New research finds only 38% of managers from low socio-economic backgrounds

Many believe their organisation is doing little to support the career development of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has shown. Respondents also believe that once in work, an employee’s background continues to impact their career progression.

CMI found that 53% of those in management roles are from a high socio-economic background, compared to 38% from a low socio-economic background. And a third (33%) of respondents believe socio-economic background is a barrier to progression to moving up to executive level, with 31% believing it is a barrier to achieving a role at middle management level within their organisations.

And organisations appear to be sidelining those unable or unwilling to undertake higher education, with only 14% of those questioned by CMI saying that their organisations specifically reached out to school leavers as part of their recruitment process.

Additionally, CMI’s research has shown little knowledge, or take-up, of Government schemes that help firms bring on school leavers, with organisations instead focusing on attracting and retaining graduates.

CMI found that only 3% of respondents said their organisation used the Restart programme, only 14% used Kickstart, and 18% used Government traineeship schemes. By comparison, three times as many organisations are running graduate schemes compared to providing opportunities for school leavers.

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the CMI, said: “Education and training play an important role in improving social mobility. Your socio-economic background is an important factor in your ability or willingness to access higher education and it looks like employers are overlooking this when it comes to recruitment – and then again when it comes to career progression.

“In the UK today, your background should be irrelevant when it comes to your choice of career and how your career progresses.  Unfortunately, our research shows that’s not the case. There appears to be a widespread acceptance that where you come from will determine the direction of your career path, and an unfortunate reality that employers aren’t doing enough to disprove this.

“We are seeing painfully low adoption rates of Government schemes to encourage the employment of school leavers, with employers still focusing overwhelmingly on graduates, and graduates from certain universities. Graduates are of course vital to business success, but both they and school leavers should be target groups for recruitment. Focusing on one over the other is wrong – the playing field needs levelling up.”

Today the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is calling on both the Government and employers to implement measures to help make recruitment and progression fairer and improve life chances for all, regardless of their socio-economic background:

  • The Government should introduce mandatory employee socio-economic data collection by large firms, similar to existing requirements on gender. Currently, almost 70% of organisations do not collect socio-economic data on their employees.
  • Employers should review their recruitment processes to ensure they are broad and fair and they should publish action plans on how they propose to ensure they remain so. Training for those involved in the recruiting process should include guidance on consideration of socio-economic factors of applicants. CMI’s research showed that nine in 10 respondents were unaware of any such training in their organisations at present.
  • Recruitment and promotion practises must be fully transparent. Posts must be advertised and not offered through informal networks.

Ann Francke added: “We don’t need a workplace revolution to resolve this unfair and discriminatory situation. Managers and leaders can make a real difference and help transform the chances of those from deprived backgrounds through just a few simple steps. Review your current recruitment and outreach programmes, change them if you need to. Broaden your thinking about who could best benefit your organisation – is it necessarily a graduate, or could it be a school leaver, an apprentice?

“We know that diversity in the workplace is a good thing, and that diversity applies to where your employees come from. Candidates come in all shapes and sizes and offer varying talents – managers shouldn’t blinker themselves to one group – you risk losing out on recruiting the best talent and retaining it, hindering your organisation’s growth.”

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