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Why social mobility should be high on HR’s agenda



It’s time to make social mobility an essential part of any company’s agenda.

I celebrated Social Mobility Day last week (13 June). It is a reminder that we all must strive for equality in every aspect of our lives. This is particularly crucial for companies and HR departments that lack a comprehensive equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) strategy, or consider social mobility someone else’s problem.

Social mobility is about promoting a fairer and more equitable society – a goal that is becoming increasingly important. Studies consistently demonstrate that a person’s background and their parents’ occupations significantly impact opportunities, affecting everything from education and work experience to career aspirations and hobbies. I am particularly proud of our scholarship initiative supporting social mobility, facilitated by the digital financial management business for students, Blackbullion.

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Businesses are increasingly motivated to reflect the communities they serve by recruiting from a broader talent pool, thereby benefiting from the diversity of thought this brings. Although there has rightly been significant attention on ethnicity and gender, socio-economic background is often neglected.

Many of us can be guilty of obstructing others’ career advancement when we should be supporting their progress. Familiarity is one reasons that professionals often fail to assist others. Typically, people who receive the best projects are individuals whom leaders have previously worked with, making it harder for newcomers to secure opportunities. We tend to gravitate toward the familiar because it feels comfortable. However, we need to step out of that comfort zone and make an effort to mentor or sponsor individuals who are different from us.

It’s important to empathise with others, to understand their experiences and to avoid being judgmental. You never know what people are going through. Organisations need to create workplaces where people feel a sense of belonging and where they can bring their authentic selves.

Read more: How employers can get involved with social mobility

First and foremost, it is crucial to recognise that social mobility must be a top priority. Too many organisations across various sectors still overlook this issue. Some companies have yet to acknowledge their social mobility problem, while others admit to it but prioritise other challenges. Additionally, some are aware of the issue but are unsure how to address it. It’s time to make social mobility an essential part of any company’s agenda.

Most imperative is to make use of your workforce background data. This requires sincerity. Staff won’t share personal information unless they trust your intent.

Social mobility is not a protected characteristic and hardly ever appears in standard diversity surveys. Without trust, questions about your parents’ jobs when you were growing up, the kind of school you attended or whether you were eligible for free school meals can feel intrusive.

Business leaders and HR executives must become comfortable discussing social mobility. Some may need to recognise their own privilege and understand what they need to change. Conversely, people who were disadvantaged should feel empowered to be role models.

Read more: Social mobility rises up the business agenda

These are personal and often awkward topics. But once the conversation starts, it can be incredibly powerful and essential for success. I’ve seen it many times: when a leader openly discusses their struggles, staff members feel inspired and say: “I thought I was the only one.” This is why it is so important to foster conversations to create a more welcoming and inclusive working environment.

By prioritising social mobility, business leaders can unlock the full potential of their workforce, drive innovation, and ensure sustainable growth. It’s not just about doing the right thing, it’s about creating a competitive advantage in an ever-changing business landscape.

By Siobhan Goss, head of corporate social responsibility, Matrix 

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