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Grant Thornton: number one employer for social mobility

Top social mobility employer urges business to invest in shaping a positive future and a society that creates opportunities for all: doing well by doing good

Grant Thornton UK LLP has been recognised for its significant action to improve social mobility in the workplace.   In what is believed to be the world’s first-ever Social Mobility Employer Index, the firm ranks first out of the Top 50 employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace.

In recent years, Grant Thornton has made a number of changes to its school leaver and graduate trainee selection process, including the removal of academic barriers to entry and removing the emphasis on relevant work experience and extra-curricular achievements.  The firm also changed its aptitude test provider to one that could prove its process did not discriminate based on socioeconomic background. The aptitude test also now takes a more holistic approach to identifying talent and cultural fit.  The firm has also invested in providing ongoing coaching and peer-to-peer networking for continuous development for its people.

Sacha Romanovitch, CEO at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“We started our social mobility journey over three years ago with a vision for the firm to be more representative of all levels of society.  Investing in social mobility is a win-win and a great example of business doing well by doing good.  Businesses get access to a hidden talent pool, bringing diverse perspectives and better reflecting the clients we serve.  Communities benefit through recognition of talent and the reward of opportunities and development.”

In 2014, Grant Thornton became the first firm to remove academic barriers to entry. Three years later the firm has carried out extensive analysis, in partnership with charitable policy association The Bridge Group, to monitor the performance of its intake.  Key findings include:

  • 17% of Grant Thornton’s intake for school leaver and graduate programmes in 2016 would have been previously unable to apply based on academic criteria, including secondary school performance and degree classification.
  • This year, Grant Thornton saw a 47% increase in applications for our school leaver programme, with trainees joining the firm across 20 different office locations.
  • Looking at the 2014/2015 intake and data from the annual review process, 38% of those who would have been previously screened out due to academic requirements are considered to be strong performers, compared to 34% of those who would have passed the previous screening.  Overall, there is little difference in performance between the two groups.

Sacha Romanovitch continues: “Unlocking the potential of all in society to contribute fully is key to the future of the UK, where we have an opportunity to build a vibrant economy where no one is left behind.  Increasing social mobility is a practical way for business to make a difference.

“Collaboration and sharing of ways in which businesses can play their part is also key.  Awards like this provide the opportunity to showcase what works and encourage others to get involved.  We are also founding signatories of Access Accountancy, an industry-wide social mobility initiative, and we’re delighted to see many others from that collaboration named on this list today.

“By taking steps together, we can help build a positive future and a society that creates opportunities for all.”

The Index is a joint initiative between the Social Mobility Foundation and the Social Mobility Commission, in partnership with the City of London Corporation.  It ranks Britain’s employers for the first time on the actions they are taking to ensure they are open to accessing and progressing talent from all backgrounds and it showcases progress towards social mobility.

The aim of the Index is to encourage firms to share their initiatives, to progress in becoming employers that are more inclusive and to reveal which sectors and companies are taking the issue of social mobility most seriously.

David Johnston, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said:

“All the Top 50 firms in the Social Mobility Employer Index should be applauded for the progress they are making towards ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get in and get on – regardless of their background. They should be congratulated both for having prioritised social mobility and for being prepared to have their processes and practices independently scrutinised.” 

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, added:

“Social mobility is hugely important if the UK is to become more productive and make the most of its talent. But research has shown that people from working class backgrounds – even if they are high educational attainers – are less likely to secure professional jobs because they have less access to the networks and knowledge to navigate the system.  

“The Top 50 firms are paving the way by changing their workforce strategies to ensure they get don’t lose out on talented people from less privileged backgrounds. We want the index to herald a step change towards improving social mobility by encouraging many more employers to compete to recruit, and keep, the best and brightest candidates – regardless of background.” 

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman for the City of London Corporation, said:

“These firms have shown real ambition in their approach to tackling social mobility. They are leading the way in removing the barriers which are holding back the best and brightest candidates in our society. Statistics show that people from more prosperous backgrounds, who attend private schools and elite universities, often take a disproportionate number of the best jobs. 

“But more companies are making progress on social mobility, casting the net wider in the search for talent and recognising that a level playing field is in the best interests for all businesses. The Index is an effective incentive to UK businesses to demonstrate the progress they are making in this vital area.”