Business Professionals from across the Eastern region came together in April 2021 at this webinar, organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), to talk about social mobility. Lynn Walters, Executive Director at Pure, was delighted to be asked to speak at the event alongside PwC, who are recognised for their diversity and social mobility policies, so this was a great opportunity to hear and learn from a global business. In contrast, Pure has a wide range of clients, from global-listed businesses to SMEs and not-for-profits – and were happy to share our experience about helping organisations recruit diverse teams.
What is social mobility?
In the workplace, social mobility is about encouraging businesses to recruit people from all social backgrounds. In other words, it’s about making sure that where someone comes from doesn’t decide their future. Having a diverse workforce contributes to improving social mobility because people from disadvantaged backgrounds are often put off applying for jobs if they think their potential colleagues come from very different backgrounds to their own.
A poll of the webinar’s audience revealed that 35% thought their organisation measures and reports on workforce diversity. But interestingly 27% thought theirs didn’t.
Hollie Crompton was the first speaker. She leads the social mobility team at PwC, and she explained why businesses of all sizes should be looking to improve social mobility. In summary it’s good for:
- the economy: skilled people who fulfil their potential contribution to a healthy economy.
- business: it gives us access to more people with the right skills.
- society: equal opportunities lead to more diverse thinking, as more parts of society are represented at the highest levels.
How to develop a social mobility strategy
Hollie advised thinking about the following to increase diversity and social mobility:
- removing graduate-only programmes and replacing them with apprenticeship schemes that focus on diversity and socio-economic minority groups.
- increasing work experience schemes to provide an insight for secondary school children to see what it’s like to work at your organisation.
- Requesting recruitment suppliers include candidates from all socio-economic groups on their short-lists.
PwC are moving towards a ‘blind’ recruitment policy, which removes candidates’ names and other identifying factors from their application, including age, location, years of experience, school or university names, etc.
Lynn Walters, Executive Director here at Pure, was next to speak. She started by asking the audience about diversity and inclusion. This revealed that 70% of delegates felt their business had more work to do to embed diversity and inclusion in its recruitment processes. This came as no surprise to us, as there are still very few organisations that specifically ask for diversity on their recruitment shortlists, let alone the social mobility characteristic.
- Whilst recruiting Non-Executive Director’s for Treatt plc, Lynn explained how the Board take real ownership to ensure there is diversity. Throughout the search, they keep diversity on the agenda which has meant that their last 3 Non-Executive Director appointments have been with exceptional individuals from diverse backgrounds.
- Recruiting a CFO for Adnams last year, the Board were prepared to be flexible on the brief to enable them to attract diverse candidates. Their female CFO, Jenny Hanlon joined at the start of the pandemic and has made a significant difference and has been a huge support to the CEO and Board.
- Finally, she described how Genie Ventures, a fast-growing Cambridge based digital marketing business remove bias from their recruitment by anonymising application forms and removing CV’s from the initial screening process. Within their 70-person team, they employ individuals from 15 nationalities.
Even though recruitment is the start of the journey, how you treat people through an inclusive culture will determine how successful you retain and building diverse teams. Agile working practices have become increasingly more attractive to diverse applicants and with talent in high demand, diverse, inclusive recruitment practices can really set you apart.
Lynn concluded that if you do one thing differently, it should be to review how diverse your shortlist is the next time you hire. If it lacks diversity, raise this (appropriately) with your recruiter. Doing this in the right way can make a real difference.
Changes to working practices brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic could be the catalyst for employers being able to choose talent from a wider pool of candidates. The sense that people no longer need to lead an office-based existence to do their best work opens up the talent pool from local to national. So if companies continue to use and develop hybrid working patterns, then local limits on demographic diversity will soon become a thing of the past.
If you’re interested in improving diversity in your workforce, please get in touch with us.
Lynn is a founding Director of Pure and leads Pure Executive with over 25 years recruiting for Executive appointments. Lynn supports East of England-based businesses with senior management and Board level recruitment. Lynn leads the Best Employer Eastern Region Initiative and the Women In Leadership Programme both of which are aimed at helping companies and people to develop.