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5 Ways You Can Support Social Mobility Right Now

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Where you start in life shouldn’t determine where you end up. But the reality is that opportunities for upward social mobility are still incredibly limited. Too many people face barriers to joining their chosen profession and thriving in it. Just look at the data. The Social Mobility Commission 2022 reported that 56% of adults in the UK think that social inequality has increased, and 79% believe there is now a larger gap between .

Enhancing socio-economic inclusivity is not just about doing the right thing — there is a strong business case for it. Businesses that do not create a more working environment run the risk of losing talented employees, as well as taking a hit to their bottom line. As Accenture reveals, companies that focus on social mobility have 1.4 times higher profits than their competitors. Here are five concrete steps to build a culture of representation, and social mobility:

Related: 5 Ways You Can Create a More Inclusive Workplace Immediately — and Why You Should

1. Widen access to work

Without the right networks, connections and support, accessing opportunities can be a real challenge. Cast the net wider when hiring, and be sure that the opportunities you’re creating are truly viable and accessible options.

  • The Social Mobility Commission has identified “cold spots” — areas where there are greater levels of deprivation, fewer good schools and fewer professional and managerial occupations. However, these factors do not translate to a lack of ability or professionalism. Partnering with these colleges or universities could greatly increase the diversity of candidates accessing your graduate program.

  • Create diverse routes into the workplace. Explore different ways to encourage a wider spectrum of candidates to enter your business. For example, could you offer paid internships, apprenticeship programs or ring-fenced aimed at underrepresented groups?

  • Representation matters. Ensuring your current workforce is diverse and representative, including in senior leadership roles, is one of the key ways to attract applications from a broad range of candidates.

2. Implement fairer recruitment processes

A 2020 study found that applicants from ethnic minorities need to complete 60% more applications in order to receive as many callbacks as their counterparts. If you want to move the needle on social mobility, it’s essential that you view your recruitment practices through a diversity and inclusion lens and make adjustments accordingly.

  • Reduce bias that stops diverse candidates from moving through your hiring process. One way to do this is blind hiring — where details that carry the risks of characterization and , such as educational background and citizenship, are omitted from a candidate’s profile.

  • Keep in mind the broader context in which candidates completed their studies — for instance, a candidate that graduated at the top of their class, while also caring for a disabled parent and working a part-time job, may show additional talent and dedication than a counterpart at one of the top institutions. Tools like the Rare Contextual Recruitment System can help with this.

  • Take a closer look at the requirements you attach to open positions. Ask yourself: Is it inclusive — and necessary — to demand educational achievements that are financially unattainable for the majority of the population?

Related: 5 Tips for a More Effective DEI Recruiting Playbook

3. Foster a culture of radical authenticity

There’s no point in inviting individuals from a working-class background into your organization if your company culture is broken. Too many socially mobile employees feel they have to shift their behaviors constantly to fit in at work. This has to stop.

  • Encourage staff to be themselves, and stamp out discriminatory microaggressions. No one should be ridiculed or stereotyped for their background.

  • Ensure inclusivity. Are your team activities and away days accessible, affordable and diverse?

  • It’s hard to be sensitive to another person’s vulnerability without first knowing what it’s like to be vulnerable yourself. In your workplace interactions, listen carefully, give of yourself, and make the effort to help people find their voice.

4. Create meaningful opportunities for progression

Access isn’t the only problem. There are many barriers that prevent underrepresented talent from making progress in work and moving into senior management. An academic paper published in the American Sociological Review found that professionals from lower socio-economic classes were less likely to ask for pay rises and promotions and more likely to have feelings associated with “imposter syndrome.” It’s incumbent on all business leaders to create a more inclusive environment at the top.

  • Collecting quality data is the vital first step to making a difference in social mobility. By integrating social mobility data into diversity and inclusion questionnaires, you can gain a much clearer picture of economic disadvantages that may be hindering progression. Use this data to identify the most effective interventions and ensure they make a significant difference.

  • The class pay gap is larger than the , but it receives much less attention. According to an analysis from the UK’s Social Media Commission, people from working-class backgrounds who work in professional jobs earn 17% less than more privileged colleagues. Investigate class-based pay gaps in your business, and take action to tackle them.

  • The boardroom is an excellent place to elevate fresh voices. Create opportunities for those with no prior experience in board-level positions by extending non-executive director (NED) appointments to a wider audience.

Related: 6 Ways to Cultivate a Diverse and Equal Workplace

5. Share your business acumen

One of the reasons those from working-class backgrounds struggle to start their own business is a lack of access to entrepreneurial education. How can you help budding entrepreneurs to develop essential skills for the business world?

  • One great way to share knowledge with others is to publish resources on your website or social profiles that might assist shared knowledge and learning.

  • Take part in podcasts, seminars and events where you can disseminate the lessons you’ve learned over your career to a wider audience.

  • Join forces with universities and non-traditional institutions to bring entrepreneurial education to the masses.

Using the five tips above, you can start supporting social mobility right now. Make a difference in your workplace today, and create a more inclusive environment. Start by casting the net wider when hiring, reassessing your recruitment practices through a diversity and inclusion lens, fostering a culture of radical authenticity, creating meaningful opportunities for progression and sharing your knowledge.

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