Two in five employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in the North East feel included at work

Just two in five employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds across organisations in the North East feel included in the workplace, and only half feel safe to be open about their background, according to new research from Accenture.

The findings contradict high levels of optimism from employers on their progress with inclusion in the workplace. Over nine in 10 business leaders in the North East believe their employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds feel included at work – more than double the actual proportion.

In addition to the divide between business leaders and employees on how included people feel in the workplace, the research finds that employees in the North East from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are 50% less likely to have been promoted in the last three years, compared to their colleagues.

“These findings should act as a wakeup call for the North East,” said Allan King, Accenture’s North East Operations Lead. “Businesses across our region have a vitally important role to play in creating environments in which everyone is given an equal opportunity to excel. Overcoming these barriers will open up an enormous talent pool of untapped potential here in the North East, and the UK more widely.”

The statistics for the North East reflect a similar picture from across the UK, which has been outlined in a new report titled, A fair chance to advance: The power of culture to break socioeconomic barriers in the workplace. The research surveyed 4,000 employees and 1,400 senior executives across all regions in the UK to explore how workplace culture affects the retention and progression of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

In the report, Accenture also explored the relationship between workplace culture and social mobility. In organisations with more inclusive workplace cultures, employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are both happier and more ambitious. In these companies, over 90% of employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds feel they have the same chance of success as their other colleagues, compared to only 30% in companies with less inclusive cultures.

Furthermore, the report finds that the profits of organisations focusing on improving social mobility are 1.4x higher than their competitors which are less focused on the issue.

Accenture found that these more inclusive organisations have adopted the following five key practices – which forms a “blueprint for socioeconomic inclusion”:

  • Trust and Responsibility: Individuals are trusted to take decisions and drive change
  • Role models: Employees see strong, attainable role models
  • Anti-discrimination policies: Employees are treated and compensated equally
  • Flexibility: Employees are empowered to work when, where, and how they need
  • Openness & transparency: Employees feel safe to bring their true selves to work.

Camilla Drejer, Accenture’s lead for Citizenship & Responsible Business in the UK & Ireland, said: “There is real value in a diverse workforce that reflects the makeup of society a business operates in. An inclusive business brings in different skills and mindsets and fosters a culture that boosts productivity. Of course, creating a level playing field for people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will not happen overnight. But with any business objective, if organisations aim for it, and manage it, they are more likely to deliver it.”