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The ins and outs of Social Mobility during Covid-19

8 December, 2020

According to a Social Mobility Commission survey with 100+ employers from across the country, only 35% feel that there is equality of opportunity in the UK. Additionally, 77% felt there is a large gap between the social classes in Britain, a figure that has been stagnant in the last few years.

Personnel Today adds that only 36% of top UK employers are currently setting social mobility targets while merely 34% of organisations offer diversity awareness training.

On the flip side, a more recent report from the Social Mobility Foundation based on the UK’s top 75 employers revealed that 79% felt their organisation was open to talent from all class backgrounds, while 80% affirmed that they felt comfortable discussing their class background with colleagues.

A 10% minority disclosed they have had to hide their class background to get ahead in the workplace, declining from 11% in 2019 and 16% in 2018. Furthermore, the study noted that there’s been good progress in this area, with 63% of the leadership teams committed to improving socio-economic diversity in their workforce, a more hopeful outlook than the 50% recorded in 2018.

With all this in mind, what can companies do to improve their social mobility status, especially during COVID-19?

Provide assistance

COVID-19 has had a big impact on every companies’ early talent recruitment. 63% of Bright Network undergraduate members are not confident in securing a role after university while 4 in 5 they are not getting enough information from employers. As a result, it’s become more important than ever to find innovative ways to engage with students and candidates, whether that’s through specialist virtual careers fairs, social media groups or providing accessible content, such as e-learning materials, that all students, regardless of background, can access.

Welfare and self-validation structures

Connecting during lockdown can sometimes become very difficult, especially when the only chance to see work colleagues is via a Zoom call. This is a particular challenge for students transitioning into work. Initiatives like monthly check ins by the People Team, online social events and daily/weekly team catches-up are, to name a few, effective ways to create a new remote routine, with a healthy focus on wellbeing. 

In the case of PwC, they have a dedicated wellbeing team that creates resources, sessions and advice to support employees. They also communicate regularly to provide guidance and reassurance, including by a way of a hosted regular livestream where employees could anonymously submit questions about their main concerns.


A powerful example of trust comes from Grant Thornton, where they run virtual access programmes for young people from a lower socioeconomic background. They’ve also partnered with another six accountancy firms to utilise their networks and share best practices.

To ensure accessibility, they made sure all participants had access to sufficient technology, equipment or internet connectivity, providing them the tools needed to get maximum value out of the experience.

Trust and managing expectations is more vital than ever as colleagues work remotely and new starters may not be exposed to the cues or insight that an active office would provide. Indeed, this is a view that Bright Network passionately adopts, with one of our values being “trusted to deliver”.

Go above and beyond

Connecting role models with future talent is central to making firms and sectors seem accessible. For example, Fujitsu runs a number of apprenticeship awareness events as part of its school engagement programme, where volunteers at the company present their own academic outcomes and career journeys.

Bright Network’s Illuminate Belonging live event focused on social mobility, with speakers from Ivy House, Clyde & Co and Legal & General, as well as perspectives from two inspiring Bright Network members. It’s available here.