Toolkit launched for employers to promote social mobility

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The Social Mobility Commission has today launched a new guide to help employers attract and retain staff from all social backgrounds.

Created by the Bridge Group, the toolkit provides practical and cost-effective recommendations to help ensure that talented and skilled job seekers from poorer backgrounds are not overlooked.

Under the guidelines jobseekers and staff may be routinely asked to give details of the school they went to, their parents’ occupations – and even whether they were on free school meals.

The aim is to help break through the traditional ‘Old Boys’ Network’, where recruiters can favour candidates they know, or those with more privileged social status.

Boosting representation from diverse social backgrounds is a powerful tool for employers in the constant struggle to attract and retain the best people.

Research underpinning the toolkit includes a survey of seven leading law firms. The data shows that employees educated at state schools are 75% more likely to feature in the top 10% of performers than those educated at independent schools.

The suggested questions on social background would always be voluntary and anonymised. Employers committed to broadening the social diversity of their workforces would then use the information to check the fairness of their application, recruitment and promotion processes.

Building a wide and diverse talent pool is critical to the success of organisations of any sector and size. Organisations keen to future-proof themselves are already embracing social mobility as the new diversity frontier.

Recent research from the Commission has shown that working class people account for just over a third of the workforce in professional occupations – whereas 60% come from professional backgrounds. Similarly, while only seven per cent of the public were privately educated, 71% of barristers and 27% of CEOs attended independent schools.

Nik Miller, Chief Executive of the Bridge Group, said: “The toolkit uses the evidence base to offer practical ways in which all employers can be more equal, access new talent, and develop more inclusive workplaces. It should become a guide for all leading employers that care about these matters.”

Over the coming months, the Commission will be publishing specialised toolkits for SMEs, retail, and the professional financial services sector.