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Just two in five employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds across U.K organisations feel included in the workplace, and only half feel safe to be open about their background, according to a new report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

The findings contradict high levels of optimism from employers on their progress with inclusion in the workplace. Nearly nine in 10 business leaders believe their employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds feel included at work – double the actual proportion.

The new report, titled, A fair chance to advance: The power of culture to break socioeconomic barriers in the workplace, surveyed 4,000 employees and 1,400 senior executives to explore how workplace culture affects the retention and progression of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

In addition to the divide between business leaders and employees on how included people feel in the workplace, the report finds that employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to progress their careers at the same rate as their colleagues. One in five employees from low-income backgrounds are promoted once every three years, compared to one in 4 of their colleagues. This means an estimated 700,000 employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have missed out on promotion in the U.K.

“The findings will be sombre reading for British businesses looking to build a more socially diverse workforce,” said Accenture’s UK & Ireland Market Unit Lead, Simon Eaves. “It’s vital that employees feel seen and heard at work so they can thrive equally. By understanding the hidden and pervasive barriers that are holding people back, businesses can access an untapped talent pool and tackle the skills shortages that continue to blight the economy.”

In the report, Accenture also explored the relationship between workplace culture and social mobility. In organizations with more inclusive workplace cultures, employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are both happier and more ambitious. In these companies, over 90% of employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds feel they have the same chance of success as their other colleagues, compared to only 30% in companies with less inclusive cultures.

Furthermore, the report finds that the profits of organizations focusing on improving social mobility are 1.4x higher than their competitors that are less focused on the issue.

Accenture found that these more inclusive organizations have adopted the following five key practices – which forms a “blueprint for socioeconomic inclusion”:

  • Trust and Responsibility: Individuals are trusted to take decisions and drive change
  • Role models: Employees see strong, attainable role models
  • Anti-discrimination policies: Employees are treated and compensated equally
  • Flexibility: Employees are empowered to work when, where, and how they need
  • Openness & transparency: Employees feel safe to bring their true selves to work.

Camilla Drejer, Accenture’s lead for Citizenship & Responsible Business in the UK & Ireland, said,“There is real value in a diverse workforce that reflects the makeup of society a business operates in. An inclusive business brings in different skills and mindsets and fosters a culture that boosts productivity. Of course, creating a level playing field for people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds will not happen overnight. But with any business objective, if organizations aim for it, and manage it, they are more likely to deliver it.”

Research methodology

Accentureused aneconometric model, developed over the past three years, to quantify the relationship between 40+ workplace culture factors and the levels of engagement of disadvantaged employees. The findings draw on two surveys fielded in the U.K. during August and September 2021, surveying 1,400 senior leaders (C-suite and direct reports), and 4,000 employees (with 2,046 coming from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background).

Profitability analysis: Accenture identified executive respondents focused on disadvantaged employee inclusion and then calculated the average annual EBITDA performance (2016-2020) of these companies based on their self-reported metrics and compared the findings with other organizations in the sample.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Technology and Operations services and Accenture Song—all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 699,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at

Skills Programmes

Accenture co-founded Movement to Work, a charity coalition of the UK’s leading employers, civil society and government, who work together to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds access transformational work experience placements and training. Accenture has provided over 1300 work placements in the U.K. to people not in employment, education, or training to improve their skills and life chances.

Accenture is ranked 7th in the U.K.’s Social Mobility Employer Index.

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