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Grant Thornton recognised as leading on social mobility

Business advisory group Grant Thornton has been acknowledged as one of Britain’s best employers for inclusivity by the Social Mobility Employer Index, a respected national authority which ranks efforts companies to ensure they are hiring and progressing talent from all backgrounds.

The firm, which has offices in the Liver Building, has long pioneered levelling the playing field for people from lower socio-economic background and is led in the region by Carl Williams, who did not go to university himself and worked his way up through the firm.

“We are passionate about creating an environment where everyone can thrive,” said Carl Williams. “Research has consistently shown that people from more affluent backgrounds take a disproportionate number of the best jobs and that employers tend to disproportionately employ graduates who went to private schools and elite universities. We want to change this and our approach is informed and driven by data, which we use to identify and remove barriers to progression.”

The Social Mobility Employer Index assesses employers across seven key areas, including their work with young people, routes into the organisation, how they attract talent, recruitment and selection, data collection, progression, experienced hires, and advocacy. Grant Thornton was awarded second place in the country, recognising work that started five years when it prioritised a more inclusive approach to talent.


Karen Campbell-Williams, a partner based in Manchester who leads at board level on social mobility for Grant Thornton, said: “We are on a mission to identify and remove barriers to entry and progression, not just at our firm, but across the professional services industry and in the wider community.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve recently made in both data collection and reporting. This strong data gives us well-targeted outreach with schools that have above average levels of Free School Meals and/or low levels of attainment and with our outreach in social mobility cold spots, through our work with ICAEW Rise.

“However, there’s more work to be done. The most recent (2019) State of the Nation report from the Social Mobility Commission found the UK’s better off are still 80% more likely to make it into professional jobs than those from working-class backgrounds. In the context of a global pandemic and economic recession, it’s more important than ever that we continue to play our part in improving opportunity for everyone.”

Core measures that Grant Thornton has introduced to improve social mobility include:

  • Detailed pay and progression dashboards that allow leaders to review reward and progression alongside socio-economic background.
  • Published the firm’s detailed social mobility background data for the first time in 2020, including the proportion of Partners who received free school meals.
  • Advanced data collection used to update intersectionality analysis – reviewed the correlations between employees’ socio-economic background, gender and ethnicity and rates of progression, performance, reward, retention and lateral hiring.
  • Target non-Russell Group universities with above average levels of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds when promoting our graduate, internship and placement year programmes. This has positively impacted the diversity of the firm’s trainee hires as the number of hires eligible for free school meals has doubled (6-12%) in the past year.
  • 304 work experience students have benefitted from the Access Accountancy programme (aimed at those from lower socio-economic backgrounds) since 2015 and we have grown the programme in response to the pandemic.
  • 3,000 students across the UK have been reached through Grant Thornton’s School Enterprise Programme, which develops financial and entrepreneurial skills for pupils in years 7 and 8.
  • Through partnerships with charities Breaking Barriers and Business in the Community, Grant Thornton has supported 43 refugees with coaching, skills development and work placements designed to help them find meaningful employment.
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