Last week, the 5% Club published a new report ‘Breaking the Deadlock’ – a call to arms to businesses, sector leaders and Government to renew efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
In the context of existing skills gaps and labour market uncertainty linked to concerns over Brexit and Government immigration policy, the inclusion agenda has moved quickly from CSR strategy to business imperative. With experts also lamenting a stagnation in social mobility, it is evidently a societal one too.
The report calls on businesses to show “unequivocal leadership” in instigating the collection of diversity data to enable them to monitor progress and set targets. This leadership is to be welcomed, coming in the same week that the Telegraph reported, rather hysterically, on businesses’ plans to monitor the socio-economic status of their workforce as “a purge of the middle class”. As KPMG’s Head of Social Mobility, Jenny Baskerville argued in response, some people face more barriers than others in joining professions or progressing within them; and we can only break down these barriers if we are able to identify the points at which people face them.
As a group of employers bound by a shared commitment to creating more ‘learn as you earn’ opportunities through placements, internships and apprenticeships, the 5% Club is well placed to make a meaningful difference on this agenda. Broadening access to these opportunities will go a long way towards rebalancing the diversity of employers’ early talent communities: research we conducted last year highlighted how placement opportunities often focus on the skills and experience expected but comparatively little about how the opportunity will help to develop and build skills. This approach is likely to work against disadvantaged and underrepresented groups and discourage them from applying.
And there is already much good practice to point towards. The recent Language Matters report from the Tech Partnership highlights the dramatic effect that stripping out jargon and gender bias from graduate job ads can have on application rates.
The Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship is a good example of an initiative that broadens the talent pipeline into its graduate scheme by targeting BAME, disabled and socially and economically disadvantaged students.
Here at the National Centre, we harnessed our own research as well as drawing on wider sources to develop Placer, the digital platform which matches students in further and higher education with work experience, apprenticeship and graduate job opportunities. This strong evidence base enabled us to develop a tool which supports social mobility by making opportunities more inclusive and accessible and minimising bias in the recruitment process.
Breaking the Deadlock rightly argues that multiple initiatives have had limited impact and that these have taken place in a piecemeal fashion, advocating greater coordination across sectors and echoing the Bridge Group’s call for collective action. Over the coming months, we will be hosting a series of roundtables bringing universities and businesses together to learn from each other’s approaches to improving social mobility and to identify opportunities for better collaboration. It is an agenda to which our members are committed and one in which collaboration can unlock success.
By Ali Orr, NCUB Talent and Employability Consultant.