Two steps to socio-economic inclusion

Our Senior Inclusion and Diversity Consultant, Addison Barnett, explores why it’s vital to consider the socio-economic backgrounds of our people and why everyone benefits when we do so. Here’s his professional advice on how to take the first steps towards making this part of our standard practices and policies.

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Why social mobility is often overlooked?

In the UK, socio-economic background makes a big difference to the sort of career people will have access to. What’s more, research on the divide between the wealthiest and poorest shows the gap to be widening. By the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be an average of nine months behind children from more wealthy backgrounds. This is a real blocker on their development which eventually accumulates, evidenced by the fact that 30% of all A* grades at A-Level are awarded to private school pupils (Deloitte)

Children who have a doctor as a parent are 24 times more likely to become a doctor than those who don’t. Children of lawyers are 17 times more likely to go into law and those with parents working in film and TV are 12 times more likely to get into the media (The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged. Friedman & Laurison, 2019). 

And according to recent State of the Nation reports, those from a working-class background that do manage to buck the trend and break into a professional career are still (on average) likely to earn 17% less than their more privileged colleagues.

Two steps to improve socio-economic inclusion in our workplace?

The first step is data.

Without good quality data about your workforce, you cannot establish your demographic baseline, identify areas of under-or over-representation, or track your progress over time. While capturing the socio-economic background of your workforce can be a little more complex than protected characteristics such as ethnicity or gender, it is doable. There is now a set of questions that can help you identify employees from lower socio-economic backgrounds, for instance, asking whether an employee received free school meals at state school, and asking their parents’ occupations when they were aged 14. Adding two or three questions like this as part of your demographic data will give you a sense of the socio-economic backgrounds of your workforce. Most importantly, it will show whether the under-representation we often see for other discriminated-against groups (e.g. black and other ethnic minority staff, disabled people) also applies to staff from lower socio-economic backgrounds. 

If you’d like help with your data collection, monitoring or analysis, get in touch with your account manager or if you’re not a member, contact us via our enquiry form

The second step is looking at your employee lifecycle.

There are steps you can take at each stage of the lifecycle to attract, nurture and retain talent from lower socio-economic backgrounds:

– Think about how you can widen your talent pipeline. Work with your local community to find talent: connect with local schools, colleges and universities. Offer apprenticeships and work placements. Use volunteer days to offer job coaching to local community services.

– Don’t just look at widening the access to more junior roles: how could you use competency-based recruitment and anonymous shortlisting methods to mitigate bias?

– Think about attitudes to talent and potential across the business – your hiring managers may be stuck in a comfortable rut of poor recruiting habits. Watch out for recruiting for ‘fit’ – this often leads to a team of clones, not a diverse range of skilled people. Upskill your hiring managers to hire for talent and potential instead.

– What is your data telling you? Are talented employees who are trying to climb the ladder hitting a ‘class ceiling’?

– Do your recruitment and promotion processes empower candidates to give their best performance? Do they know what you’re looking for and how they can evidence their skill?

What’s the purpose of socio-economic inclusion?

For many of us, the impact of inclusion, including that of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, is its own reward. However, it brings with it commercial benefits too. There is the positive commercial impact of hiring diverse talent: better problem solving, innovation, fresh perspectives, which are increasingly vital in a complex, fast-paced workplace. Not to mention the cost of getting it wrong: the long term impact on business performance of not attracting talent, the significant risks associated with ‘groupthink’ and stale team cultures, and the financial costs associated with unsuccessful recruitment.

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, many industries are recruiting at pace from a pool of potential employees who are increasingly picky about who they work for. Flexible working, supportive cultures and a commitment to inclusion are becoming non-negotiables for many jobseekers. Recruiting with socio-economic background in mind is a key part of your plan to attract and retain this diverse talent for your business.

If you’d like to connect with our expert team to look at how you can embed socio-economic inclusion into your workplace, get in touch with your account manager if you’re a member or contact us via our enquiry form.

Our members can also access our Social Mobility Package which explores this topic in more detail and offers real practical advice to support you to embed socio-economic mobility alongside all your inclusion efforts.

For tips and advice about Race and Social Mobility, listen to our Talking Inclusion with… podcast.