Our October masterclass looked at the ways in which employers can use Outreach to reach and attract a wide pool of talent. We were joined by Rachael Saunders and Funbi Akande from Speakers for Schools, a youth social mobility charity, formed in 2010 to make sure that every young person has access to the same prestigious networks available to the top fee-paying schools in the UK. Tom Russell, Early Careers Manager at Bentley Motors and Cordelia Bunnis, of JP Morgan’s Global Philanthropy team, kindly shared their insights into how organisations can implement effective outreach that ties into wider corporate objectives.
Employers who have been working on promoting diversity within their workforces for some time will know one thing for certain: without taking steps to diversify your future talent pipeline, your current efforts to develop inclusive hiring and progression policies can only take you so far.
That ‘talent is everywhere, while opportunity is not’ is a truism more and businesses are beginning to take seriously . A range of inequalities persist that put young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds (SEB) at a disadvantage even as they start to consider their futures.
Designed effectively, your outreach programme can a) help raise the profile of your business to promising future talent and b) serve your efforts to reach disadvantaged young people who may be underrepresented in your workforce.
Outreach: Where should I start?
When it comes to considering future careers, the data is stark: Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be aware of the careers that are on offer, the different types of roles available to them and the entry routes they could pursue. Low SEB young people – even those who have achieved the same results as peers from a high SEB at GCSE, are more likely to choose careers associated with lower incomes.
In addition, those in social mobility coldspots (areas of low social mobility) or living some distance from urban centres may have additional hurdles as they are less likely to want or be able to move to take advantage of career opportunities.
With this in mind, where should employers start when it comes to designing outreach?
Target under-represented groups and communities
To reach low SEB talent, it’s important to target your efforts in the right places.
If you’re able to target your efforts further afield, try to ensure that you’re taking your message into so-called social mobility ‘coldspots’ where there are fewer opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. If you’re not looking at coldspots, you could aim to work with schools where there is a high proportion of pupils who are entitled to free school meals.
Further Education colleges are a valuable venue through which to target low SEB young people, as they tend to have higher numbers of low SEB than many other venues.
In many ways, the pandemic has made reaching under-represented groups easier to do, as it fits within the way businesses are adapting. Tom Russell, early careers manager at Bentley Motors told the masterclass of the ‘step change’ in their outreach since the pandemic, ‘driven by the need to work more virtually”.
While face-to-face outreach and interaction will always be the most impactful, hybrid and remote working have made it easier and more convenient to reach out to those in coldspots if face-to-face outreach isn’t possible,
Connect your talent and diversity efforts and get buy-in internally
Be savvy with your outreach: done right, it can help you strengthen the links between your Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives, your wider CSR strategy and your workforce planning.
A great example of this is the Social Mobility Foundation’s Aspiring Professionals Programme – a programme that JP Morgan have been involved with for over ten years. Cordelia Bunnis offered the masterclass an insight into the two-week work experience opportunity for pupils, alongside mentoring opportunities. Pupils are then offered further opportunities to come back after they’ve finished school, helping to strengthen that pipeline of early talent and ensure continuity.
Both Cordelia and Tom agreed that getting buy-in from the rest of the organisation had been important for their efforts. JP Morgan outlined how their structure ensured that senior management were kept updated, and indicated that in their experience, “as long as you have buy-in from the top, this filters down” to host managers and other colleagues who can support young people taking part in work experience.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel
A recurring theme in the answers of both JP Morgan and Bentley Motors was the importance of the partnerships through which their outreach programmes were delivered effectively.
JP Morgan credited the success of their programme in part to their collaboration with the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF). This put them in a position to capitalise on the SMF’s network of disadvantaged schools, and to take advantage of their hub model when targeting outreach toward social mobility coldspots.
Bentley Motors also credited the role of other organisations in helping them implement effective programmes. Tom namechecked both the BAME Apprenticeship Alliance and fellow masterclass guests Speakers for Schools as having been instrumental to their efforts.
“From a business point of view” Tom says “it’s overwhelming to think ‘how do we do this’? It’s been great to work with other organisations to bridge that gap and important to work with organisations who can help you locally and nationally.”
Young people want to experience work and learn new skills
Outreach can take many forms, and it’s important to design a programme that you can maintain consistently and that works for young people. Many young people already know that experience of the world of work is important for their future prospects.
Presenting the findings of research on young people’s own views of what they need, Speakers for Schools Policy officer Funbi Akande told the masterclass that ‘not being able to get relevant work’ was perceived as the biggest barrier to a good career by those surveyed. A lack of experience was the largest perceived barrier to getting that work in the future.
When young people were asked what they wanted – or even needed – to improve their own prospects, ‘internships and work experience’ came top in the list of things that would improve their confidence. The opportunity to gain relevant experience and learn the essential skills in a workplace environment was one many hoped for and was one which was not always available in schools.
At the end of placements, 99% of young people participating said they felt more confident in the world of work, knowing employers were willing to give them time.
Help young people to engage from the beginning
For disadvantaged young people, work experience opportunities can help to boost their social capital and ensure that they’re not at a disadvantage when entering the workforce. However, it’s important to recognise that this isn’t the only barrier that low SEB young people may face when it comes to engaging with your outreach.
We’re incredibly grateful to Bentley Motors, JP Morgan and Speakers for Schools for sharing their perspectives and experiences on outreach. For those starting out, it’s important to take the time to think about how your outreach can provide the most value. Pay attention to what the data tells you, set a clear view of who you want to reach and where, and make sure that you’re partnering with the right schools, colleges and others to achieve what you set out to do.
Finally, remember that more than most aspects of your D&I and talent strategies, the impact of your outreach programme may take longer to see…so be patient. Keep collecting the data, keep evaluating and keep working to secure buy-in from across your network by sharing stories and experiences.