Diversity: business' best kept secret

By Annie Peate, Learning to Work Programme and Policy Officer

Social mobility is an important issue for the UK, not only for individuals and society, but for business and the economy. Without access to a diverse pool of talents, skills and backgrounds to fish from, employers run the risk of sacrificing their competitiveness, entrepreneurialism and productivity. Put simply – diversity is business’ best kept secret; therefore employers have a key role to play in helping improve access to their sector or profession, and social mobility more widely.

However, employers tell us they sometimes struggle to reach more diverse recruits, saying they either don’t know where to find them, cannot see which of their recruitment practices or methods they need to change, or are unable to identify where to start. Through our Learning to Work programme, we’re guiding and supporting employers to improve the diversity of their workplace by employing more young people. We’ve shown employers that by taking an active role in preparing young people for the world of work, the financial and business returns are significant. Our message to employers: Invest now, don’t pay later.

But we also realise that to really address the issue of diversity requires more. Which is why the CIPD is a founding member of the first ever Professions Week. Running from 21-27 October, the aim of Professions Week is to increase interest in becoming a professional amongst young people (14-19) and to demonstrate the routes in to a range of professions. The CIPD has teamed-up with a group of fourteen prominent professional bodies to produce a range of resources to help young people, teachers, careers advisors and parents find out more about what it means to be a professional and what opportunities are available.

Moreover, as the professional body representing HR, we’re not only interested in supporting and enabling employers to access and recruit a more diverse workforce. Providing information about HR as a career option, attracting more diverse applicants and employing talented people into our own profession is high on our agenda. We realise that by improving diversity within our own profession, we also improve the quality and relevance of our advice and guidance to employers and are better placed to help employers adapt their own organisations, while at the same time securing our future growth and skills needs.

Through our Learning to Work programme we’re witnessing some bold changes being made by employers to make their workplaces and practices more ‘youth-friendly’ and encourage greater numbers of young people in. But these efforts by employers to improve access to jobs and harness the skills and talents of young people can only go so far. Which is why we’re lobbying the government to provide more support to employers to develop initiatives and programmes to get more young people working, and change the culture of their organisations. Because we also realise employers alone don’t hold the key to solving youth unemployment and social mobility, we’re asking policymakers meet them halfway. Specifically, we’re asking the government to improve the quality and provision of careers advice and guidance in schools to help facilitate greater employer involvement in preparing young people for work, to improve pathways into work and provide information for young people, and to incentivise and support employers to offer more non-graduate routes into their organisations. Without these structural changes, there will be nothing underpinning employer action and young people and employers will remain firmly on separate planets.

Our Learning to Work programme is focussed on supporting employers to turn intention into action and to get more young people from diverse backgrounds shaping the workforces of the future. By taking part in Professions Week and improving access to the professions – including our own, HR – we’re sending a clear message to young people that the door is open. Our message to government is also clear; we’re serious about this agenda and committed to making real changes that raise the aspirations, achievements and social mobility of young people in the UK.

View further information about Professions Week, CIPD’s Learning to Work programme and CIPD research Improving social mobility; inside the HR profession and beyond

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  • Anonymous


    I absolutely agree, although please remember that there are adults as well as young people in this jobs market! Many of whom are skilled and having great difficulties in rejoining the market, partly because of diversity management skills deficit by employers and recruitment agencies. This includes refugee professionals (our candidates), ex-army professionals, people with disabilities and many other individuals who have skills, experience maturity and a work ethic to offer employers.  Please can you include adults in your diversity management promotions!