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What role can we play in improving socio-economic mobility through recruitment?

18 May 2021
By Sarah Nelson

The Foundation’s vision to create opportunities and transform the lives of people in East London can only be achieved through the inclusivity and diversity that runs at the heart of both our fundraising and fund giving activities — and socio-economic mobility plays an important part of this.

We continually challenge all forms of inequality and discrimination, and this includes standing by our belief that everyone, regardless of their background, should be given the opportunities to realise their full potential. Supporting social mobility is a key priority, both internally for our own staff and future employees; but also, to give opportunities for the communities and grantees we support.

“The chances of someone from a disadvantaged background getting on in life are closely linked to where they grow up and choose to make a life for themselves.” — Rt. Hon Alan Milburn, State of the Nation 2017: Social Mobility in Great Britain

Socio-economic mobility is the impact your social background may have on the availability of opportunities. It is often very difficult to look at social mobility without an intersectional lens considering the broader, bigger inclusivity picture of class, education, race and gender. With a world still full of inequality, helping to improve social mobility is hugely important. Whether you are looking at supporting local organisations or individuals, or looking at your own internal policies, developing a social mobility strategy can only benefit your own organisation and others.

Think about this. When recruiting, how often have you heard ‘they are just not a fit for the team’? What does this actually mean? Often it is the making of a judgement about someone based on an assumption; which more often than not leads to that person not being given a chance. For example, shortlisting a person over someone else because they went to an alumni university. Stereotyping based on assumptions limits the pool of candidates and the ability to select and develop an ideal applicant.

It’s a complex issue and often requires a coordinated approach but areas to be considered are:

  • Attraction — be proud in your vision and how this is communicated. To widen your talent pool, know who, what and how you will attract employees and ensure they know they are welcome and will be valued.
  • Recruitment and Selection – think about any design bias that may be present in the recruitment process. Define talent on competency-based transferable skills and always look at how you can support applicants going through a selection process – help them be their best and show their full performance.
  • Collect data – collecting data on economic background to understand your organisation is key. It is a sensitive area so look at what questions you are asking and how often they are being asked to measure this. Ensure there is an ‘opt out’ option to any questions.
  • Retention – create a culture that means people are valued and WANT to stay.

The UK has one of the poorest rates of social mobility in the developed world with a recent ONS study showing that the pandemic has only worsened this. The ramifications of the pandemic on lower social classes can be seen through all elements of life from health care, childcare, digital exclusion, employment security, transport use, nutritional intake, education, mental health and even support networks, access to green space and others.

Many of the programmes the Foundation supports aim to tackle these barriers and open up opportunities. For example through our Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund, we have recently awarded over £400,000 to many diverse community projects including fashion, retail, employment, sports, environmental and youth programmes.

If you have an idea that might tackle or help reduce the challenges associated with socio-economic mobility or any other inequality or barrier, then visit our grants pages. To learn more about programmes we fund, visit our project page. You are sure to find a wealth of knowledge and inspiration here. Make sure to sign up to our newsletter for the latest updates on our funding and opportunities.

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About the author

Sarah Nelson

Sarah joined the Future for London Foundation team in May 2020 as Programme and Communication Director.

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