Employers need to focus on diverse paths to recruitment - David Caskie

It’s one of the toughest times for Scotland’s students and graduates in living history. Social Mobility Day this month, reminds us as employers that we must seek to broaden our hiring practices and offer flexibility if we are to connect and engage with Generation Z.

Scottish students have faced yet another difficult year thanks to the residual challenges of the pandemic and the recent teachers strikes. Now they face a new challenge as they transition from education to the workplace during a cost-of-living crisis. A new survey from UK Youth has flagged that 76 per cent of young people are concerned the crisis will restrict their ability to get a secure job now or in the future.

For Generation Z, this is just the latest in a series of upheavals that have defined their education, early employment and are now impacting their ability to reach their full potential.

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Yet at the same time, employers are determined to find the right skills for the future. Companies must therefore look to offer different routes to engage this important group and to consider diverse paths to entry – recruiting people who demonstrate a broad base of skills, not just academic achievements.

David Caskie, joint managing director for Accenture in ScotlandDavid Caskie, joint managing director for Accenture in Scotland
David Caskie, joint managing director for Accenture in Scotland

We already know that social background has a profound impact on careers in the UK. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are 60 per cent less likely to be in a professional occupation and 28 per cent less likely to hold a management role than those from more affluent backgrounds.

At Accenture, we’ve learnt a lot from our work to level the playing field and help young people to realise their full potential – regardless of their background and circumstances. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Movement to Work coalition, which connects UK employers, youth organisations, training partners and the government to alleviate barriers to work. Since 2013, we’ve positively impacted more than 155,000 young people through work placements, 89 per cent of whom moved on to employment, training or education as a direct result. Through our work with IntoUniversity, we’ve supported learning centres in Scotland to help improve the career prospects of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

To avoid talented individuals slipping through the net, it is our responsibility as employers to ensure that our workplace cultures and hiring practices are inclusive and create a sense of belonging.

We already know that a socially diverse talent pool represents huge value to employers. The profits of organisations focused on boosting social mobility are 1.4 times higher than those of their competitors.

Recruit people who demonstrate a broad base of skills, not just academic achievementsRecruit people who demonstrate a broad base of skills, not just academic achievements
Recruit people who demonstrate a broad base of skills, not just academic achievements

Now is the time for employers to consider offering more diverse routes to entry - including recruiting and upskilling professionals from a wider pool of backgrounds and diverse educational disciplines.

In an Accenture study of employees from a lower socioeconomic background who are thriving in the workplace and are advancing at their preferred pace, inclusive organisations displayed the following five common practices:

  1. Trust and Responsibility: Individuals are trusted to take decisions and drive change.
  2. Role models: Employees see strong, attainable role models.
  3. Anti-discrimination policies: Employees are treated and compensated equally.
  4. Flexibility: Employees are empowered for hybrid working.
  5. Openness and transparency: Employees feel safe to bring their true selves to work.

Take flexibility for example, the ability to shape your working day – to be empowered to decide where and how you can be most productive – is important for all employees, but especially for those juggling multiple commitments such as additional study, and financial and geographical restrictions. New ways of working can help to relieve the pressure of having to relocate to expensive cities for valuable work experience. Organisations that embrace technology to offer remote opportunities can take advantage of diverse talent from across the country.

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Scotland’s employers should strive to enhance social mobility by fostering diversity within their workforce. If not, they stand to miss out on the vital range of diverse skills and perspectives that digital natives from all backgrounds bring to the table, especially in industries experiencing continuous overhauls thanks to technological developments.

In the face of a crisis-hit Generation Z yearning for a renewed sense of career confidence, a sense of belonging and purpose, cultivating an inclusive working environment and diverse hiring processes is paramount for Scottish businesses to continue finding the skills they need.

​David Caskie, joint managing director for Accenture in Scotland



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