Warning to Government that business culture still impeding social mobility… The CIPD has voiced concerns about cultural issues within the workplace that may limit the effectiveness/impact of the Government’s “Business Company” policy aimed at providing fairer access to certain professions.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg launched the programme in April 2011 in order to facilitate a more equitable social mobility strategy and to do away with the traditional business culture of old boys clubs and “who you know not what you know”. More than 100 companies have since signed up to the initiative including such big-hitters as Barclays, Tescos, Coca-Cola and BP.
The perception is that those from a privileged background are more likely to progress to high level roles regardless of their ability and skills and certainly the Government figures seem to bare this thought out. Only a quarter of males from working class backgrounds even get in the door to attain professional or managerial jobs. On the other hand, the privately educated, who make up just 7 per cent of the population, hold more than half of the top level posts in many of the more esteemed professions, including an incredible 54 per cent of FTSE 100 chief executives.
Clegg explained the rationale behind the new initiative:
“Working with the coalition, the biggest hitters in British business are helping lead the way to a fairer, more open society. By opening their doors to young people from all walks of life, this marks the start of a culture shift among major employers, driven by the belief that ability and drive should trump connections and privilege.”
Katerina Rüdiger, of the CIPD, however suggested there was still a lot of work to do to foster a real sense of equality and diversity at the upper levels of British business:
“There are still cultural issues and attitudes that need to be overcome on both sides (the employer and potential candidates) for this to work. For example some people will not apply for a job because they perceive that certain jobs are not for someone from their background.
“To overcome this, employers need to go into schools and talk about occupations and jobs, as well as giving guidance on selection processes for certain professions and industries. We also need to challenge the thinking of existing professionals who say ‘I came from a certain university so I will recruit from there’. Sometimes the most talented people don’t come from that particular university or school”
“More work also needs to be done around highlighting the business case for this change, otherwise it’s going to become just another corporate social responsibility initiative”.
The CIPD recommend that HR teams introduce schemes to develop workforce planning strategies that include and promote a variety of career paths, including non-traditional ways into jobs and sectors through programmes like lifelong learning.
HR can also boost social mobility for existing employees by outlining clear and transparent in-house progression routes so that workers are aware that there is a consistent, fair-minded and performance-based rationale behind promotions.