Corporate social responsibility and employability programmes

Working Links have commissioned a report called ‘The Responsible Employer’, highlighting the importance of prioritising ‘recruiting from disadvantaged groups’ in a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Involvement in CSR over the last few decades has increased quite dramatically. As consumers have become more ethically aware, they expect the companies they are interacting with to do the same. Currently, companies’ main CSR focus surrounds environmental and sustainability issues, with 76% of employers stating that this is their top CSR priority. The Working Links report shows that CSR is more than just an environmental issue by identifying these five areas of CSR:

1. Environment and sustainability

2. Supporting the local community

3. Ethical sourcing

4. Charitable giving in the UK and abroad

5. Recruiting from disadvantaged groups.

Regarding the fifth area, the report found that 80% of employers recognise that they have a duty to help socially disadvantaged people. However, only 12% said that recruiting from disadvantaged groups was a CSR priority.

Business in the Community (BITC) defines disadvantaged people as those long-term unemployed people who are deprived of some of the basic necessities or advantages of life, including disabled people, people with learning difficulties, the low-skilled, ex-offenders and those from deprived areas.

With unemployment high, it has become even harder for people from disadvantaged groups to gain employment. With applicants for job vacancies becoming more competitive, employers are only likely to recruit people with the best employment experience or qualification levels. However, this group of people may lack employability skills, qualifications and the access to information to know what options are available to them.

This report believes that as the notion of incorporating employability into CSR becomes more widespread and businesses are committing resources to recruiting people from disadvantaged groups, this can have a positive impact on the individual, company and the wider community.

“The business benefits are clear. The reputational benefits are well understood. The benefit to the UK economy is obvious. The prize is huge. The cost of inaction is incalculable.”

There are barriers and challenges that employers face when thinking about recruiting from these groups. The report found that the biggest concern amongst recruiters was that people from disadvantaged backgrounds would lack the skills needed to be successful in the role. This would mean that extra time and money would be needed to train them. Other recruiters believed that this group of people would be hard to source and it would be harder to make these vacancies appeal.

‘The Responsible Employer’, however, states that the benefits of employing people from disadvantaged backgrounds can outweigh the barriers. Research from a number of employers found that those who engaged in employment initiatives found that recruiting from disadvantaged groups benefited the local community, they had a more loyal and reliable workforce, it improved the local image of the company and that there was an improvement in employee morale.

Throughout the report, Working Links promote the case for employability as a component for CSR and provides case studies where this has been used successfully. For example, in 2011 Tesco created 667 new jobs for long-term unemployed people as part of the Tesco UK Regeneration Partnerships, and Travelodge chooses to hire directly from Jobcentre Plus to address a lack of employability among potential candidates by targeting long-term unemployed people.

CASCAiD can help unemployed people from disadvantaged backgrounds fill their skills gaps and improve their employability. A perceived lack of skills in this group becomes a major barrier to employment and a positive future. Adult Directions enables adults to enter their skills and interests to generate personalised career suggestions. This shows adults – even those who lack employment experience or qualifications – that there are still viable career options for them. Adult Directions illustrates what skills are needed for every career, to show adults what skill areas they need to improve if they want to enter a certain career.

Adult Directions also contains specific advice for the long-term unemployed and ex-offenders to help with their transition into sustainable employment.

Adult Directions aims to raise adults’ aspirations by showing what options are available to them, when they may feel that unemployment is their only path for the future.

To access a free Adult Directions trial, please click here.

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