Skip to main content

Reaching talented people from all backgrounds

On 25 February we held the second employers’ masterclass series of the year, exploring how you can reach, attract and foster a diverse pool of talent.

Outreach is about attracting candidates who may not traditionally apply for roles within your organisation, yet could make a significant contribution in future. They may not have been to the ‘best schools’ or lack soft skills and confidence – but these could be the ‘bright stars’ of tomorrow. In seven leading law firms, employees educated at state schools were 75% more likely to feature in the top decile of performers than those educated at independent schools.

Hollie Crompton, Social Mobility Lead at PwC, walked us through their current initiatives – and they are rank first on the Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index, so their outreach programmes are ‘best in class’.

Rachael Saunders, Education and Policy Director at Speakers for Schools, discussed their work addressing social mobility through work experience and influential speakers. Their goal is to inspire young people and help them gain the skills to fulfil their ambitions.

The breakout sessions were chaired by an impressive panel of experts from the Institute of Chartered Accountants Speakers for SchoolsAssociation of Accounting TechniciansAspiring SolicitorsDepartment for OpportunitiesPwCPRIME and DWF (see below for full list of individuals).

A video recording of the session can be found below. You can also download the Outreach Masterclass Afterpack, which includes the presentations and an employer checklist to help you refine your ideas.

The pandemic has presented some unique challenges for employers and candidates alike, but also new opportunities, such as widening access in social mobility ‘cold spots’. PwC delivers schools outreach and work experience programmes for disadvantaged young people – supporting them in gaining the connections, knowledge and confidence to pursue their chosen careers. To keep these programmes running during lockdown, PwC adapted them so they could be delivered virtually, and made them available to schools nationwide.

To support home schooling, PwC also provided guidance for parents and carers on how to use its online employability skills toolkit. This was originally designed to be delivered as lessons by career leaders and teachers, but during lockdown PwC made their ‘Tech We Can’ lessons available to parents, carers and students at home. Topics include technology, work-readiness, financial literacy and well-being; in addition to guidance and support on the recruitment process.

Speakers for Schools look to teachers to provide the expertise on what their pupils need. With a generous six-week lead-time, they are able to carefully plan, alongside teachers, to ensure young people are matched with the right employers. This enables both parties to get the most out of the experience. Their view is that these kinds of initiatives are most successful when partnership-driven and done in close collaboration with schools and FE colleges. Their programmes enable young people to experience different jobs through multiple work experience opportunities, so they get a real sense for the type of career they would like to pursue.

Outreach is also about actively challenging perceptions that candidates from under-represented backgrounds may hold about your business or industry.

One of the key ways you can do this is by appointing a senior leader to champion socio-economic diversity and by encouraging people from within your organisation to share their stories. This can be a great way to attract candidates from a similar background and make them feel welcome.

To reduce barriers for applicants who may not achieved the highest grades or who have less work experience in the form of unpaid internships, a number of companies are also embracing ‘contextual recruitment’. This looks at applicants’ academic and professional achievements in the context of their circumstances. It helps to spot applicants whose skills may be less visible but who have the ability and potential to succeed, even if they don’t have the grades. These fresh recruitment practices open up opportunities that would otherwise be missed, for both the candidate and employer.

“It is only too easy for employers to underestimate someone’s potential because of their background or circumstances. I know from personal experience how important it is that companies take a little extra time to give people from all walks of life the opportunity to prove their ability.”

Harvey Matthewson, Aviation Activity Officer at the Disabled Flying charity Aerobility.

People perform best when they feel valued, empowered and respected. So following on from outreach initiatives, it is important to consider what environment these candidates enter into. Once you have attracted the right candidates and ensured a fair recruitment process, you then need to ensure there is a welcoming and inclusive culture in which people can thrive. There is a clear benefit to organisations who choose to embrace this – companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity are 33% more likely to outperform on profitability.

Our employers’ toolkit is packed with ideas how you can build a strong outreach programme or create a more inclusive culture. Each section includes tailored guidance, as well as videos that will give you our top tips on the key themes of Data, Hiring, Progression, Culture & Leadership, and Advocacy – enabling you to become a real change-maker in this space. You can watch the Outreach video below.

Thank you to the experts who chaired the break-out sessions of our Outreach masterclass: