiences that either helps us or can sometimes hold us back. The key is to recognise that and help everyone to achieve their potential.”

HMRC, which came eighth in the ranking, he added, will continue to challenge itself to do better.

“Being in the top 10 is a great achievement for HMRC this year, though we need to challenge ourselves and keep our ambitions high. 

"This includes growing our initiatives such as supporting people from pupil referral units and other outreach aimed at reaching talent we’d otherwise miss.

"We’ll also be looking at building on our Stride mentoring scheme (designed to help colleagues who identify themselves as coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds) and other opportunities to support our people to develop."

The importance of supporting talent throughout every stage of its development, and not just recruitment, is a common factor in high-scoring companies.

Damien Shieber, head of culture and inclusion for Santander UK (18th), told HR magazine that their strategy rests on three pillars: igniting aspirations in the wider community, levelling the playing field in recruitment and empowering recruits to succeed once they have joined the company.

The firm has met particular success in targeting schools with above average levels of free school meals and low levels of attainment, as many such schools lack relationships with employers.

The support given to employees within the company, however, is vital: “Having a social mobility employee-led network, with routine collaboration between HR, business representatives, and our Responsible Banking teams, advocates positive change within the organisation. 

“It helps us to create a level playing field, on which all our people have the opportunity to succeed and make the most of their talents, regardless of their background or social class.

He added: “Underpinning all of this is the building of a compelling narrative around social mobility and inclusivity, both internally and externally, by showcasing diverse role models with a variety of different career paths.”