Letting talent shine

 In Blog, CEO's blog

Two publications last week, not explicitly connected but all part of the same piece. The first was the Social Mobility Index for Employers, published by the Social Mobility Foundation – listing the top 50 employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace. The top 50 were selected from 100 entries from firms who put themselves forward, so it’s a self-selecting group – but nevertheless, these are the firms who are doing most to encourage young people; to change recruitment, selection and progression methods; and improve measures of progress.

Also published for the first time were the higher education Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results. The provision of each institution’s undergraduate teaching is assessed against ten criteria that cover the areas of teaching quality, learning environment and student outcomes. There is a degree of controversy in the university community about the methodology, and some institutions with very high reputations have not done as well as they might have expected.

At ELBA we see both the employers Social Mobility index and the TEF as positive developments. Report after report has shown that it is still too often the case that people get recruited on the basis of their family background and the university they went to, rather than their individual merits. Barriers also persist after a person does eventually get a job, and Baroness MacGregor-Smith’s recent report into race inequality in the workplace showed how productivity is being held back because the best talent for the work in hand is not being deployed.

So anything which gives recognition and publicity to those who are trying to make the changes has got to be a good thing. It is easy to complain and point out the negative aspects of what organisations do, but positive praise and recognition often is more effective in changing behaviours.

We were really pleased to see ELBA business partner KPMG ranked second in the employers’ social mobility index – recognition for sustained efforts to break down barriers over many years. Also doing well was ELBA business partner JP Morgan, who was the highest ranking bank in the index. If you question whether things like this make any difference, I can tell you from our visit to see colleagues at JP Morgan on Friday that such public acknowledgement is a real source of pride for both employees and the organisation collectively, and can only further open up opportunities for people from wider backgrounds to get into good careers.

Of course the real challenge is to get to the employers who did not even put in a submission to the index – but they will hopefully feel cajoled by the example set by their competitors, customers or suppliers, all putting themselves forward and getting good publicity, which will help persuade them that they should be doing the same.

The TEF results also give a chance for the modern universities to shine. It’s all very well promoting widening participation in higher education but it has to be matched with fairer destinations. Three or four years hard study to get a good degree will feel pretty hollow if talented graduates cannot get through the door. We see graduates coming through London Works, our ethical, recruitment agency, who have not had the chance to show what they can do, and it’s our role to use our networks to get an opening for them. We are hoping the Social Mobility Index of Employers and the TEF will give us extra ammunition when we are knocking on doors. All they need is a chance and the rest will follow – we are convinced their talent will shine.

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