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Five reasons why hiring socially mobile talent is imperative for businesses


Five reasons why hiring socially mobile talent is imperative for businesses

Joe Seddon Headshot 3 scaled - Business ExpressBy Joe Seddon, Founder and CEO of Zero Gravity

Are we looking for talent in the right places? In the UK more than two-thirds of senior leaders in major law firms, accountancy firms, and financial services companies come from professional families, compared to just 37% of the total workforce. This doesn’t just mean that businesses are out of touch – they’re missing out on an untapped goldmine of socially mobile talent.

Currently, only 5% of companies are actively recruiting early years talent from lower-income households. This is because businesses have historically viewed social mobility as a CSR tickbox. However, social mobility isn’t just a diversity issue, it’s a talent issue. Fixing it is about unearthing hidden gems that can propel businesses into new realms of innovation and growth.

I founded Zero Gravity not only because I saw an opportunity to unlock the potential of those from low-opportunity backgrounds, but also to provide a business solution to employers and universities looking to recruit the very best talent.

So here’s five reasons why I think hiring socially mobile talent should be an imperative for every business.

Social mobility drives business resilience

Resilience is a critical trait in today’s workplace, especially for young talent starting their careers. Resilient people are likely to have a more positive attitude in their work and a better ability to handle the stress which can come with having a high-performance job. But while 97% of business executives believe resilience is important, only 47% believe their organization is resilient. Those from socially mobile backgrounds have built up huge amounts of resilience by navigating and overcoming life’s numerous challenges. Whether it’s growing up on free school meals, living in tough areas, or attending underperforming state schools which can limit opportunity, these social mobility journeys often become de facto training courses for resilience that contribute to enhanced performance in the workplace.

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Diversity is not just about being representative of the country but about embracing a range of experiences and perspectives on the world. Socially mobile employees bring unique ways of thinking, fostering an environment ripe for innovation and safeguarding against groupthink. That’s because social mobility is multidimensional; encompassing second generation immigrants raised in inner city tower blocks, alongside those whose families have lived for generations in rural isolation. Having a diverse array of perspectives simultaneously enriches the idea pool and  equips organizations with a comprehensive range of solutions, as individuals apply their unique experiences to tackle each challenge. Indeed, a BCG study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues in the long run. On the other hand, recruiting individuals from a narrow range of backgrounds is a recipe for groupthink, making it harder to not only create a culture of innovation but to manage risk.

Social mobility transforms company culture and retention

Having a socially mobile workforce can drive retention, making a company’s culture more inclusive and supportive of those from all backgrounds. When socially mobile employees are supported, they can perform at their best and, in turn, become advocates and mentors for others in similar situations. This creates a positive feedback loop within an organisation that helps to alleviate feelings of imposter syndrome among employees. This phenomenon can be seen in the success of Employee Resource Groups in boosting retention, with ERGs contributing up to a 14% increase in employee retention rates. At Zero Gravity, we understand this dynamic. Our platform connects over 20,000 students from low-opportunity backgrounds with employers, fostering a community where mentorship and peer support fuel a culture of growth and belonging. Taking this proactive approach in building internal networks ensures that socially mobile talent doesn’t just survive but thrives at work.

Social mobility improves wider diversity 

Socio-economic background is a crucial, yet frequently overlooked, dimension of diversity, with businesses often limiting their focus to diversity initiatives around gender and ethnicity. However, whilst social mobility drives ethnic and gender diversity, the reverse often isn’t true. Indeed,  the proportion of women in FTSE 100 boardrooms has increased from 12.5% to 40% over the past ten years, yet only 12 of the UK’s top 100 companies have made substantial efforts to improve social class diversity in their workforce. The harsh reality is that many businesses have looked to tick a perceived diversity checkbox around gender and ethnicity with candidates who still come from wealthy backgrounds. Whilst this has increased optical diversity, it’s not led to a notable increase in the fundamental diversity that is achieved by employing people from different backgrounds. By prioritising social mobility, companies can level the playing field not just in terms of class, but across all dimensions of diversity. This unlocks the business benefits of diversity that enable companies to avoid the trap of tokenism.

Creating a competitive advantage  

Future-proofing a business is more than just trend-chasing; it’s about getting ahead of new ESG standards and upcoming regulatory requirements. Many businesses are under intensifying pressure from clients and investors to report on class pay gaps, which are gaping wide for businesses that have disregarded social mobility. In the financial sector, the FCA has recently set out proposals to boost diversity and inclusion within the financial sector, including mandating firms to report data against certain characteristics and set clear targets to address under-representation. By proactively embracing a diverse workforce, businesses can stay ahead of emerging expectations in social responsibility. This approach not only positions companies favourably in terms of compliance, but also strengthens brand reputation regarding social impact.

In short, embracing socially mobile talent is more than just ticking a diversity checkbox – it’s a commercial imperative with tangible business benefits. By tapping into a rich pool of potential that has been historically overlooked, businesses can unlock new avenues of innovation, grow business resilience, and increase retention. Tapping into this goldmine of talent is a no-brainer.

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