What is social mobility and why should it be in your DEI strategy?

With financial wellbeing increasingly becoming a hot topic for HR practitioners - why is social mobility an important aspect of DEI?
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
What is social mobility and why should it be in your DEI strategy?
Social mobility can be defined as the ability of a person to change their socioeconomic situation throughout their life

Money isn’t the easiest topic for people to speak about. Historically considered a taboo subject, our personal finances have typically been seen as just that; personal. When this attitude transcends into the workplace, however, it can have some serious negative consequences on the wellbeing of employees. This is particularly true now, during a cost-of-living crisis, when people across the country are finding it challenging to pay their bills or afford groceries, all of which have hiked in price.

Research shows that financial stress impacts the ability of one–in–five employees to be fully productive at work, suggesting that a lack of financial wellbeing in the workplace can affect a business’ bottom line.

The richer, the wealthier?

It’s a misconception that employees who get paid a lot are better with money, and have better financial wellbeing, than those who have a smaller pay packet. Employees can have a high salary and not have the knowledge or skills on how to manage their finances, compared to someone with a modest pay cheque.

Education around managing finances varies in different social classes – and this can often have an impact on the way people manage their money throughout their lives. For example, an employee from a wealthy background with a good financial safety net is likely to feel more confident about their finances than someone from a working-class background with no financial safety net to fall back on, even if they earn a ‘high’ salary.

The importance of including social mobility within a DEI strategy can’t be underestimated - there are significant value led and commercial led reasons for focusing on what is one of the UK’s major societal challenges

Tom Lyas | Head of Resourcing and Social Mobility at Browne Jacobson

For all it’s worth, the workplace provides an opportunity for people to be judged on their skills and therefore move upwards in a company regardless of their background or status. Of course, there are many varied barriers to entry that prohibit those from lower income backgrounds from entering certain roles anyway. But once in a company, employees have different attitudes and approaches to money than one another.

Defining social mobility

Social mobility isn’t just a financial wellbeing buzzword, it refers to a person’s ability to traverse between different financial statuses and change their socioeconomic situation throughout their life.

It relates to the workplace because the jobs that people do directly impact their mobility. A floor worker in a retail shop being promoted to senior manager is an example of upward mobility, whereas a banker being made redundant and losing their fortune is an example of downward mobility.

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