Open-plan offices: Productivity winner or killer?

Open-plan offices: Productivity winner or killer?

According to research, “the UK has twice as many open-plan offices as the global average.”

The conversation surrounding open-plan offices is widespread and often conflicting. Depending on who you talk to you get a different viewpoint. Some people say open-plan offices are the ideal environment for collaboration and creativity. Others say open-plan offices are the antithesis of productivity and it’s time for something new.

One theory as to why open-plan office designs don’t work is that they only provide their employees with one choice of working area. If a person only has one option, they will naturally want what they don’t have. So, perhaps the problem with open-plan offices isn’t the layout itself. Rather, while the design seems to provide an abundance of space, it doesn’t leave room for different preferences and ever-changing people sitting behind the desks.

Often, we need something different from one day to the next. One day, we might need the stimulus of conversation. Other days we might have a workload we need to fire through quickly and need a quiet space to concentrate in.

At Talent Works International, we recently moved into our brand-new office space in Northampton. For this space, we adopted a mostly open plan style, but with sections and break out areas.

We have small and large meeting rooms, booths for both individual and collaborative work, and desk areas for people who need screens. This means that our employees, no matter their personality type or job role, can choose to work in the space that best suits them at that moment. We felt that this was the best way to provide a space that works for everyone.

However, we wanted to discuss both the benefits and the pitfalls of open-plan offices.

Are they really the most productive workspaces?

The most obvious point against open-place offices is that they can tend to be noisy and distracting. On the opposite end of the scale, an environment in which everyone can hear everyone else might be more likely to promote quiet. Research has found that “open architecture appears to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”

In an attempt to avoid this scenario, most offices have music playing in the background to provide consistent background noise. However, this provides a whole host of problems all on its own. People’s ideal music to work to can be a point of contention and a significant distraction. As a result, many workers in open-plan offices end up wearing headphones to provide their own background noise and block out the sounds of their colleagues.

What are the consequences for employee wellbeing?

Research shows that workers in open offices “took 62 per cent more sick days than those in fully enclosed offices.” It’s inevitable, with lots of people sharing a space, that germs will spread.

To counteract this, a flexible working policy is ideal. This enables people who are infectious yet well enough to continue working while not carrying germs into a shared space. If employees feel able to work from home while sick, they are more likely to rest, recover quickly and avoid sharing their illness with the rest of the office.

So, if everyone’s using them, why are open-plan offices so popular?

Open-plan offices, of course, save both money and space. They are ideal for an expanding workforce as room can always be found for new employees. If the atmosphere created is positive, impromptu meetings can become commonplace without the need for back to back meetings in the diary.

The collaborative atmosphere can also promote casual conversations between colleagues, creating a friendly atmosphere and encouraging healthy relationships between colleagues.

As well as this, an office which is not segmented by hierarchy or importance promotes a feeling of equality. It “knocks down the metaphorical walls between employees,” preventing some employees from shutting themselves away and levelling the playing field. So, it can be said that companies which implement the open-plan office are making a bold statement about the internal workings of the entire company.

Of course, all these factors depend on the design of the office itself, the company and the people. Each of these elements can influence the success of an open-plan office. So, while some companies might love it, some will hate it.

The best way to find out is to ask the staff. After all, happy employees are up to 20% more productive. So, it makes sense to check in and make sure the space they’re working in works for them.

Overall, however, the consensus drawn from research is that open-plan offices “stifle rather than encourage productivity.” To implement a workspace that works for everyone, perhaps a combination of open-plan with breakout spaces for quiet and privacy is the way forward. Or maybe, in a few years, we’ll all be back to cubicles and offices. Somehow, though, that seems unlikely.

Check out some images of our office in Northampton taken by Aiva, one of our talented recruiters.

Talent mapping: Get ahead of the game

What is talent mapping?

In advance of live vacancies, a recruiter scours the market and identifies the top talent in a field. This process is called talent mapping. Potential candidates are sought out by the recruiter with short, medium and long-term employment goals in mind.

As such, talent mapping ensures that emergency hiring situations don’t leave companies powerless, waiting and hoping for the right candidates to apply. Chances are when a company utilises talent mapping, they have already identified a pool of candidates ready to go straight to interview.

When hiring for a live vacancy, a company will receive applications from candidates actively looking for a new role. However, this leaves a wealth of passive talent unexplored. Businesses can make quality hires by reaching out to those who are right for a position before a vacancy goes live.

This approach, therefore, provides companies with the opportunity to tailor a job role to the right candidate. As part of the process, recruiters can engage candidates to find out what it is they want from their next role. So, when employers are prepared, they can respond to a talent need swiftly and efficiently having already established relationships with suitable candidates.

In this sense, talent mapping can also be used purely for market research purposes. If a business wants to increase employee engagement and retention in the workplace, utilising talent mapping to understand what your competitors are providing can be a powerful tool. This can cover everything from the specifics of a job role and the expectations attached, to salary, benefits and seniority.

How can talent mapping support candidate attraction?

Talent mapping isn’t just about listing names, companies and locations. Rather, talent mapping aims to open up conversations with potential candidates and establish a relationship. By getting directly in contact with a candidate, a company is sending a strong message that they are particularly keen to work with that person. This then enables the business to establish if the candidate is interested in their potential offer and put a follow-up plan in place.

Previously, the market has relied on employers choosing candidates. However, while we are in the middle of a global talent shortage, the power is in the candidates’ hands. This doesn’t mean employers can’t still have a strategy in place to help them reach the best, most relevant talent in the market. However, it means employers need to utilise attraction campaigns and techniques to market their employer brand effectively.

Talent mapping is a hugely valuable asset to talent attraction campaigns. By having a detailed awareness of the market, and their competitors, an employer can ensure that they are continuing to provide the best offering. This can be utilised company-wide, to improve the overall corporate culture and work environment, as well as in attraction campaigns.

So, how does talent mapping work?

Talent mapping often requires companies to question what they want to achieve, and when they want to have achieved it by. As such, it is an essential part of any business which wants to put a successful scaling strategy in place.

Talent mapping creates a reference for the internal talent you have, and the talent you are likely to need. By mapping the company structure, you can then identify the talent gaps you will eventually need to fill. Identifying these gaps means that you can then look externally, if you need to, for the right people to fill those vacancies.

However, it also means that you can invest in training the team members in your company who could eventually fill those roles. Identifying potential in the workplace and investing in career development, in turn, promotes employee engagement and positive company culture.

Putting a strategy in place enables companies to put these plans in place with plenty of time to see them through. As such, talent mapping is not a quick, short term process. Rather, it requires a long-term investment to see the results that will make a difference. So, while planning ahead can be hugely effective, it requires the time investment to make it worthwhile.

How can my company implement a talent mapping strategy?

This is where an agency can prove itself most useful. Even if you don’t already outsource your recruitment processes, talent mapping can require time that your in-house team don’t have.

Alternatively, if you do outsource your recruitment processes, finding an agency which can combine both talent mapping with your day-to-day recruitment can mean that there is more value in the service you are receiving. With an approach that thinks ahead, you are much more likely to make quality hires with a greater chance of job satisfaction and retention.

Talent mapping is a highly flexible, versatile recruitment tool. As a process, it can be used to achieve such a variety of different goals that trying to put it in a box is futile. It is this flexibility that perhaps makes talent mapping a more difficult process to understand.

However, the goal of talent mapping is always to provide an insight into the market and can be undertaken with absolute confidentiality if necessary. It is the use and value of this insight that can then be used in a variety of ways to support your company. As such, talent mapping does much more than simply filling a role, giving your company both short and long-term employment strategies.

5 ways RPO can enhance your employer brand

Your employer brand is key to attracting and retaining top talent.

By effectively communicating who you are as a company, you can attract high-quality candidates and improve retention rates. When your employer brand is strong, candidates will want to work for you.

RPO providers can help to develop and build your employer brand. As well as this, they can make sure your employer brand is effectively represented through the recruitment process.

We’ve put together some of the ways working with an RPO provider can help strengthen your employer brand.

Work with a recruiter who specialises in the appropriate area

When outsourcing your recruitment process, you can partner with recruitment specialists who are experienced in the sectors most relevant to your business’ vacancies. Working with an experienced sourcing specialist reduces time and optimises your recruitment process. A recruiter who fundamentally understands the role and its value to your business is best placed to source the right fit.

A recruiter becomes an extension of your business

One of the main advantages of RPO is that the recruiter or recruitment team you partner with becomes an extension of your business. They will spend time getting to know your business extensively so that they can represent you accurately. RPO recruiters are uniquely placed not just to understand your brand, but to enhance it.

Expertly crafted job descriptions

A well-crafted job description is essential in capturing top talent. RPO providers offer support in writing ad descriptions that instil your employer brand, while accurately defining the job role to ensure it attracts relevant candidates. If a job description is too vague it can result in an influx of applications from candidates who are just not right for the role. Most RPO providers have copywriters and content writers who can give your job advert that extra flare to make it stand out. This also ensures the words used are succinct and to the point.

Using social media in your recruitment marketing

Some RPO providers have creative and digital teams. This means they can create specialised social media campaigns, promoting your employer brand to reach the right candidates. Experienced digital marketers can target an audience for your job postings, right down to city and profession. This ensures you are targeting the most relevant candidates and using your resourcing budget effectively.

Quality candidate experience

Candidates want to be confident that they’re making the right decision if they choose to join your business. By utilising recruitment partners, you can ensure that the candidate will get a quality experience throughout the entire recruitment journey, from the application stage through to interview feedback.

Specialist recruitment teams can provide excellent support to candidates, giving them the information they require when they need it. And because recruitment partners are aligned with your company values, they can shortlist candidates that are not only right for the vacancy but also a good fit for your team.

RPO and employer branding go hand in hand to make your recruitment strategy more specialised, and ultimately more successful. To find out more, check out our blogs on RPO FAQ’s and how to improve your employer brand.

Company Culture: Why It Matters In Recruitment Attraction Campaigns

Company culture is important as it can play a crucial factor in determining the success or failure of a business. Evidence shows that investing in company culture can lead to higher performance rates, due to enhanced employee wellbeing, higher levels of development and long-term employee retention.

According to Science Daily, “corporate culture is the most important factor in driving innovation”. So, not only does a strong culture improve employee ratings of their company’s qualities by 20%, being named a “best place to work” leads to a roughly 0.75% stock jump, as can be seen on Glassdoor.

Why is company culture important?

Company culture is of prime importance to economic success. However, research shows that if a negative corporate culture is established early on it can be very difficult to change.

Kotter’s research on this subject showed that there are two essential subcategories of corporate culture, which can be summarised as either visible or invisible. The first few years are critical to forming positive habits that determine overall success; however, change can occur later, it just requires more intentional effort to undo invisible bad practices and establish new ones.

So, here are some steps you can take to ensure your company culture attracts the best candidates:

Start from within

Focus on developing a strong, positive internal culture from the beginning. If this is something you have let slip, then take some time to correct it. Candidates will be comparing multiple companies, so they’ll know if your culture isn’t all you say it is.

So, before you make your culture external, ensure that you have it right. To help with this, you could research your competitors and use them as inspiration. What are they offering that you aren’t?

Although it is great to look at other companies for ideas be careful not to become a carbon copy of them. Establish bonuses and incentives that are aligned with your brand values, which will attract the candidates which are right for your business.

Publish your mission, vision, and values on your website

Once your internal culture is on point, focus on your employer branding and ensure it reflects your culture. Craft a tone of voice that is honest about who you are. Once you have spent some time developing your brand values, put them pride of place on your website.

Some companies can underestimate how important these statements are for candidates. Stand out by being open with what you want to achieve, how you want to achieve it, and how important you consider your employees to be.

Create a careers page

If you haven’t already, create a page on your website that is dedicated to advertising your current job opportunities, as well as giving an overview of your culture. Dedicate pages to the benefits you offer, including socials, team building, and development opportunities, and any extra packages you offer employees such as healthcare and wellbeing.

Be honest about the personality of your company. If your employees are interactive, talkative, and enthusiastic, mention this. Similarly, don’t portray your culture inaccurately. Authenticity will not only attract the right talent for your business but ensure they stay for the long term. It’s not about attracting as many candidates as possible but attracting the right ones.

Ensure your tone of voice is consistent

If your tone of voice has been crafted to communicate your company culture, make sure this is also used within your recruitment attraction campaigns. A change in tone of voice could confuse candidates and discourage them from applying. If you need to, invest in your content to ensure consistency.

Ensure communication with candidates reflects your culture

It’s crucial that your recruitment strategy is efficient, but also make sure that candidates, whether successful or not, have a positive experience throughout the process.

Invite candidates to experience your culture for themselves by introducing simple steps into your recruitment strategies such as an office tour, or meeting with ‘employer brand champions’ within the specific team they are looking to join.

If you need to apply processes to take steps to ensure that unconscious biases don’t come into play, maybe consider blind recruitment.

Develop a set of ethical policies

Studies show that millennial’s are looking to work for employers who reflect their own values and respect their community, with 86% being considered willing to take “a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own”.

For example, the environment is one of the most pressing issues of our time, as well as being an issue millennial’s are highly engaged with. If you want to attract up and coming, exciting talent that can transform the future of your business, consider creating your own set of environmental policies. Transform the way your business runs, from everything down to recycling and power usage. As an added perk, consider contributing to environmental charities or supporting your staff with volunteer days.

Other options to consider are a set of policies to ensure diversity and inclusion is a part of your recruitment strategy or implement an internal mental health awareness campaign. Incorporate your policies as part of your talent attraction process by documenting them on your careers page.

Use Instagram

Instagram is a fantastic tool to showcase your culture. Take pictures and videos at social events, celebrations, and office perks. If you treat your staff to lunch, snap it. If your employees are taking part in team building exercises, film it.

Actions speak louder than words, and candidates don’t just want to hear about all the benefits of your culture, they want to see them in action. For more hints and tips on using Instagram for recruitment and to attract talent, see our blog.

Use Social Media

And, on this note, determine which social media channels you will use to communicate your culture. Just as 70% of employers are checking out candidate’s social media pages, they’re doing the same to you. Check out our blog post about using social media to see how you could be using your channels to attract top talent.

Your company culture is integral to your success, both economic and internal, and investing in it should be a satisfying process. It’s all about showing candidates why you’re the right company for them. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

The psychology of teams and why uniformity doesn’t work

We’re people, not machines

This is a good thing and something that is fundamental for a productive, thriving workforce. Without difference in teams, ideas wouldn’t be born, created and implemented. So, next time you wish you were more logical or more creative, remember that it’s the interplay that makes everything possible. It needs the people who ask the questions, and the people who are focused on the visuals. It shouldn’t be an ultimatum. It’s when the two work together that the magic happens.

Play to your strengths

Personality is fundamental to teamwork. Think of the best football teams in the world and how they work together. Jeffrey LePine categorised two pathways where personality affects team performance. Path one links team performance and individual behaviour. An example of this is a teammate who soured trust so much it degraded the team’s performance. Path two refers to the impact of personality on processes. This is where an entire team of stubborn extroverts compete with each other, are unable to make a connection and resultantly have no success. Team composition counts for a lot, and when things don’t balance out, issues arise.

psychology of teams

Balance is the key to life

That’s why you need the interplay to get things right. Think of footballers again. They all have a different role and different skills, and that’s why it works. Apply that logic to the workplace, and you’ve got it. Being a carbon copy of the person sitting beside you isn’t going to help you, or the business. We’re all told that the winning recipe for success is drive, self-discipline and organisation. But, if everyone championed these skills there’d be trouble. It’s the rule breakers that offer creativity and ideas, without being held back by the rules. Sometimes they need to be scaled back, but if everyone spent their time championing brand standards there’d be trouble. Kane’s astonishing, but he needs the rest of the squad to support him and facilitate his excellence. On his own, he’s not a winner. But, with the right team, he is.

Break it down

Mixing people is vital and diversity is great for performance. Most teams are comprised of four key roles:

The results getter.  Their main focus is getting things done and being concerned with the outcome.

The people pleasers. They focus on team relations and keeping the inner harmony.

The makers. The creatives who produce the ideas and vision behind the project.

The planners. The ones who organise everything within an inch of its life and deal with all the details.

For a group to thrive, you need the right mix of the above characteristics. Companies who can confidently tick off all four are likely to have greater success.

What’s your squad dynamic?

2018, the year that employer branding takes the tech industry by storm  

2018, put all the ‘new year, new me’s to one side and you’ll see that it’s still a year of dynamic change. Well it will need to be to stay at the top.

The phrase “employer brand” came to life in corporate lexicon in 1996 to describe how a company’s unique offering, products and environment distinguish it from other organizations.

But, fast forward 21 years and there’s more to it and it’s become fundamental to hiring and retaining the right people, all while sharing the reputation via word of mouth. The only issue is, that when this word is out there, it’s impossible to retract. Put time and effort into getting it right and you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.

Competing in the bid for talent

The tech market is oversaturated and shows no sign of slowing down, making the bid for talent that much higher. That’s where companies need to up their game in order to hire and retain the best staff. Competition is rife and without the promise of progression, benefits and a grounding in a business with real staying power, candidates will look elsewhere.

That’s where you come in. It’s about doing more than listing the basic job responsibilities. We’ve all seen them, but they don’t flesh out what a day looks like at your business. It’s about selling the role and the business in equal measure. Being viewed as a viable proposition for candidates, and sparking an instant reaction.

Part of getting the right talent is based around your presence as a business. Being unavoidable and recognisable. This should start with your careers site, but should extend to cover email marketing and social campaigns to capture the attention of the right people.

Interactive platforms including YouTube are opportunities for employers to build up their brand personality and show the company values in an engaging way.

Boeing uses its company YouTube channel to showcase the products and innovations that the company works on.

Employer branding tech industry
Boeing Youtube channel
Let your employees be your biggest advocates

A 2016 Glassdoor Survey revealed ‘the majority of jobseekers will read at least six reviews before forming an opinion of a company’.  So getting perception straight is key to getting the best applicants – ones who will not only love their job but also love the company.

Use every opportunity to showcase positive employee stories, but make sure that these are as authentic as possible. Testimonials should be in employees’ own words and in relaxed video formats tend to be the most well received.

Ask them to talk about the parts of their job and the company that they value most, sharing their stories and humanizing the company.

But first, culture  

Get your culture right and you’ll have employees for life. But, how can this be whittled down? What are they key components?

The likes of Google, Workday and Cisco are leading the way when it comes to making employee perks known and creating an environment where young tech professionals can thrive.

Google do this in a number of ways – they have a Google+ page called “Life at Google” which is a collection of photos of employees at Google offices across the globe.

Workday take a different standpoint on culture, with an entire section of their website dedicated to Generation Workday. This section is designed to develop recent graduates into leaders.

employer branding tech industry
Life at Google – Google+ page

Cisco’s shift in approach places the emphasis on virtual working and flexibility. Showing that they are able to accommodate candidates needs to work non-standard hours. Taking a progressive stance in terms of flexibility sets them apart from competitors.

Whatever it is that feels authentic to your business, whether that’s flexi-time, bonus structures and rewards, or a clear progression route, this needs to be top level in communications. Get the creative execution and positioning right and you’ll be able to track the success rate across your activity.

If this blog has inspired you, our blog on promoting your employer brand on social media might come in handy.

The yearly round-up – the 2017 edition

The holiday break went at lightning speed, as predicted. But now we’re firmly back in the office and despite it being early January, the ‘Happy New Year’ email openers are steadily decreasing and everyone is embracing their new and improved routines.

But before 2017 becomes a distant memory, we wanted to recap on all the amazing projects we’ve had the opportunity to work on this past year.

Familiar faces

To start with we had the pleasure of working with some familiar faces including global software giant, Sage. Over the last year we have provided full RPO support, with on-site and remote sourcing teams. Our partnership has also involved developing compelling attraction campaigns which have been informed by location specific research conducted, as well as working on longer-term employer brand planning. We’ve not let the new projects and commitments distract us from supporting with executive hires across the globe – with a dedicated sourcing team on hand to find the right people.

Sage Tech careers website

We also continued to build the Ericsson employer brand globally, creating awareness through diversity initiatives and large-scale recruitment events. We were honoured to win the international award for ‘Best Corporate use of Online Recruitment’ at the Onrec awards in partnership with Ericsson.

Ericsson Diversity and Initiative online campaign

Speaking of awards, we won ‘Best Employee Communications and Engagement Initiative’ for our relaunch of BNP Paribas’ UK Diversity Awareness Week which included augmented reality, social sharing and events.

Furthermore, we built VWFS’ employer brand framework and launched it with a new careers website framed around the ‘Beyond Expectations’ message, supporting photography, employee stories and event collateral.

VWFS careers website and marketing collateral

New partnerships

As well as working with existing partners it was great to build new relationships. For major travel technology provider, Amadeus, we developed a recruitment campaign targeting Developers for their Heathrow office, which will be going live imminently.

We also worked with the world’s largest cloud delivery platform, Akamai, on various global projects in order to enhance their candidate experience and employer communications.

Akamai animation campaign

We built a tailored Employee Value Proposition for Thermo Fisher Scientific which included a brand perception audit as well as interviews with senior leaders, current employees and hiring managers within the business. In addition to this we conducted a market intelligence report for Simply Business and provided case studies on businesses that have been through non-digital organisational transformation.

One of the largest UK bar and restaurant chains, Mitchells & Butlers, came to us to reactivate their employer brand. We provided new brand specific assets, fresh overarching brand guidelines, updated photography, film and attraction toolkits that can be used by individual premises to create tailored recruitment ads.

In addition to this we provided RPO support to Asahi Europe, the leading super premium beer company, and supported this with attraction campaigns for high volume roles. We took this one step further and at the end of the year we began to develop an employer brand framework for Asahi UK. More on this over the coming months!

Asahi careers website and photography

What’s next?

All the TWI teams have managed to fit a lot of work into 2017! We are excited to continue building on the successes we have achieved for our clients over the last year, as well as establishing new partnerships in the coming year. Interested in knowing more? Get in touch using the form below:

Diversity agendas: more than meets the eye

Diversity agendas are less advanced than we thought

Fewer organisations have a formal diversity strategy compared with previous years. That’s the surprise finding from the latest joint CIPD and Hays Resourcing and Talent Planning survey. It seems the problem with workplace diversity agendas runs deeper than initially meets the eye.

For our upcoming white paper, we examined the diversity agendas of the top 20 UK companies by revenue but were unable to identify any company that target employees from disadvantaged backgrounds. From this we concluded that while many employers have committed to making great strides at creating greater opportunities for women and minority groups, they have a real blind spot when it comes to class that leaves their diversity agendas wanting.

The CIPD report, based on feedback from over 1000 HR professionals across the UK, reveals that many organisations don’t even have a formal diversity agenda, let alone an incomplete agenda.

According to the survey,

  • Only just over half of organisations (52%) have a formal diversity strategy
  • The proportion of organisations with a diversity strategy has fallen compared to previous years; 2017: 52%; 2015: 58%; 2013: 58%; 2012: 56%
  • Private sector organisations are even less likely to have a formal strategy (43%)
  • The proportion of organisations monitoring candidate information to improve recruitment of under-represented groups has increased only slightly, as has the proportion advertising vacancies via different sources to attract under-represented groups.
  • Most other methods to attract under-represented groups have decreased compared with 2015. The initiative that has experienced the largest decrease, –13 percentage points, is for attracting talent of all ages.
Diversity agenda
Initiatives adopted to improve diversity in organisations. Source: Resourcing and Talent Planning 2017, CIPD in partnership with Hays
Why it’s in employers’ interests to invest in a formal diversity agenda

The need to focus on diversity more couldn’t be clearer or more pressing. Four fifths of organisations feel the competition for well-qualified talent has increased over the past year with 72% anticipating competition further increasing over the coming years. Three quarters report having recruitment difficulties in the last year. For this reason, organisations need to broaden their potential pool of candidates.

The task ahead

A fundamental expansion of diversity agendas is needed in response to Britain’s deep social mobility problem. Employers need to commit to adding class to the diversity agenda. But for many employers the task is more fundamental – they need to create a formal diversity agenda. For some this will necessitate a fundamental shift in the way they perceive diversity in relation to the employer brand.

They need to appreciate that the diversity agenda is not separate from the overall employer brand, but an integral component of the overall employer brand. The diversity agenda supports the overall employer brand by helping to define what’s expected of employees – that you will treat everyone fairly and equally. In return it is an opportunity to define what employees can expect from you, that you will have full and equal opportunity to demonstrate and fulfil your ability, regardless of your upbringing or appearance. The diversity agenda shapes the give and get of the employment deal.

As the competition for talent becomes greater, the needs for employers to have a clear, compelling and distinctive employee value proposition (EVP) to attract talent.  An organisation’s values are of increasing importance to both candidates and employees, and deserve to be at the heart of the EVP. Notably organisations that have made a conscious effort to improve their employer brand have done so by improving the communication of their values. To do this successfully organisations need to articulate the value they place on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Employers need to embed diversity values into their overall employer brand, rather than seeing them as a separate entity. By doing this it will pave the way to a formal diversity agenda, and that will start to improve the access to a broader talent pool.

Want to know more? Our whitepaper on the social mobility problem in the UK is being released later this month. Enter your details below and we’ll send you a free copy on launch day.

The blog is part of our diversity discussion series. For more blogs on diversity click here.

Katharine Newton is Head of Insight at Talent Works International (TWI). TWI is a global talent communications firm that helps organisations around the world build effective and efficient talent strategies through our research, sourcing and creative teams. For more information, contact: Katharine.newton@talent-works.com

The social diversity blind spot

Earlier this year, in a white paper about the UK’s social mobility problem, Talent Works called on employers to address their social diversity ‘blind spot’ and incorporate class in their diversity agendas. Things have taken an interesting turn since then. Last month, the BBC announced that it was considering setting targets regarding the socio-economic class of its workforce. It also announced that it is removing details of university degrees and school education from the CVs of all its potential recruits, in a further effort to improve the class diversity of its workforce. This last measure is already in place at the corporation for entry-level roles such as trainees and apprenticeships.

Then a few days ago Ofcom announced that from now on the BBC will publish information about its workforce every year – information on their gender, sexuality, disability, ethnic background and – social class.

This is undoubtedly an important first step on the road to giving talent from disadvantaged backgrounds equal access to employment in the BBC. It shows that the BBC has recognised there is a problem – a fundamental gap – in their diversity agenda, and sees an opportunity to advance their agenda.

So why is the BBC thinking of setting targets regarding class and why does class diversity matter?

The ‘posh’ BBC

The BBC announced that it may set targets regarding the socio-economic class of its workforce after an internal survey found that the proportion of its workforce with parents who are in or have been in higher managerial positions or professional occupations (considered an accurate indicator of a privileged background) is double the national average. The survey also found that:

  • 17% of BBC staff and 25% of its management team went to private school – significantly above the UK average of 7%
  • 52% of staff had parents with university degrees – also above the average
  • 61% of staff had parents who are in or have been in higher managerial positions or professional occupations

Following the publication of the results, Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom the media regulator, described the BBC as too focused on middle aged and middle-class people. The issue was “incredibly important” for diversity.

Blind spot

Very much echoing our white paper, James Purnell, BBC director of radio and education, admitted that the BBC already has targets for gender, race, sexuality and disability but not class. “We don’t have targets for socioeconomic but we are thinking about it… We would love to have a target, we would be very happy to do that, it’s just what would be.”

For our white paper, “Why workplace diversity agendas must address employers’ social diversity ‘blind spot’”, Talent Works took the top 20 UK companies by revenue* and analysed their diversity agendas. For each business, the kind of person it strives to attract, develop and retain was identified and also any groups that its diversity agenda explicitly references. We found that most, if not all, seek to provide a more diverse and inclusive workplace in relation to age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and disability. A number of companies have broadened their approach to diversity by targeting parents, carers and working families. But it was not possible to identify a single company that said it targets employees from disadvantaged or working-class backgrounds.

We concluded that while many employers have committed to and are making great strides at creating greater opportunities for women, ethnic minorities, the disabled and the LGBT community, they have a real blind spot when it comes to class that leaves their diversity agendas wanting.

Why class diversity matters

In another echo of our white paper, Kevin Bakhurst, content and media policy director at Ofcom said that the BBC’s expanded approach to diversity, combined with new rules on original content and spending across the UK, would boost production. “It will make a real change in production and UK-made programmes”, he said. “It will support production across the country and improve the representation of people who don’t feel they are represented properly.

A blind spot when it comes to social class is bad for business, stated our white paper. Failure to embrace talent from economically disadvantaged backgrounds means missing out on a sizeable pool of talent, missing out on high quality candidates, and missing out on candidates with skills and attributes that are increasingly valuable in the workplace.

  • According to the last census, 14.5 percent of all pupils at state primaries are in receipt of free school meals. The corresponding figure for pupils at secondary schools is 13.2 percent. Add to these two figures the number of pupils receiving lunches through the universal infant free school meal programme, and that’s a sizeable future talent pool.
  • Individuals from working class backgrounds learn rules of survival, solidarity and community. Values of solidarity and community make for good team players, and being able to work in a team is, as we know, critical to business success. Teamwork is also more conducive to creativity and innovation.

Not just an agenda for employers

It’s great news that the BBC has started to look at diversity from a socio-economic perspective, and we really hope that other employers will follow in the BBC’s footsteps and take that first vital step towards giving good quality talent from poorer backgrounds full and equal opportunity to fulfil their ability, to contribute and make difference.

But class inequality isn’t just an agenda for employers. We, in the recruitment and talent communications industry, need to think about what we can also do to help employers foster and develop talent from poorer backgrounds. Perhaps we can help employers tailor their onboarding programmes to new hires from working class backgrounds. Perhaps we can help them build relationships with middle and low-ranked universities where there are good numbers of high ability students from poorer homes.

Let’s work together to expand the diversity agenda.

Want to know more? Our whitepaper on the social mobility problem in the UK is being released this month. Enter your details below and we’ll send you a free copy on launch day.

* The top 20 UK companies by revenue and which feature in the Fortune 500, an annual ranking of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by revenue

Katharine Newton is Head of Insight at Talent Works International (TWI). TWI is a global talent communications firm that helps organisations around the world build effective and efficient talent strategies through our research, sourcing and creative teams. For more information, contact: Katharine.newton@talent-works.com