Promoting Social Mobility in the UK Business Services Sector: A Path to Greater Innovation and Productivity

Business Services

Did you know that businesses can play a key role in promoting social mobility? Over the past few years, there has been a renewed public focus on spreading opportunity more evenly across the UK. Despite both major political parties seemingly ignoring mounting public pressure, businesses are beginning to align their practices to play a key role in securing social mobility for future generations.


Understanding Social Mobility

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on Mckinsey & Company’s definition of social mobility, as it is the definition we will carry throughout this post:

“Social mobility is a concept that considers people’s socioeconomic circumstances and the degree to which they change over a lifetime and across generations. This includes a consideration of whether a person’s social and economic future is shaped by where they start in life. In a society with high social mobility, someone could, for example, be born to economically disadvantaged parents but still have the same likelihood of opportunities as someone born into a more prosperous home.”

The Business Case for Social Mobility

We can see a strong case for businesses being proactive in taking steps to facilitate social mobility, not purely as a case of it being “the right thing to do”, but also as it will help to build and develop businesses. Diverse workforces are renowned for their higher levels of innovation, productivity and also future proofing. Businesses that are developing their ESG practices have begun to look at how they are promoting positive change for social mobility and how socioeconomic factors exacerbate the disadvantages experienced by people in certain groups. Better social mobility can support economic growth through a more effective deployment of talent.

Diversity-focused companies have been documented to outperform their competitors. This is mainly down to recruiting from a wider pool of talent; by reaching a larger pool, these companies begin to develop a wider spectrum of opinions, improving customer orientation, employee satisfaction and transforming decision-making practices.


The Challenges of Social Mobility

Promoting social mobility is not without its challenges. It is hard to trace socioeconomic diversity, for a few reasons. Analysis around postcodes can be an indicator, along with if a person was entitled to free school meals, other indicators include being the first generation to go to university or what occupation parents or guardians had at a person’s age of 14.

Another issue arises when you begin to pick apart people’s socioeconomic backgrounds as educational achievement can vary. For example, economically disadvantaged children tend to do less well in school and therefore find it harder to get into highly rated institutions than children from more affluent households. Therefore, institutions that recruit for positions primarily based on academic attainment are therefore less likely to be aware of the nuance that comes with socioeconomically diverse backgrounds, and in search for that talent may be missing out on candidates who have high potential across other metrics.

Assumptions about Social Mobility

Social mobility often assumes that individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds aspire to change their social status. This perspective, as noted by Nick Basannavar, a former associate director at Deloitte, can be limiting and may not reflect the true aspirations of individuals from diverse backgrounds.



In conclusion, promoting social mobility in the UK business services sector is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. Businesses that embrace diversity and inclusivity, particularly socioeconomic diversity, stand to gain significantly in terms of innovation, productivity, and overall competitiveness. By actively investing in promoting social mobility, businesses can contribute to a more equitable society while also enhancing their own resilience and capacity for growth. The path to greater innovation and productivity in the UK business services sector may very well lie in its ability to foster and harness social mobility. This is a journey that demands commitment, creativity, and courage from all stakeholders involved. But the potential rewards – for businesses, individuals, and society as a whole – make it a journey well worth undertaking.

By Ella Bertrand on 14/02/2024