Six consultancies leading as social mobility employers

12 December 2022 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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A selection of consulting firms have been named among the UK’s top employers for social mobility. New research suggests that Grant Thornton, KPMG, PwC, Accenture, Capgemini and Bain & Company are the consulting industry’s leading performers when it comes to including staff from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Each year, the Social Mobility Foundation analyses thousands of employers across the UK, to provide an annual benchmark of employers and their social mobility practices. As well as lauding leading entities, the Social Mobility Employer Index shares best practices across all industries, with an aim of boosting social mobility in the short, medium and long-term.

Overall, this year’s analysis found mixed results across the British economy. The study found that 67% of employers did outreach work in social mobility cold spots, an increase of 12% from 2021. However, the number of employers offering apprenticeships – often seen as a keystone of social mobility, by enabling individuals from lower income backgrounds to learn on the job – fell from 85% in 2020 to 79% this year.

Six consultancies leading as social mobility employers

Some firms are still looking to lead by example, however, and their best practices may encourage more employers to ramp up social mobility outreaches in the coming months. Among the 75 organisations celebrated by the Social Mobility on this basis, six hailed from the consulting market.

Grant Thornton was the highest ranked of these – placing second in the overall list. One of the world’s largest organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms, Grant Thornton admits hundreds of school leavers to its ranks every year. In 2021, this saw 103 school leavers join as a cohort of apprentices – but as it looks to expand its own talent pool by taking on individuals from previously marginalised groups, Grant Thornton has boosted that to 193 for 2023 – a record intake. Among other initiatives, the firm also the firm has focused on community impact work, targeting schools in cold spot areas and worked with over 3,500 school children to improve their business skills.

Karen Campbell-Williams, Board Sponsor for Social Mobility at Grant Thornton UK, commented, “We have made consistent progress with our social mobility strategy and are incredibly proud of our achievements to date that have been recognised by the Social Mobility Foundation and the SOMO Awards. As an area of hidden diversity, normalising conversations within professional services about the impact of coming from a low socio-economic background is vital.”

Big Four firms KPMG and PwC ranked close to the top of the list, too. KPMG recently became the first large business in the UK to target increasing its working class staff. By 2030, it hopes to have 29% of its partners and directors from that socio-economic background.

Meanwhile, PwC has previously topped the ranking, and alongside a school and college leaver programme, PwC also works with several universities to provide apprenticeships and degrees as another alternative to graduate entry. While the universities have strict quotas on cohort sizes, entry requirements can be flexed for candidates from lower socioeconomic backgrounds by up to two grades lower than the standard requirement.

Accenture was also celebrated. The firm uses digital tools to identify potential, regardless of qualifications, and to support candidates through the process. Initial applications are contextualised before being reviewed alongside a profile of the candidate’s interests, values and aspirations. At the same time, every year, 700 graduates are chosen from around 23,000 applicants on the basis of potential and merit rather than experience and background.

Capgemini was noted in the Index, having also been listed last year. Measures taken by the firm to improve social mobility include targeting schools outreach work on social mobility “cold spots,” and running a digital “Learnathon” series; as well as offering virtual work experience programmes during lockdown – including one dedicated for young people in foster care.

Bain & Company finally was handed a position in the Index. The strategy consulting firm is a key point of entry for the consulting industry, as one of the prestigious MBB strategy giants.