Alison Cutland

Alison Cutland
Senior Business Development Manager
Cranfield Online

Successive governments have pledged to improve social mobility in the UK. And yet, this country historically has one of the poorest rates of social mobility among G7 nations, having ranked 21st in the World Economic Forum’s Global Social Mobility Index 2020.

This means there is little chance of an individual who comes from a low-income background receiving the same opportunities as someone from a higher socioeconomic background – regardless of their talent or how hard they work.

While people from deprived backgrounds are achieving better results in education, barriers in the workplace still prevent them progressing through the ranks and attaining higher paid jobs.

Social mobility: A definition

The term ‘social mobility’ refers to the ability of people from underprivileged backgrounds to improve their social status, breaking the boundaries of the social class into which they were born and fulfilling their potential.

Social mobility is more than just a moral issue of equality of opportunity; research shows good social mobility boosts the economic and social prosperity of a nation.

“Social mobility is about giving people control over their own destinies, and unleashing their true potential… It’s about ensuring that people are able to get on through their own talents and efforts.”
Social Mobility Commission

Understanding social mobility in the workplace

The transition from education into full-time employment is a critical moment for social mobility.

Without pre-existing connections, and with potentially few qualifications, it can be difficult for people from underprivileged backgrounds to attain, settle into, and progress in professional roles.

Research from the Social Mobility Commission suggests half of adults from the poorest backgrounds receive no training at all after leaving school. Even in a professional role, they earn on average 17% less than more privileged colleagues, and are less likely to be promoted.

But organisations can help to break the cycle and ‘level the playing field’. By offering equal opportunities to everyone, they can ensure everyone has the chance to progress, regardless of their background or circumstances.

By providing development opportunities at all levels of their organisation and removing barriers to participation, businesses can encourage and enable social mobility, providing those from lower socio-economic backgrounds with a ‘second chance’ to achieve the qualifications or education typically needed to progress in today’s world of work.

“Talent is everywhere, but all too often opportunity isn’t. The futures of far too many young people in the UK are determined by background, not potential.”
Career Ready, the national social mobility charity

Why is social mobility important to organisations?

Employers that provide their team with the opportunities and tools to improve their social mobility reap the rewards.

By rooting out and investing in talent, wherever it lies, businesses can build diverse, loyal, high-performing teams of highly motivated and engaged workers that better reflect the make-up of their customer base and our wider society. What’s more, the range of perspectives and insights this diverse workforce has to offer may lead to greater creativity, problem solving and innovation.

It's also the right thing to do, something that is increasingly important to future generations who want to work for companies that share their values.

“At every stage of the life cycle we are losing gifted people who could be participating more in our society… We must act decisively to change it.”
The Social Mobility Commission: The State of the Nation Report 2018-19

Unlocking social mobility: the role of accessible digital learning

At Cranfield School of Management, our flexible, accessible online courses allow organisations to tailor bespoke learning pathways for their individual employees, encouraging and enabling them to upskill, reskill and develop their aptitudes and capabilities – whatever their start in life.

The variety of courses available and the flexible nature of the delivery allows learning and development interventions to be shared and targeted across a business, enabling fair deployment of the type of personalised development that is key to encouraging social mobility.

Modules have been designed to be as accessible as possible, and to remove some of the most common barriers to learning for those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Bite-size chunks of pay-as-you-go, self-paced learning can be accessed on demand, whenever and wherever best suits the individual learner. The only entry requirement is that those wanting to progress to the higher-level qualifications have classroom-level English.

What’s more, individuals can choose to further supplement their learning, ‘stacking’ modules together to achieve micro-credentials to major qualifications - going all the way up to an MSc in Business and Management, should they choose.

To find out more about how Cranfield’s online stackable programmes could help your organisation overcome social barriers and invest in the talent and drive it needs to succeed, view our course portfolio or speak to the team.