Meet And Engage Webinar Write-Up: Fostering social mobility in your hiring process

30 April 2024

Last Tuesday, I was invited to a Meet & Engage session with Nicola Sullivan about fostering social mobility in your emerging talent hiring. The featured guest was none other than Glen McGowan, Group Head of Emerging Talent at HSBC. I grabbed a coffee, a biscuit, and logged on to listen…

Sullivan set the scene by establishing the ongoing challenge of social mobility in the modern day, not shying away from the reality students are facing as they enter the workforce. She cited a report from the IFS that North of England, Midlands, and BAME candidates were not forecast to earn more money than their parents. On top of that, according to the Prince’s Trust, a quarter of respondents from poorer backgrounds were finishing degrees earlier to earn more money for their families.

With all that in mind, she began to ask what the impact of social mobility was on the early careers hiring journey. McGowan pointed to the fact that these differences can run deeper than just providing access. It can affect psychological and social capital, in something as simple as networking.

One particularly enlightening point McGowan made was to look at the ways to join up different efforts across organisations, rather than just celebrating individual wins. He cited Sharn Nelson Palmer’s work at Lloyds of London where they had shared their found talent with the insurance market more generally. It was interesting to hear how established companies could demonstrate their commitment to inclusive hiring, even across competitive divides, to make for impactful change.

Even though set goals in generating social mobility can be difficult to quantify, Glen wanted recruiters more broadly to challenge the current view of talent and to cast the net wider. Distinguishing between the profile of a person and the need of an organisation would be integral as well as factoring in robust apprenticeship schemes, the potential of second jobbers, and make it as accessible as possible across the whole of the UK.

More specifically to HSBC, the conversation moved on to addressing these concerns in larger organisations. Structurally, meaningful interactions between departments was maintained by allowing for forums where individuals could listen and give a feedback loop and then allowed the autonomy to execute their plans. Direct access to candidates had also proven to give the most cohesive picture rather than abstracted research and other findings.

On a hopeful note, prioritising social mobility was important across all markets, but McGowan still suggested that the correct nuance and forethought when dealing with geopolitical differences was crucial. Finding advocates that most directly spoke to communities and undo the image of intimidating organisations also proved successful in this realm. For example, their partnership with the Mercury Foundation gave a shared vision of community but certainly wouldn’t have been as authentically engaged with if it wasn’t for the presence of Stormzy as an ambassador.

The major throughline was a desire for greater collaboration. Working with people that have the lived experience and DE&I experts to forge truly long-lasting policy change. As far as what recruiters can do now, Glen stressed the importance of holistic, forward-thinking campaign concepts. This issue is constantly evolving and if recruiters aren’t considering what the landscape will look like in 5 or 10 years, they won’t be able to generate the lasting change they’re seeking.

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