Only 7% of the UK’s workforce attended an independent school and yet, graduates of independent schools make up over 50% “of the top level of most professions.” According to the State of the Nation report, “only 1 in 8 children from low-income backgrounds is likely to become a high-income earner.”
With statistics like these, it’s clear that serious action needs to be taken concerning social and economic diversity within the workplace. However, research shows that many organisations still do not have diversity agendas in place regarding candidates from lower economic backgrounds.
Why does social and economic diversity matter?
Many workplaces now have targets in place. Or, they at least have an awareness of the need for diversity in terms of sexuality, gender, ethnicity, age and disability when recruiting.
Research has evidenced the benefits of diversifying teams. Diverse teams perform better, encourage up to 83% more productivity and make decisions up to 60% faster than none diverse teams. Diverse teams are also “credited with better employee engagement and retention.”
Clearly, diversity within the workplace makes sense both economically and culturally. However, within these diversity agendas, candidates from lower-income backgrounds still do not remain a priority. Research by Talent Works International has uncovered that many employers overlook socio-economic diversity in their targets.
Why is this?
There are several potential reasons. It is more likely to be a culmination of all of them, as well as systemic prejudice, rather than one in particular.
Firstly, there is no law against class discrimination.
Therefore, employers are not legally obliged to consider socio-economic background or class in their recruitment processes. If employers are not obliged, there is no reward or immediate benefit to them putting targets in place. The benefits of diversity of thought are often long-term. So, it may seem like there is no pressing reason for employers to implement changes.
Secondly, class is relatively invisible and, still, difficult to define.
Class is a shifting social structure – “the architecture of British social hierarchy has undergone huge shifts as a result of broader changes in social, economic and cultural life.” The boundaries aren’t the same as they once were and, as such, people sometimes struggle to categorise themselves.
The challenges to working-class people are not necessarily apparent to people not directly affected by them. As such, the lack of working-class people in positions of influence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, those currently in positions to make changes don’t understand the difficulties. Those who do understand them do not have the power to create change.
So, how can employers create opportunities for candidates from lower economic backgrounds?
Organisations need to recognise that there is a problem in the first place. Then, they need to consider the class divide as not so much something to be overcome, but as an opportunity to grow. To adequately understand the opportunity for growth, employers need to assess their workforce to gain more detailed knowledge of where there is room for change.
Then, organisations need to commit to diversity agendas, which specifically target class and socio-economic background and set specific recruitment targets.
When it comes to diversity, drastic measures need to be taken to initiate real, lasting change. A true overhaul will become inevitable once working-class talent takes up the same space as talent from privileged backgrounds.
How to achieve these targets?
Employers should be open and honest about their diversity measures and goals with both their current workforce and any potential candidates.
This may seem like a risk; however, “publicly sharing data about company diversity can have tremendous benefits.” As Cindy Robbins, president and chief people officer at Salesforce, says, “sometimes to be an advocate, you have to be overt.” So, committing to an annual audit to measure your progress can establish your organisation as a leader in diversity measures.
For example, Buffer prides itself on being transparent about its organisational diversity, employee salaries, and cash flow. As such, Buffer has a well-established, positive employer brand and is extremely profitable, being valued at $60 million.
Why does your employer brand matter?
A strong employer brand can improve your recruitment processes and, ultimately, your company culture. This can lead to more quality hires and longer retention rates. Being open about your diversity rates can be integral to your talent attraction strategy. For instance, 78% of candidates look into a company’s reputation before even applying for a job with them.
So, now is the time to access a wealth of talent that could transform your company and become a leader for socio-economic diversity amongst employers. For more information on the class divide in workplaces, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to read our whitepaper on the topic.