With Jeremy Corbyn coming under increasing scrutiny as leader of the opposition, his policy shift on social mobility highlighted in The Guardian recently, prompted me to think about what we do in the RPO industry to address this issue and how the use of data could support recruiting talent from a wider range of socio-economic groups.

Corbyn’s view is that social mobility has failed in this country and wants to create a “Social Justice Commission” to address the fundamental issues that lead to young talent going to waste. He champions the idea that all children be allowed to flourish, instead of just a small percentage that have been lucky enough to find the support and resources to find better jobs that offer career progression and higher earning potential. 

The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) believes that the inequality gap is increasing with social mobility remaining at a standstill for over half a decade, due to failures in the UK’s education and employment policy.

The current aspiration in recruitment is that if we have application processes that are impartial and consistent for all, this allows the best talent to be successful from whichever socio-economic background they come from and we have all followed best practice.

Could the unpalatable truth be that our industry is unwittingly reinforcing this inequality by prioritising efficiency and cost per hire, instead of challenging ourselves and our clients to reassess how to attract and engage candidates from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, that acknowledges the complexity and time investment involved.

Research and Insight can be used to create recruitment strategies that address key issues that large scale employers face, such as Laing O’Rourke, who wanted to improve social mobility by making a commitment to build relationships beyond the universities they regularly recruit from. They launched long-term educational initiatives that engage schools and colleges in areas of deprivation and low social mobility that were identified through market insight.      

Would more of a focus during the assessment process on a candidate’s potential and the ability to perform in the role improve the application success rate for people that come from differing class backgrounds?

Making the investment into assessing the whole person through contextualised educational attainment, situational judgement tests based around role criteria, and more strengths-based tests that focus on skills and potential, seeks to maximise the opportunity to find the right candidate that will excel in the role.

Does the traditional competency-led approach prioritise task legacy, which can seek to exclude candidates without prior experience?

Surely this will only narrow the talent pool and reinforce mobility barriers.

There is a huge amount of data out there that emphasises the inequality and lack of opportunity that people face, such as that seen in this year’s SMC’s “State of the Nation” report that evidences that children from white collar backgrounds are 80% more likely to enter a professional occupation due to their social network and education attainment.

Even when children from lower socio-economic classes successfully enter the professions, they earn 17% less than those that have come from a more affluent background.

This inequality gap in our human capital economy is compounded when you consider that over the last 20 years the proportion of jobs available in the professional sector has increased, whilst blue collar jobs are declining. Almost half of the jobs in the marketplace are specialist / professional, whereas less than a third are routine and lower skilled.

An example of how this impact reward levels in the job marketplace is that those candidates from a working-class background are 10% more likely to be paid below the voluntary living wage than those from more affluent families.  

The use of data and insight can be a way of understanding how the myriad of factors that feed into the UK’s lack of social mobility can be analysed to create a more effective way to attract diverse audiences into roles that they may otherwise not reach.

It won’t be a surprise to anyone that a very high percentage of professional roles are based in London and the South East, so having the resources to move region to find work is really important.

This year’s SMC report also highlights that candidates that work in the professions are 70% more likely to move to find better paying jobs with improved career prospects.

The disparity is even greater when London is considered, where they are 300% more likely!

Regional differences are wider in the UK than anywhere else in Western Europe, making the need for more sophisticated recruitment solutions all the more necessary. These geographic barriers could be mitigated by revising workforce estate plans, holding more local assessment events and supporting remote working.    

By using macro data it is possible to see what the mix of people looks like within towns and cities and allows us to identify audiences that lack upward social mobility. When overlaid with socio-demographic consumer data, it is possible to understand what messaging will create empathy and resonate with these audiences, which leads to increased engagement and will ultimately improve employers’ chances of making more diverse hires.  

By making the necessary investment in data and insight, organisations can influence and support their recruitment strategies to identify longer term opportunities that will make a positive impact on hiring goals and increased social mobility.