June 23, 2022

Three Ways To Build Socioeconomic Diversity

4 min read
By Majida Begum

In our last two insights we discussed the importance of social mobility for the D&I agenda and its significance for the early talent space. For the third and final part of our social mobility series, explore three practical approaches to build socioeconomically diverse workplaces, supported by best-practise examples across industries.

Organisations across all industries are impacted by low social mobility, however improving social mobility is rarely a clear outcome of programmes or leadership training. A report by Accenture found that less than a fifth of their executives published a goal linked to improving social mobility, and only 1 in 6 executives considered socioeconomic diversity to be a high priority in their organisation. With socioeconomic diversity having the potential of being the next mainstay topic on D&I Agendas, could it be time to start thinking about how to implement it in your organisation?

Here are three ways you can build socioeconomic diversity in your organisation:


1) Be Clear on Your Outcomes

As with any attempts at improving DEIB, it’s critical to have clear, agreed-upon goals. Put simply: know where you want to go, before figuring out how to get there. Outcomes should be feasible, achievable and, importantly, measurable. Improving your organisation’s performance on social mobility, as with any facet of diversity, is often a long-term endeavour. It can seem slow-moving, especially for stakeholders in your business who may not be in the weeds of change like you or your team may be. Having goals where you can track your progress and impact through measurement can help with stakeholder management. Setting and publishing clear, transparent, measurable goals can help build buy in and demonstrate authentic commitment to your people, your peers, and the wider industry.

The Social Mobility Foundation found that that 64% of employers do not set targets on social mobility, and just 22% of employers publish data on the socioeconomic background of their people.

Setting and publishing clear, transparent, measurable goals to improve social mobility is key. Improving visibility allows us to see patterns, progress and identify areas of improvement: clear goals with defined outcomes to improve social mobility will allow data collection, and overall better benchmarking.

For example: Nike take transparency to the next level by publishing their live I&D stats and goals on their website. Their data includes detail across different characteristics and within hierarchies in the organisation, to help provide a comprehensive picture.

What Can You Do?

  • A) See your people as experts. The individuals in your organisation who have been socially mobile may well be the experts in how to build more inclusive communities. Ask them what steps you can take to create a more inclusive workplace, what would resonate with them, and what they would value.
  • B) Anchor your goals to action. Having goals is the first step and may be the easiest. How to achieve your goals is the harder part to master. Have a clear execution plan, with milestones, benchmarks, and incremental markers of success. This way, even if you are moving at a steady pace, you know objectively that you’re moving.
  • C) Measure and track your progress. Use data to establish evidence-led thinking. Data should inform how you structure your strategy, and measure how well you are performing against your targets. Be ready to communicate what the data is telling you to your stakeholders.

Talk to us if you need help communicating your data with impact


2. Build Development Programmes That Promote Social Mobility

When designing programmes, putting your peoples. needs at heart is key. Doing so with audiences from different socioeconomic or other backgrounds it becomes even more critical. For example, unpaid internships hinder opportunities for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, for whom working without pay may not be a viable option. Structured and paid internships, by contrast, provide tangible skills that prepare people for the world of work. The same applies for other types of programmes.


For example: Disney’s Code ROSIE is an internal Access to Technology Programme for women. Women in Disney apply to Code ROSIE and receive training for relevant tech roles that change every year, with the current focus being product management. The focus on future-facing skills creates meaningful opportunities for internal mobility. It builds participant confidence, and enables progress at work for Disney’s people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

What can you do?

    • A) Design with your audience in mind. Ask your people how they learn and collaborate best. Ask your business what the critical areas of upskilling are. Understand you’re your organisation’s culture, so you know how best to impart these critical skills. Programmes should be adaptable, skills-focused & use inclusive design
    • B) Identify a clear end point. What do you want to achieve? How can your programme enable upskilling and progression? What are the steps and desired outcomes? Drive ever element and touchpoint in your programme towards this end point. Focus is your best friend, for an effective programme.
    • C) Create spaces for play. Individuals who are from a lower socioeconomic background, are more likely to code-switch and work harder to learn what the acceptable norms and behaviours in their workplace are. Spaces of play are ultimately spaces of safe learning, where getting it wrong is embraced as part of the process. Your people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (or any protected characteristic, for that matter) don’t have to worry about code-switching or not being familiar the norms and behaviours, when they are learning in a space geared for play.

Watch our webinar on high-impact programme design


3. Cultivate Leaders Who Promote Social Mobility

Early Talent is an important stakeholder in this conversation, but strong leadership paves the path and puts social mobility on the D&I agenda. Leaders are the ones who can reconfigure power dynamics to enhance D&I and social mobility. Effective inclusion is a board-level conversation.

For example: In an internal diversity audit, KPMG identified that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were only progressing to middle-management roles, but not beyond. In response, KPMG created socioeconomic background quotas with an ambition for “29% of partners and directors to come from working class backgrounds by 2030”.

How can upskilling your leaders boost inclusion and social mobility in your organisation?

  • A) Invest in your high performers. Identify early your high performers who come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and invest in their development. Specialised, holistic leadership tracks can build your leadership pipeline while retaining diverse people within your organisation.
  • B) Upskill your leaders. Being able to leading teams with diverse backgrounds is not always intuitive, but rather a learned skill that needs continuous development. Consider skills like inclusive leadership, leading with empathy & leading with change.
  • C) Train your role models. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often have fewer professional role-models and mentors, particularly in traditionally elite professions like the media. Often, people from lower socioeconomic or other diverse backgrounds invest their own time in being role models. Spotlight their efforts, recognise their performance as role models during performance reviews and career progression, and invest in their learning and development to amplify their impact.

Read our 3 Tips for developing empathetic leaders


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