Civil Service tackles social mobility

Minister for the Cabinet Office & Paymaster General, Matthew Hancock, has announced that the Government will develop a ground-breaking new national standard set of measures of socio-economic background, which will be used to measure and so manage social mobility in the Civil Service and beyond. The announcement was made at a ‘career speed networking’ event organised by free education programme Inspiring the Future at Thomas More School in north London.

The Minister has also today called upon civil servants to devote an hour every year to visiting a school and talking to pupils about their ambitions, and their route into a career. This could operate through schemes such as Inspiring the Future, run by the Education and Employers charity, which facilitate school visits to introduce young people to volunteers from the world of work.

Unlike many other measures of diversity, there is no agreed way of measuring socio-economic background between employers. Following a meeting with key business leaders this week, dozens of major employers have agreed to work with the Government to create new national common measures which will help to boost social mobility in workplaces across the UK, in both the public and private sectors. Deloitte, Accenture, O2, Linklaters, KPMG, Barclays, EY, Baker & McKenzie, Grant Thornton, Teach First and the independent Bridge Group have already committed to working with us on this important development.

Over 150 further businesses have now been invited to contribute.

It is the first time that employers in the UK have developed a common national standard to measure socio-economic background. Draft measures could include:

○      What postcode an individual lived in at the age of 14;

○      Whether they received free school meals;

○      Their parents’ professions.

Speaking at St Thomas More School in Haringey, north London, Matthew Hancock said: “Our goal is simple: to make sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed and make the most of their talents, whatever the circumstances of their birth.

“It’s time to tackle the last workplace taboo – social mobility. The British don’t like to discuss things like their parents’ background, particularly at work. But you can’t manage what you can’t measure. The Civil Service is determined to lead the way on social mobility, which is why we are going to work with major private sector employers to develop a national measure for social mobility so we can take action and break down barriers to employment.”

The Civil Service will begin using the new measures in the next 12 months, and the Government will urge businesses and the rest of the public sector to follow suit.

The Cabinet Office has also announced a new Fast Stream assessment centre in Newcastle, to further open up the north of the country to potential employees.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, Head of the Civil Service, said: “The Civil Service is proud of its commitment to becoming the country’s most inclusive employer. We have made significant progress towards this goal but we know we still have a long way to go. The Social Mobility Strategy and updated Talent Action Plan set out in detail the steps we will take to ensure the Civil Service truly represents modern Britain.”

Sam Clark, UK and Ireland HR Director at Accenture, said: “The culture change required to enable people from all walks of life to flourish and reach the top is an ongoing journey. There are lessons we can learn from other areas, such as gender, than can help us secure more rapid change. At Accenture, we have embedded social mobility into our core recruiting practices, not just because it is the ‘right thing to do’, but because we want to secure the very best talent for our business.”

Melanie Richards, Vice Chairman at KPMG LLP, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Cabinet Office, in partnership with the Bridge Group, are consulting the business community to develop a standardised national set of measures for employers to assess socio-economic background. KPMG collects a wide range of socio-economic data on its applicants. For a number of years we have been working with the Bridge Group who have rigorously analysed our data to understand the effect socio-economic status can have on the recruitment pipeline and have developed analytical tools to help us better target and attract more diverse candidates. KPMG welcomes the opportunity to work alongside the Cabinet Office, the Bridge Group, and other employers to standardise best practice, generate a more robust evidence base, and to encourage transparency.”

Simon Branigan, Partner, Linklaters, said: “The consultation provides a common set of measures that will enable organisations across the UK to work towards the goal of ensuring that all doors are open and ready to recruit talented people from all social backgrounds. Collaboration is key to success and Linklaters is already feeling the benefits of working with government and other businesses as Social Mobility Business Compact Champions.  We have an established apprenticeship programme, and have made great progress in improving our outreach and recruitment processes to ensure that we identify talent and potential, rather than privilege and polish.”

Sacha Romanovitch, CEO Grant Thornton UK LLP and Chair of Access Accountancy Patron Group, said: “We know that for the UK to have a vibrant economy we must tap into all the talent in our country.  As one of the 11 Social Mobility Business Compact champions we are committed to ensuring the next generation has open access to opportunities which enable them to succeed.  This enquiry focuses attention and will help to raise the profile of this important issue, as well as ensuring that businesses align their approach.  We look forward to working with the Cabinet Office and The Bridge Group on this important agenda, and hope that the consultation accelerates action in this critical area.”

Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, said: “Improving social mobility is one of the UK’s biggest challenges. To tackle it, we must remove the perception that some careers are a ‘closed-shop’. One way to drive this change is through greater transparency. Deloitte has published data on the socio-economic and educational background of our staff in order to dispel this myth and demonstrate that a career at our firm is open to all. We support today’s announcement from the Government and would urge other businesses to join us in collecting and publishing this crucial data.”

To see photos from the event on our Flickr click here: