Promoting Social Mobility: Important for our business, important for the UK

Ann Pickering, O2’s HR director, talks about O2’s commitment to social mobility and UK’s first ever Social Mobility Employer Index, published today.

Sadly, there has been no shortage of news stories in recent days and weeks that reflect division and inequality in modern Britain.  These underline the need for access to opportunity to be open to everyone, irrespective of their background.  It is talent and potential that should determine how far people can go and what they can achieve, not the postcode they were brought up in or the school they went to.

Ann Pickering, HR Director

We have to be honest and acknowledge that many elements of social immobility are so entrenched that they cannot be legislated out of existence by government.  Yes, the government has an important role to play, but the scale of the social mobility challenge requires a collaborative effort from many others, including schools, civil society organisation, and, yes, business.

At O2, we see supporting social mobility as not just an opportunity to make a positive societal impact – but also a way we can make our business stronger and better, because we need our people to reflect the wide diversity and backgrounds of our 25 million customers.

That is why we undertake ‘blind’ interviewing of prospective employees, so we truly assess the person, not the CV; why we don’t prioritise Oxbridge or Russell Group students in our graduate recruitment scheme; why we participate in Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools initiative; why we offer opportunities for young people to transition into the world of work through Go Think Big; and why we are much more interested in hearing about the social action experience of our early career job applicants than we are about the school they went to or their exam results.

The Social Mobility Commission has today published the UK’s first ever Social Mobility Employer Index, ranking Britain’s employers on the work they do to ensure they are open to talent from all backgrounds and showcasing progress towards improving social mobility in the workplace.

The Commission received applications from almost 100 businesses that collectively cover 17 industry sectors and employ almost one million people. The Top 50 are published today in The Times newspaper.  O2 is ranked 24th in the Index and I am proud that we have been recognised as a leading corporate supporter and enabler of social mobility in the Index.   We are already a champion member of the government’s Social Mobility Business Compact and the Index is another welcome recognition of our work.

Of course, the mission to promote social mobility is one where we must always strive to do more.  The Index allows us to not just share what we do, but to learn from other organisations.  Inevitably, our performance in supporting social mobility is stronger in some areas than in others.  In the coming days, we will receive a report from the Social Mobility Commission, qiving detailed feedback on our Index submission.  We will do all that we can to act on its findings.

The success of O2 as a business has been built on a determination to never rest on our laurels, but to constantly seek to do more, to do better.  We are proud of all that we do to support to support social mobility, but hope to be prouder still of future action we will take to advance our work in this vital area, which is so important to our business and to the future success of the UK.