• Rachel Doyle

Social mobility drives inequality later in hiring - hire for skills and potential not credentials


Being born into a privileged family likely means that you will remain privileged for the rest of your life. Good education, well-paid professional career and growth opportunities are much easier to attain for those from professional, middle- and upper-class families. People from working class and disadvantaged backgrounds, on the other hand, face endless barriers and challenges that stand in the way of social mobility. From schooling to geographical locations and which university you attended, if you could. Then throw race, gender, disability and neurodiversity into the mix and these challenges become even greater. So, how can you level the playing field for everyone who wants to enter the workforce?



Why do we need diverse hires?


Hiring people from a variety of backgrounds is not just a charitable action to take as an employer. Diverse teams lead to better growth and productivity thanks to the range of insights and experiences you can benefit from, yet businesses are missing their targets due to misconceptions. Crazy when not only are they hampering performance, it also builds a significantly improved culture across the business. Limiting your hires to only people of specific backgrounds will stagnate your growth and put your company at risk of sticking to the same methods of working, which may not align with the changing market.


Look at potential not credentials


Today’s recruiters need to look beyond metrics like university credentials and past work experience. It is not surprising that candidates from privileged backgrounds will have access to better education and work opportunities than those from working class families. One of the many barriers for social mobility is that people from poorer backgrounds also take on more care responsibilities and have limited funds for education.


If you want to level the playing field, you need to rethink your hiring process. How much value do you place on their mix of experience, soft skills, and willingness to learn instead of simply looking at their education and qualifications? Are there training programs you can provide for the right person? Their life experience can also offer insight into their character and how they may contribute as valuable team members.


Offer mentorship programs


One of the ways to bridge the gap for social mobility is to offer mentorship programs. These allow employees from working class backgrounds to learn on the job, which would offer great support for those who are caring for family members or simply can’t afford to pursue education as they have to prioritise stable income. This is where you can really make a difference as an employer, and it’ll likely result in increased employee retention and loyalty. Providing dedicated, enthusiastic professionals with a foot in the door can offer tremendous benefits to your long-term company growth.



Remember that social mobility challenges start early on


Whatever barriers are preventing people from entering the workforce at the hiring stage have likely started as early as the moment they were born. So don’t judge the candidates at face value when they apply for a job. Adopt a mindset of equity, not just equality and look at adjustments you can make to encourage diverse hires to join.


Someone from a low-income, working-class background may have gone to an underfunded state school, which limits their chances of getting into top class universities or securing high paying work. Or they may have been unable to apply to a certain university because they could not afford to move away or travel to the campus. They may have had to look after family members or faced discrimination based on their race, disability, sexuality, and gender. These divides start early on, so by the time you must choose between someone with excellent credentials or gaps in their education and experience, the damage is already done. Undergoing training for yourself and members of your team will help to eliminate this bias and, ultimately, lead to better opportunities and diverse hires that will benefit your company in the long run. It’s time to start hiring for potential and resist focussing purely on credentials.


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