Social Mobility Awareness Day 2024, observed on June 13, is dedicated to promoting awareness and action towards creating a society where everyone has the opportunity to succeed — regardless of their socio-economic background.

It’s a day that highlights the importance of breaking down barriers which limit people’s potential, and ensuring that talent and hard work, rather than circumstances of birth, are what determine success.

Here, we take a closer look at how businesses can support social mobility, and why it matters.

Understanding social mobility

Social mobility refers to the ability of individuals or families to move up or down the social and economic ladder within a society, but it’s also a critical measure of equality and fairness. High social mobility indicates a society where individuals can achieve success based on merit, while low social mobility suggests significant barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential.

The benefits are huge and wide-reaching for society as a whole, as well as the economy. When individuals have the opportunity to pursue their ambitions, they contribute more effectively to the economy. But it also reduces social tensions, leading to a more cohesive and harmonious society. When people believe that they can improve their circumstances through hard work and talent, there is greater social stability and trust.

“Reflecting society is crucial for diverse thinking,” says Vicki Hopkins, Social Mobility Project Lead at The Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest savings and retirement business. “We know that people who have got different experiences and different viewpoints will have a richer exchange of ideas. They’re also more likely to understand and empathise with a wide range of issues and concerns within society. That will then lead to more innovative, inclusive and thoughtful decision-making.”

Vicki Hopkins, Social Mobility Project Lead at The Phoenix Group.

Social mobility faces numerous barriers, including educational inequality, discrimination, economic disparities, and even geographic barriers, where those living in rural or underserved areas lack access to essential services and opportunities. All of these barriers can impact a person’s mindset and the beliefs they carry about pursuing ambitions.

In a corporate context, social mobility involves breaking down systemic barriers, providing equal opportunities, and fostering an inclusive culture that values diversity and meritocracy. By promoting social mobility, businesses can harness a broader pool of talent and ideas, drive innovation and economic growth, and contribute to a more equitable society.

By promoting social mobility, businesses can tap into a broader pool of talent and ideas.

“We’re living longer lives,” says Vicki. “We’ve got an ageing population, and also a growing pension savings gap. Phoenix helps by providing good work to people from all backgrounds and all ages, helping them save for now, and for the future that they want.”

Phoenix offer a kick-starter program that aims to recruit, retain and develop employees from all backgrounds by creating an inclusive, supportive environment that celebrates differences, and encourages open, “courageous” conversations — enabling their people to thrive.

RELATED: Addressing the digital divide: Leveraging AI to bridge educational inequalities

How can your business promote social mobility?

Business has a major role in promoting social mobility, creating supportive working environments, and nurturing a growth mindset in employees. By adopting inclusive practices and creating opportunities for all, companies can foster a more equitable society. Here are some key strategies businesses can implement:

1. Inclusive hiring practices
Adopt recruitment policies that focus on skills and potential rather than background. This includes using blind recruitment processes — where identifying details such as name, gender, and educational background are removed from applications to prevent unconscious bias — and considering non-traditional candidates.

Using diverse hiring panels can help ensure a variety of perspectives during the recruitment process, which can then reduce bias and promote fairer hiring decisions.

2. Education and training programs
Invest in education and training initiatives that provide opportunities for disadvantaged individuals. This can include scholarships, mentoring programs, and offering paid apprenticeships and internships that provide valuable work experience and training opportunities to individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

3. Fair pay and advancement
Ensure that pay structures are fair and transparent, and that all employees are paid a living wage that reflects the cost of living in their area, helping to reduce financial barriers and improve quality of life.

It’s important that businesses also offer comprehensive benefits packages, including healthcare, childcare support, and flexible working arrangements, to support employees from diverse backgrounds.

4. Community engagement
Partner with local communities, non-profits and government organisations to support initiatives that promote social mobility. This can include sponsoring educational programs, supporting local schools, and participating in community development projects.

5. Workplace diversity and inclusion
Research by McKinsey shows that racially diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts over a multi-year period and companies with strong female representation are 25% more likely to exceed those with fewer women.

Creating a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion is imperative, and has proven value. And as it grows, encouraging a supportive environment where all employees feel valued and have the opportunity to succeed is an important priority for every business, of every size.

The role of our beliefs: The ‘fixed’ versus ‘growth mindset’

Can people’s beliefs in their own potential play a part? Research shows that beliefs have a powerful role in helping people pursue their goals effectively and successfully, or of course the opposite: preventing them from attempting to pursue dreams and careers in the first place. Seeing no clear path to achieving goals can stop people with a fixed mindset from trying or beginning any kind of process to reach them.

Research by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology shows that if people feel that opportunities can be changed (a “growth mindset of opportunity”), they pursue their valued goals differently to those who see opportunities in life as relatively set and unchangeable — a “fixed mindset of opportunity”. So, businesses, mentors and managers, can help not just inspire employees and promote that belief that change and personal growth is achievable; but also to help guide and define a clear pathway towards that.

Further reading:

Explore our news-style programme, The Future of Work: People, Culture, Tech.