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Employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds don’t feel Included in the workplace

Camilla Drejer - Accenture

Just two in five employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds across U.K organisations feel included in the workplace, and only half feel safe to be open about their background, according to a new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

The findings contradict high levels of optimism from employers on their progress with inclusion in the workplace. Nearly nine in 10 business leaders believe their employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds feel included at work – double the actual proportion.

The new report, titled, A fair chance to advance: The power of culture to break socioeconomic barriers in the workplace, surveyed 4,000 employees and 1,400 senior executives to explore how workplace culture affects the retention and progression of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

In addition to the divide between business leaders and employees on how included people feel in the workplace, the report finds that employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to progress their careers at the same rate as their colleagues. One in five employees from low-income backgrounds are promoted once every three years, compared to one in 4 of their colleagues. This means an estimated 700,000 employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have missed out on promotion in the U.K.

“The findings will be sombre reading for British businesses looking to build a more socially diverse workforce,” said Accenture’s UK & Ireland Market Unit Lead, Simon Eaves. “It’s vital that employees feel seen and heard at work so they can thrive equally. By understanding the hidden and pervasive barriers that are holding people back, businesses can access an untapped talent pool and tackle the skills shortages that continue to blight the economy.”

In the report, Accenture also explored the relationship between workplace culture and social mobility. In organizations with more inclusive workplace cultures, employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are both happier and more ambitious. In these companies, over 90% of employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds feel they have the same chance of success as their other colleagues, compared to only 30% in companies with less inclusive cultures.

Furthermore, the report finds that the profits of organizations focusing on improving social mobility are 1.4x higher than their competitors that are less focused on the issue.

Accenture found that these more inclusive organizations have adopted the following five key practices – which forms a “blueprint for socioeconomic inclusion”:

  • Trust and Responsibility: Individuals are trusted to take decisions and drive change
  • Role models: Employees see strong, attainable role models
  • Anti-discrimination policies: Employees are treated and compensated equally
  • Flexibility: Employees are empowered to work when, where, and how they need
  • Openness & transparency: Employees feel safe to bring their true selves to work.

Camilla Drejer, Accenture’s lead for Citizenship & Responsible Business in the UK & Ireland, said, “There is real value in a diverse workforce that reflects the makeup of society a business operates in. An inclusive business brings in different skills and mindsets and fosters a culture that boosts productivity. Of course, creating a level playing field for people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will not happen overnight. But with any business objective, if organizations aim for it, and manage it, they are more likely to deliver it.”

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