Jan 21st 2021

How to promote social mobility in the workplace

When it comes to diversity and inclusion at work, we often place our focus around issues such as gender, race, or disability. But diversity and inclusion extends far wider than this and includes social mobility. 

So what do we mean by social mobility in the workplace? It’s the ability for people to apply for, obtain and advance in roles that are above or below their social status. People should be given equal opportunities regardless of their socio-economic background and based on their ability to do the role. 

But when it comes to social mobility, there has been little progress. In fact, according to a recent study, the people in the UK’s top jobs are five times more likely to have attended a private school than the general population. 

Businesses across the UK must do something to solve the issue of social mobility. Below are just some of the ways we can all start to make an improvement to the current situation. 

Tips to improve social mobility at your company 

Focus on effective recruitment processes

An effective recruitment strategy that encourages social mobility and inclusion improves this issue right from the point of hiring. Here are some examples of how you can do this. 

Building talent pipelines through alternate routes

  1. Paid internships are a great way for young people from diverse backgrounds to get their foot in the door. Plus, by offering the Living Wage they are accessible to all backgrounds. 
  2. Apprenticeships improve diversity by providing young people with the opportunity to earn while they learn, removing the requirement of university education. 

Contextualising your recruitment 

This is where you take into account the context in which a candidate’s academic attainments or experience was achieved. There are automated tools that can help you with this process and widen your talent pool, incorporating social mobility in your business in an effective way. 

Nurture and retain talent from all backgrounds 

Whilst your recruitment process may create a socially diverse workforce, it is also important to look at your employees’ retention and progression within the business. 

  1. Put in place a more formalised system for promotion to ensure work allocation processes are fair, providing clear pathways for progression. 
  2. Track and monitor the socio-economic backgrounds of your team, breaking it down by seniority as well. This way not only are you hiring a diverse workforce, but you are also encouraging progression on an equal basis. Where there are gaps, look to invest in more meaningful career development for employees of lower socio-economic background. 
  3. Create an inclusive workplace culture so that all employees feel involved. Senior management should encourage a culture where employees feel comfortable and valued, with a platform to voice opinions or concerns. 

Look beyond your workplace 

Many better-off students will have had exposure to working in professional roles through their network. But those from less fortunate backgrounds may not even be aware of some opportunities, let alone how to get there. Here are some ways you can create a business strategy that encourages social mobility. 

  1. Work directly with schools or universities to bring your knowledge and experience to students, engaging with them from a young age. 
  2. Access the untapped talent by widening the range of universities that you recruit from. Many businesses hire from Oxbridge or the Russel Group universities, resulting in a lack of diversity and inclusion across higher education in the UK. There are a lot of high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds at institutions outside of this “elite” group.
  3. Work with organisations, such as Making the Leap, that are dedicated to improving opportunities for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. They engage with businesses to help create an inclusive workplace based on diverse talent rather than privilege. 

An inclusive work environment that both hires and retains employees from different backgrounds will benefit from new ideas and fresh solutions. Therefore, ethically as well as logically, it is important to take steps such as these for your business.

We all have to come together collectively and strive for a more equal future for all. By taking action to promote social mobility in the workplace, businesses are doing their part to head down the path of progress. 

Want to read more about diversity and inclusion? Find out how graduate schemes are stunting diversity here.