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As a business owner who knows first-hand how social mobility can transform a person’s career prospects, it’s a subject I feel very passionate about. It’s also something I feel many SMEs are failing to properly address.

That, unfortunately, means they may be missing an opportunity to develop a competitive edge.

Social mobility is about removing barriers that hold back the best and brightest in our society. By doing so, businesses open up their talent pools and develop robust, better-performing teams.

For me, one of the biggest advantages of building a more socially diverse workforce is that you end up with a team of people who all bring different perspectives, opinions and expertise to every discussion. This, in turn, makes decision-making significantly better.

Investing in diversity

Many SMEs I speak to consider social mobility to be the domain of big institutions and corporates with a sizeable budget to invest heavily in such programmes. But it’s time for every company, no matter their size, to view inclusion and diversity as a competitive advantage, not just an optional extra.

Why? Because socially diverse teams are better equipped to understand and cater for the needs of diverse customer markets. They can even help businesses access untapped markets.

Similarly, an inclusive workplace is essential if you want to attract and retain the best employees in what has become a relentless battle over talent.

Disruption is affecting our traditional models of business: make sure your team is socially inclusive, and you are one-step closer to future-proofing your business.

Break down barriers to innovation

It’s also been shown that a diverse workforce is one where employees avoid conformity, meaning greater potential for innovation and creative thinking.

Believe me when I say social mobility is not just corporate jargon. There’s real evidence that social inclusion strategies are linked to strong financial performance.

McKinsey and Company release an annual report on the relationship between social diversity and business performance. The positive correlation between diverse leadership teams and financial outperformance continues to hold true, time and time again.

In its 2018 report , companies in the top quartile for social diversity were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. Similarly, those in the bottom quartile were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability.

Steps to greater social mobility

Social inclusion strategies don’t need a big budget to be successful. Apprenticeships are a great way to create entry level routes into your business for young people from different backgrounds. Not everyone is privileged enough to go to university these days, and by only offering graduate level roles you’re cutting off a great number of applicants who could be a perfect fit for your company.

Further still, partnerships with local schools can present a great opportunity to offer valuable work experience placements which can help empower young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Your recruitment process should be a level playing field. Try not to put candidates off with adverts full of industry waffle; keep it simple and demystify the process. In my opinion, giving constructive feedback to candidates is one of the best things you can do to energise and boost confidence levels for unsuccessful applicants.

These are little steps which can have a big impact on both your business and wider community. I truly believe that a business which boasts a diverse workforce, thanks to greater social mobility, benefits from a broader range of ideas, cultural influences, values and experiences.

As a business owner, how do you promote greater diversity in your own team?

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About the author

Donna Bulmer

With over 20 years’ experience, Donna is Managing Partner in the North East. Having facilitated the growth of the region’s two offices and almost doubled turnover over a four year period, she is now helping to drive national strategy through her position on the Haines Watts board. As well as advising growing owner-managed businesses, Donna spends a great deal of her time working with voluntary sector organisations and, as such, is one of the leading voices for the not-for-profit sector in the Haines Watts group. She is a strong advocate of social issues and diversity in the workplace, and is using her board position to help businesses understand the importance of corporate social responsibility. On top of this, she is a Trustee and Treasurer for local charity Streetwise Young Peoples Project and sits on the Finance Sub-committee of national charity Changing Lives.

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