Recap: Outreach and social mobility
May 19, 2023 | Social Mobility Commission
Engaging with candidates from a low socio-economic background through outreach can be a really powerful way to raise awareness of your organisation and industry and reach a wider range of prospective employees.
Not only does it benefit students and young people, encouraging them to think about the range of career and training options available to them, but it can also help you to build a pipeline of diverse talent that reflects the communities you serve and shapes the future success of your business.
On 16th May we were joined by Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa, CEO of Career Ready, a national social mobility charity supporting employers and educators to connect with young people; Anna Russell from healthcare provider Bupa; and Nikola Kelly from Be-IT, a small recruitment business operating in Glasgow, for a masterclass covering how employers can use outreach to build an inclusive recruitment pipeline from the ground up.
Don’t worry if you missed it – you can find the full recording below and read on for their top tips.
1. Outreach can take many forms
Mentoring, internships, and career insight days or masterclasses are all great ways to support young people in their professional development. BUPA run face to face office days every month, where they host a group of students, showing them round the office building and talking about what happens there. “We can get blasé about our work environment,” says Anna, “but it can be a big thing for a young person to come in who might not have done anything like that before.”
She also highlights that not everything needs to be industry specific – she has been involved with masterclasses for young people on topics such as personal branding and resilience. These can be a great way to reach an even wider pool of people.
Nik points out that recruiters are in a unique position to help. They can speak to the organisations that they come into contact with about the value that they can add to young people’s lives, encouraging them to get involved in outreach activities and support young people in their professional development.
The huge variety of outreach options means that even small organisations can make a big difference in the lives of young people.
2. In-person and online outreach are both valuable
Internships shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all experience – they work best for everyone when they are tailored to the individual intern’s interests, abilities and goals.
Nik points out that, while interns should be able to reach all parts of the business to get a holistic understanding of the organisation, this can be done through in-person meetings, virtual meetings, or a combination of both. The most important thing, she says, is to plan the internship carefully to make sure that the intern can get the most value out of it.
Anna agrees, saying the balance between the in-person and online outreach needs to be right for the individual and the organisation. She believes that there can be lots of benefits for students to experience what it’s like working in an office, but this needs to be structured well so that they gain real skills from it. Some great advice is to try to hire more than one intern at a time so that they can support and build networks with each other, and practise building professional relationships.
“Keep it fluid!” says Tokunbo, “Don’t make assumptions.” This is particularly key when thinking about outreach from a social mobility perspective. There are obvious benefits to being able to offer online outreach options, but you can’t assume that young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds will always have the space to work and focus remotely.
3. Don’t forget to measure your impact
There are so many ways that you can measure the success of your outreach programmes! The simplest is to track your numbers – how many of your employees are mentors, how many internships have you hosted, how many people attended your insight sessions? – but qualitative data will give you an idea of what impact that’s having.
Make sure that you collect feedback not only from young people participating in your outreach programmes, but also from employees who are involved hosting interns etc.
If you can keep in touch with your participants longer term, even better! Finding out where people have gone on to work and what sectors and organisations they have ended up in will help you to see the long-term impact of your programmes.
Tokunbo reminds us that it’s not just about short-term gain, but the aim is to effect ‘long term embedded cultural change,’ normalising awareness of different industries and jobs from an earlier stage. If you work with the same local schools regularly he suggests tracking the awareness of your organisation among pupils each year.
His biggest piece of advice? “Keep it simple, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The idea of getting it wrong can paralyse businesses into playing it safe.”
Our panellists left us with one piece of advice they would give other employers who are looking to start an outreach programme.
Nik’s is to get your leadership team involved! “Make sure that they’re leading by example,” she says. If you’re not sure how to approach the topic, remember that outreach can have huge benefits for your organisation too, and can be a great investment in the future.
“Just get going!” says Anna. “Give it a go, and don’t wait for everything to be perfect.”
Tokunbo finishes by reminding us to “humanise the process.” It’s essential that mentors connect with young people as people, rather than being caught up in thinking about what knowledge they can impart, or getting hung up on specific job titles or roles. Anyone can be a mentor, from your most senior leader to a recent mentee – everyone has something to give!
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