As local economies across the UK are being hit by one tidal wave after another, whether through Brexit, the pandemic, the effects of the Ukraine war, or longer running megatrends such as climate change or the ongoing technological revolution to name a few, disruption is becoming the new norm. In such a world, it is important that local Governments take stock, with businesses and partners, about what adjustments are needed in local strategies to deal with prevailing uncertainties. A key question is how to stimulate and encourage economic growth in future in a more inclusive and sustained way, that provides equal access to the best employment opportunities, and enhances diversity within the labour market. In the Greater London Authority (GLA) such steps are seen with the London Recovery Programme which is taking action to support a stronger, long-term recovery and growth in the city. With businesses facing ever growing challenges evident in fluctuating customer demand, increasing inflation, rising costs, high staff turnover, and growing labour and skills shortages, the time is right to reflect on traditional ways of operating and to truly embrace more inclusive and sustainable working practices that are fit for a modern world of work and enhance employment prospects for everyone. Work Advance and the Institute of Employment Studies were commissioned by the GLA to undertake research to support the future Programme.
In this context a key part of the new GLA strategy is the Helping Londoners into Good Work Mission. This seeks to work with employers in growth sectors, vital to London’s future economy, to repurpose their people and management practices, so that they better meet evolving industry needs by fully utilising the skills and talents of their workforce. A core intention is to support Londoners from diverse backgrounds to “get in and on in work”, especially those under-represented in certain sectors, and to widen access for diverse workers to good work as one important priority in meeting industry growth. The study conducted by Work Advance and the Institute of Employment Studies has researched the nature and causes of under-representation within the growth sectors - health, green, digital creative and hospitality – to offer insights on where and how the GLA could tailor local interventions to better support future growth through diversity. A primary focus was helping to optimise the sector offer through the research insights for the Mayor’s programmes such as the Academies and attached to the in Workforce Integration Network (WIN).
The research has found that whilst there are many exciting future careers in all of the growth sectors, there is a widespread lack of workforce diversity which was acknowledged by industry participants as something they wanted to address. Although the picture of under-representation varies sector by sector, which underlines the importance of customising the approach to different sectors, there is nevertheless a broad need to actively work with businesses to widen access to growing employment opportunities. So, in highly skilled sectors such as the digital, creative and green construction sectors, where growing jobs call for technical know-how and high skills, there is a general lack of diversity in a broad range of jobs from entry to senior levels. This points to significant challenges securing a foothold in the sectors, as well as progressing once in work. In contrast, in sectors such as hospitality and health, where there is a greater share of middle to lower skilled roles, and the workforce is more diverse, under-representation is more significant in senior and management roles, due to greater problems with retention, higher staff turnover and limits to progression.
The research points to multiple barriers limiting diversity within the priority sectors and individuals find obstacles operating across all stages of their career pathway inhibiting opportunities: early in life through their education; transitions into work; and for in-work advancement and progression. But, positively, many business leaders are committed to advancing greater inclusivity in their workplaces in future and are progressing dedicated Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategies, and more inclusive working practices, that can ensure the attraction, retention and progression of more diverse talent. That said, equally, some of the factors limiting diversity are structural, deep-rooted and persistent, and with no quick fixes, they will take time to resolve, and significant implementation challenges remain.
With that in mind, the assessment of inclusive working practices and the mapping of policy initiatives within London through the research, especially those with a sector-focus pertinent to the growth sectors, has provided an opportunity to understand priority areas for future policy interventions. This has pointed to actions that can add value to the current landscape of D&I support in London. The GLA is as a result working with its partners to tailor local interventions. This includes adjustments to its programmes through the Academies and in WIN to better support diverse workers, alongside employers, in the growth sectors in future. This is looking to customise activities in training, employment services (e.g. careers advice, work experience, mentoring, etc) and business support and networking. In a context, where it is vital that employers are part of those communities to inspire change, and share learning about what has worked around innovations in practices, the report also draws attention to employer case studies. These seek to build insights and lessons about what has been tested and trialled and where businesses need to do more to succeed in creating more inclusive and progressive organisational cultures and driving future performance through diversity. With the promise of significant growth in London over the coming years, this is showing all the signs of a growing movement for change, which we have been excited to be part of. The upside of a harsher economic climate and period of turbulence is that this appears to be stimulating a genuine interest in alternative ways of working. If this has attracted your attention and you want to find out more the full report and wider briefings can be found here.
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