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Celebrating the UK’s first Social Mobility Awareness Day 

By Andy Rich, managing partner at accountancy firm HW Fisher

Last week saw the UK’s first Social Mobility Awareness Day, a day designed to improve awareness of what social mobility is, why it is important, and how organisations across all industries can take action. 

According to the UK Government, social mobility is defined as the link between a person’s occupation or income, and the occupation or income of their parents. Where there is a strong link, there is a lower level of social mobility. Where there is a weak link, there is a higher level of social mobility.

It’s an issue I feel is of real importance. Growing up my father was a market trader, and I learned the importance of a strong work ethic from him. I studied very hard and eventually got the chance to work in an accountancy firm having written hundreds of application letters. Now in my role as managing partner, I am passionate about giving less privileged young adults the opportunity to progress. 

Why now?

Last week’s action day came at a much-needed time, with the UK having one of the lowest rates of social mobility in the developed world, meaning that individuals who are born into low-income households do not have access to the same opportunities as those born into more privileged circumstances.

The UK Government’s Social Mobility Barometer 2021 highlights that more than half of the public think that the pandemic has played a role in increasing social inequality, and four in five adults now believe there is a large gap between different social classes.

The findings also show that an increasing number of people believe that employers should be taking action to improve social mobility – 42% in 2021 compared with 31% in 2019.

Attracting and retaining talent from all backgrounds

Encouraging social mobility doesn’t only help individuals. Having a workforce from all different backgrounds and starts in life fosters greater diversity of thought and ways of working. Having this variety of perspectives is important to ensure that work is completed to the best level it can be. 

In order to achieve a truly diverse workforce, it is important to make sure that your organisation is taking active steps to attract and retain talent from all backgrounds. We share below some examples that have helped HW Fisher to become a more inclusive workplace.

  • Flexible working is important – Allowing staff to be flexible with their hours means that you naturally open up opportunities to a wider selection of candidates, and this also helps to retain existing staff who have caring responsibilities and may need arrangements outside of the ‘9-5’ norm. 
  • Apprenticeship schemes – University is an expensive option and is rapidly no longer becoming the default for those leaving school. Apprenticeship schemes open up opportunities for those who may not be able to afford the growing cost of university. It means they can take up school-leaver places and end up at no disadvantage in their future career. 
  • Promote the diversity of your existing workforce – We’ve found that having a diverse staff culture, promoted on our website through the visibility of partner profiles, has really helped us to attract candidates from all backgrounds. Recently we announced a number of promotions to Director from employees who joined HW Fisher as school leavers more than ten years ago and who each earned their accountancy qualifications with us. Sharing their stories on our website is a simple way to showcase the different routes that our team have taken into accountancy.
  • Continued learning and development – Our apprenticeship scheme offers on the job training and full support, as trainees work alongside experienced partners, all whilst earning a competitive salary and studying for the AAT qualification. Once qualified, we continue to provide regular training in management skills and the latest technical knowledge.
  • Arrange a buddy system – For our new joiners, we have a buddy system where we look to allocate people from similar backgrounds or interests. This is especially important for those relocating to London for the first time as it can really help them to settle in.
  • Consider a mentoring programme – Having a support network in place assists with new trainees finding their feet. Our mentoring programme is offered throughout the firm after trainees have qualified, helping to enable further career progression. 

There’s still a long way to go

These are only some of the ways that employers can help tackle this growing issue, and we recognise that there is a lot more that needs to be done across the country to ensure that quality work opportunities are available to everyone – regardless of their background.

However, it is great to see the creation of more action groups and action days to highlight the importance of this issue, and even more positive to see businesses across all industries taking responsibility and action to make the workplace a more inclusive environment. 

By Andy Rich, Managing Partner at accountancy firm HW Fisher

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