Author Profile Picture

James Adeleke

Generation Success


Read more about James Adeleke

Diversity and inclusion: it’s time to champion greater social mobility for young talent

Social status remains a barrier to entry for some young people in their careers.

How can HR practitioners attract and nurture a wholly diverse workforce, and why should they? That’s a big ask for one article, but in this piece I’m going to try to summarise the opportunities that employers have in recruiting a more diverse workforce.

Your background, your access to education and where you happened to be born still play a depressingly significant role in your chance of getting those jobs. 

These days we speak a lot about employers’ responsibilities where diversity is concerned, and of course they do have a responsibility to be far more diverse and inclusive than they have been in the past. We believe, however, that this does a huge disservice to the people that are ultimately at the heart of company policies. It does not celebrate the fact that, in improving diversity practices, employers benefit from a much more vibrant and exciting workforce and, crucially, one that is more likely to represent the customers it is trying to serve and the problems it is trying to solve.

Moreover, employers risk missing out on an ever-increasing portion of the talent pool: 66% of millennials believe businesses are responsible for improving social mobility, while over 80% consider an employer’s policy on diversity, equality and inclusion an important factor when deciding whether to work for them. In addition, 2.5 million young people are put off from applying to jobs at all; including the finance sector, if they perceive the workforce to be predominantly middle and upper class.

A crisis of confidence?

The generation ready to enter the workplace today has had a difficult time. We speak about the ‘lost generation’; the news is full of negativity and job opportunities can be few and far between. Your background, your access to education and where you happened to be born still play a depressingly significant role in your chance of getting those jobs. Today’s young people have struggled to find a voice amidst a conventional context and their confidence and sense of self has suffered as a result.

Companies need to throw out the rulebook when it comes to employing young people and put in place new ways and means that give prospective employees more opportunity to shine.

This is not what we, at Generation Success, see of this generation when we speak to them at our workshops and throughout our mentoring programmes, however. Our enterprise is founded on the ethos that employers willing to invest in their energy, their ideas and their ambition will be the front-runners in tomorrow’s economy.

The first task for any company wanting to broaden its appeal as a diverse employer is communication: shout it from the rooftops that you offer a workplace where all sorts of different people will be valued and heard. Find proactive ways to connect with them. Then, when those people walk through your doors be true to your word and listen to their needs, their ideas and their concerns. Have properly thought out ways and processes to make sure their voice, and enthusiasm, is not lost.

Create an inclusive culture

The next step is flexibility: for too long the route into employment has been exclusive and one-size-fits-all. Someone might be massively creative and inspirational, but weaker at writing a CV or under pressure in a first interview. They might have had more character-building life experience than we could ever know from looking at a list of grades or their education history.

Companies need to throw out the rulebook when it comes to employing young people and put in place new ways and means that give prospective employees more opportunity to shine. Those practices need to carry through to your approach to working life – the best ideas don’t always come from the pages of a presentation or a group of people sitting around a boardroom table, after all. If you want your workforce to be diverse, make sure your working culture is creative enough to include everyone.

Finally, it’s about support: young people can be of huge benefit to business, but they may not yet be used to day-to-day working life. Employers need to help them build the confidence to speak up and gain the necessary skills needed to thrive in business. Companies must have systems in place to make sure their young employees are properly supported and heard and allowed to flourish. The same systems will also enable experienced colleagues from diverse backgrounds to do the same.

Six steps to success

It is our firm belief at that employers with properly thought-out diversity practices in place will be the ones finding success in their wider businesses. This belief is backed up by numbers: companies with above average diversity scores reported a 45% increase in innovation revenue, compared to the 26% experienced by companies with below average scores. The best of those will be the ones whose’ policies are not simply filed away on a nicely-headed piece of paper – but whose culture lives and breathes diversity and inclusion.

Ready to take your first steps to greater diversity? Here’s what can HR teams do now:

  • Increase the geographic spread of your job postings. Don’t just rely on one recruitment channel or site, as this limits the talent pool you are recruiting from.
  • Encourage diverse staff to recommend a friend or share your vacancies. Do not overlook your biggest champions.
  • Have authentic leadership. Making sure that the senior leadership are diversity champions and that this culture is reinforced internally will make sure that changes are made.
  • Establish a working group from across the business, listen to their, and their team members’, ideas on steps you can take now to become a more inclusive employer. Put ideas in to practice and let employees know what’s happening.
  • Consider a mentoring programme: who in the business, or outside of it, can help younger or less experienced employees achieve their career goals?
  • Don’t operate in an echo chamber. Connect with the wider business community so you can learn from each other. Find workshops, seminars or networking events that will help your business continually evolve.

Interested in this topic? Read Three ways to create a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Author Profile Picture
James Adeleke


Read more from James Adeleke
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to HRZone's newsletter