How HR Technology makes a difference to social mobility

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Written by Rowena Bach on 15 January 2018 in Opinion

Rowena Bach discusses how digi-mentoring and HR tech can bring change and increased social mobility.

A recent survey by Deloitte found that those from low-income backgrounds earn, on average, 10% less than their most advantaged peers six months after graduating from the same subject.

The UK is one of the worst countries for social mobility, meaning that there is little chance that an individual from a low-income background will receive the same opportunities as someone from a higher class – regardless of their hard work or talents.

There are many blogs and guides with ways HR can support social mobility:

  • Choosing talent over background, race, gender, or other characteristics;
  • Introducing apprenticeships for those unable to attend university;
  • Providing a minimum of a living wage and/or accommodation allowance to enable those from lower income families to support themselves;
  • Providing unconscious bias training for managers and recruitment teams;
  • Fostering a culture of acceptance by reaching out to schools, universities, and communities to promote your values and programmes in your company.

Two years ago my colleague Talia and I wrote a white paper on socially responsible recruitment which encompasses these and more.

What struck me during the process of editing this paper was that even with all the steps above, there is a huge overwhelming gap in action to help the specific individuals or groups of individuals with what they specifically need to generate the courage to apply, have inspiration and confidence to even consider a role, and then go on to stay in the recruitment process and be successful in achieving a position.

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I feel this is best summed up in the image below. In the first image, it is assumed that everyone will benefit from the same support. They are all being treated equally. In the second image, the individuals are given personalised, individual and different support to make it possible for them to have equal access to the ‘game’. 

Consider Hanif, one of the mentees I worked with for over a year: no one in Hanif’s family has attended university or entered a profession. When I met him, his aspirations wavered between being a professional footballer and beating his mates Grand Theft Auto.

Over the period of a year, we talked and emailed about my work, other people I know and their work, the type of characteristics and attitudes people need to get on in life, as well as practical things like getting work experience.

This, at its essence was all about building a relationship, the chance to ask questions, get honest responses, build trust between us, and picking from the skills and experience I’ve picked up over the years to help him when he needed it, in the way he needed it. 

For the first time in my career I can see the potential for combining technology with mentoring to deliver the right-hand side of the picture. Next year it's time to explore the wonders that artificial intelligence can bring to tackle the challenges that individuals like Hanif face. 


About the author

Rowena Bach is an experienced L&D and talent professional who has been focusing for the last five years on leveraging technology to disrupt and improve L&D and recruitment practices, particularly in the early talent space. You can contact her on


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