7 ways you can improve social mobility in your business

This week the government published its first ever Social Mobility Employer Index to announce the top 50 UK employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility within the workplace.

With many Business in the Community members making the top 50, here are our top tips if you want to improve social mobility in your company:

Lay the groundwork – partner with schools

Responsible businesses have a vital role to play in building a diverse, effective and skilled workforce, and helping to create economically viable, cohesive communities. Many have established long term partnerships with schools through programmes such as Business Class, enabling young people the opportunity to engage with local employers. This matters because young adults who recall four or more employer contacts are five times less likely to end up NEET (not in employment, education or training).[1] We need more businesses to partner with schools both primary and secondary in order to ensure all young people, regardless of social background access opportunities to support them to build successful working lives. Find out more.

Don’t just focus on employability groundwork – partner with schools

Alongside providing access to diverse, quality opportunities for young people, employers need to look at how they support young people whilst they are in education to access opportunities that develop skills and qualities beyond qualifications. Our 2015 report, ‘Destiny should not be determined by Demography,’ highlights the role that employers have to play in ensuring that young people understand the behaviours and qualifications required to build successful working lives. The research concludes that pupils participating in Business Class are 13 per cent more likely to have alignment between their academic activities and their career aspirations.[2] We know that building this broader skills and qualities is important in the context of social mobility because as the report ‘Downward mobility, opportunity hoarding and the glass floor,’ highlights less able, richer young people are 35 per cent more likely to become high earners than brighter poorer peers.[3]

Provide open accessible apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity to create new entry level routes into your business, beyond just graduate schemes. It’s a new way to recruit young people from different backgrounds and is key creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce. But developing these pathways is just half the battle. It’s also key for businesses to make sure that these routes are accessible and visible to young people from all backgrounds. This means thinking about how you recruit for these apprenticeships, how you advertise them and how you support people from diverse backgrounds to apply. Find out more.

Stop asking for previous work experience for your entry level jobs

Too many employers still ask for previous experience for entry level jobs, even though by definition these roles should not require any. This creates an ‘experience trap’ as young people who are not able to access the experience required are prevented from applying for roles, regardless of their potential. This disproportionately penalises young people who are unable to work for free, take up unpaid internships or have the connections to access work experience.

Ditch the jargon-filled job adverts and make your recruitment process more transparent

Our recent study found that two thirds (66 per cent) of young people who assessed the job descriptions of over 100 companies didn’t understand the role they would be applying to. The use of jargon or industry specific language restricts social mobility because it disadvantages young people who do not have experience in your industry or access to people who do. Our survey showed that young people who were NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) were least likely to have help support preparing for the job application and to know someone who worked for the company they applied to. Employers can do so much to demystify the recruitment process by clearly outlining the stages, timeframe and day to day responsibilities of a role. Find out more.

Provide constructive feedback to all interviewed candidates

We know from our survey of 4,000 young job seekers, conducted with the City & Guilds Group, that just under a third of young people said they did not receive feedback after an interview. Worryingly this disproportionately affects young people who are NEET (not in employment, education or training) as 40 per cent say they did not receive any form of feedback after an interview. Not providing feedback can have a damaging effect on confidence levels for young people. For young people applying for a job for the first time, constructive feedback is vital. It helps them to learn from their experiences, and improve their applications.

Continue to support and progress people from diverse backgrounds upwards through your organisation

It’s all very well attracting and recruiting diverse talent but this is just the first stage – what also matters is making sure they stay and progress in your organisation. In the new Social Mobility Employer Index interestingly the lowest scoring section for the 100 businesses that contributed was around progression for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. If boards are to become more reflective of diverse social backgrounds, companies need to get this bit right from the start. You can make sure people have the opportunities and support to progress by providing a range of training, offering coaching, defining and communicating progression pathways. It’s also vital to make sure that part time employees have equal access to development and progression opportunities.

[1] Education & Employers Taskforce, (2012), It’s who you meet

[2] Destiny should not be determined by demography, Business in the Community, November 2015

[3] Downward mobility, opportunity hoarding and the ‘glass floor’ Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, June 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: