When Games of Thrones and DISC collide

SPOILER ALERT – REFERS TO PLOTLINES IN SEASON 8

As a Game of Thrones fan(atic), it is hard to accept that the show is over and I thank you in advance for your patience and understanding at this difficult time. While I feel, like most Game of Thrones (GOT) fans, that the final season has been its weakest, one thing remains true; the characters created by George R.R Martin and brought to the small screen are complex.  As such, they provide a perfect opportunity to examine the DISC© personality model.

What is DISC?

Disc is a psychometric test, which measures patterns of behaviour i.e. people’s tendencies and preferences. 

The model sets out four quadrants of personality, namely: D for Dominance, I for Influence, S for Steadiness, and C for Compliance.  Each quadrant reflects different personality traits.  Like the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the DISC model is based on the work of Carl Jung on personality types, and is used in workplaces across the world to help with work productivity, to increase employee engagement and improve teamwork, amongst other things.  

For those who find MBTI too technical, in my view DISC is far more user-friendly yet provides enough information to better understand oneself and others.

The Four Quadrants – A GOT case study

D is for Dominance (Extroverted, decisive, confident, results-driven and task-focused).  When thinking of D’s, Queen[1] Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen provides a great illustration.   Positive traits: Queen Daenerys (or Dany to her friends) certainly has shown herself to be decisive.  From putting herself in a burning pyre to bring her dragons to life to building an army far from Westeros, Dany has exhibited confidence and determination in her mission to claim the Iron Throne.   Weaknesses: D’s can be perceived as being rash due to their desire for action. This can also make them appear abrupt.  Those who score highly as D’s may also be prone to anger (“Dracarys” anyone?).   Coaching tip: If I were coaching a D (or perhaps the Hand to Queen Dany), I would work with them on developing more patience for others, so as to build better working relationships. I would also encourage them to spend more time looking into the details to avoid potentially costly mistakes.  For those who have seen season 8, I trust you can see how Queen Dany could have benefitted from this!    
I is for Influence (Extroverted, People-focused, friendly, talkative, optimistic).Lord Tyrion Lannister from Casterly Rock provides an example of some of the I traits (although I think he also exhibits a number of C traits).    Positive traits: I’s, like Tyrion, are known for being the life of party with a good sense of humour.  They are good storytellers and very talkative, as shown by Tyrion who was even threatened with death by Ser Jorah Mormont due to his over-talking!    Weaknesses:  Due to their live in the moment type attitude, I’s can be perceived as disorganised, overly-optimistic and ego-centric.      Coaching tip:   Personal growth areas of I’s are to learn to talk less and listen more; to focus on the details and to work on their follow-through.  Perhaps if Tyrion had focused on the details more he would have made less mistakes as Hand for the Queen!  
S is for Steadiness (Introverted, likeable, diplomatic, organised, indecisive and passive).Eddard (“Ned”) Stark of House Stark.  Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.  Unfortunately, given the bloodiness of GOT, of course S types would be in short supply and unlikely to survive!   Positive traits:   S’s are known to be diplomatic and loyal and Ned Stark displayed these traits in spades. Calm, patient and consistent, S’s are great team-players.   Weaknesses:   S’s can be perceived as inflexible and resistant to change.  Additionally, due to their desire for everyone to get along, S’s can be prone to being passive-aggressive.   Coaching tip: We live in an ever-changing world and S’s need to work on their ability to flex and proactively deal with change.  Perhaps, has Ned Stark had such coaching he may not have lost his head down in King’s Landing!                                                
C is for Compliance (Introverted, idealistic, self-disciplined,  high-standards with a focus on quality and accuracy. Task focused).Maester Samwell (“Sam”) Tarly of House Tarley (formerly of the Black. Watch) exhibits a number of C traits.    Positive traits:   Due to their desire to get things right, C’s can be self-disciplined, conscientious, analytical and talented.  Sam Tarly has certainly shown his intelligence and self-discipline, having survived the training at the Citadel and figured out a number of things, including Jon Snow’s parentage!    Weaknesses:  C’s such as Sam. can be perceived as being hard to please, impractical and very sensitive to criticism.    Coaching tip:  To avoid being bogged down in the detail, C’s can need to focus on doing the right things instead of being right.  There can also be a need to be decisive and to be less critical of others.

So could any of the GOT characters have benefited from coaching from a DISC practitioner such as myself?  Possibly so. And who knows, it could have changed the outcome of who was left standing by season 8!

Why not take the test yourself – a free version is available is here.


[1] , First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Lady of Dragonstone, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons

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Maternity discrimination: is “hygge” the answer?

On 25 January 2019, the Government launched a consultation to look into ways to boost legal protections for pregnant women and new mothers. This is needed, as research commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that 1 in 9 women said they had been fired or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.

So, what is the solution?  One of the proposals being considered is to extend existing provisions which provide women with extra protection against being made redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave. Currently, the Government is considering extending it to a period of 6 months following their return from maternity leave.

While I think the proposal is a good one (although I would extend protection up to 12 months), I think a more radical approach is required.  This is particularly so, given that even if women have greater legal protections – discrimination claims are complex and without legal aid or other funding, many cannot afford to enforce their existing employment rights.

I have recently finished reading the “Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking, and feel that this Danish way of life may unlock the answer to addressing the cultural issues surrounding maternity discrimination.  “Hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) is a word that does not translate well into English.  The closest translation is “cosiness”, but hygge is much more than that for the Danish; it is a way of life.  It encompasses concepts such as equality, gratitude, togetherness, trust and harmony.

So how could this tackle maternity discrimination?  The culture of trust, inclusion and balance that hyyge encourages impacts every aspect of life in Denmark.  For instance, Mr Wiking states that most employees leave work by no later than 5pm, given that hyyge emphasises the importance of family life.  In addition, childcare in Denmark is generously subsidised.  These factors clearly assist Danish women with balancing careers with having children, so much so that Denmark is considered the best place in the world for women to live.

Having regard to the spirit of hyyge, I would recommend that the Government also consider the following as a part of its consultation:

  1. Long hours culture: We work much longer hours here in the UK than in comparison with our European counterparts, yet we lag behind in terms of productivity.  Studies also show that long hours coupled with a culture of presenteeism is having a negative impact on workers’ health and general wellbeing. Therefore, perhaps counter-intuitively, we should reconsider the 48-hour weekly limit opt-out and seek to reduce working hours and increase annual leave.  Not only could it improve productivity, it would remove a barrier (whether actual or perceived) that women with children cannot be as productive as their peers with no caring commitments.  From a productivity point of view, it seems to work in Luxembourg, which is ranked the most productive country in the world, where the average working week is 29 hours!
  2. Cultural reluctance to flexible working: In my experience, there remains a reluctance by some UK employers to embrace flexible working. To change this, I like the intention behind the current proposal by the Labour party to make the right to request to work flexibly available to all employees without any qualifying length of service so as it make it the norm. However, I also think that the existing Flexible Working Regulations needs more teeth – i.e. requiring employers to objectively justify why they are refusing flexible working requests – to force a sea-change.
  3. Expensive childcare: the cost of childcare in the UK is prohibitive, particularly for double income households.  For instance, the cost of a full-time nursery place in London can be up to £20,000 per annum, if not more.   Such a cost will inevitably lead to some women questioning whether they should return to full-time employment, or work at all.

Summary

In answer to my question of whether hyyge is the answer to maternity discrimination, on its own I would say no.  I am sure there are many Danish women who can attest to this. However, the culture in which it fosters would, in my view, help create an environment in which maternity discrimination is curtailed.  Clearly the Danish are on to something as they have such high rates of women returning to work after maternity leave, even if their system is by no means perfect.  Primarily, it is my view that, while additional employment rights would be helpful, the conclusions of the consultation will be incomplete if we do not look at the matter far more holistically, and examine the cultural issues in the UK which hinder women returning to work after maternity leave.

Deep work: the paradox of busyness and productivity

I have just finished reading, “Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport.  In his book, Mr Newport explains that many of us are continually  distracted by “shallow work” which he defines as being “non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks”.  As a result, we are prevented from undertaking work that matters, the “deep work” which Mr Newport contends pushes us to new “cognitive capabilities”.

The difficulty is that the “busyness” that such shallow works generates (e.g. the overwhelming number of emails sent and received per day and the obsession with meetings), leads to many of us spending our days doing the seemingly urgent but unimportant work, instead of work which creates value for our organisations as well as personal satisfaction.  Not only is this demoralising for us as employees, I would argue that it is negatively impacting productivity in the workplace. According to the Office of National Statistics, productivity in UK workplaces has dipped. Given that we are all bracing for the turbulent transition post Brexit, a further dip in productivity is not something many employers in the UK will be able to bear going forward.

Further, the risk of being busy undertaking less challenging work is that it makes us more vulnerable to being replaced by automation and artificial intelligence.  Therefore, focusing on deep work may enable people to specialise and stand out in what may become a much smaller job market.

So how can we combat this issue?

  1. Limit distractions: We do not have to accept the tyranny of emails. Depending on the nature of someone’s role, this could include limiting how often per day emails are reviewed and responded to.  Personally, I like to block out time in my diary to undertake complex work, during which I will switch off emails and electronic devices to avoid being distracted.
  2. Streamline roles: Are we delegating effectively? Could some tasks be disbanded completely as they do not produce much value?  We should scrutinise every task and meeting in order to determine if they are producing value and be ruthless in cutting out the expendable.
  3. Do away with working hours: A few of my frontier clients (i.e. those who like to push boundaries as to what they require and expect from staff) have started to question if working hours are required. If, for example, someone needs to produce code for an app – does it matter if they can do it in 2 hours or 20 hours?  One could argue that working hours in fact encourages a lack of productivity, as the focus is on input as opposed to output.  I consider it only a matter of time before the shift takes place, particularly as the use of artificial intelligence and automation increases.
  4. Encourage time away from the office: Given the cost of office space, I think it unlikely that the love affair with open plan offices will show any sign of abating in the near future. This is despite the fact they provide fertile ground for distraction (even if they do encourage a collegiate spirit).  Consequently, to provide staff with a conducive environment to undertake “deep work”, encouraging them to work from home on occasion or having quiet work spaces could pay dividends. Some companies are even giving staff paid days out of the office to think of new ideas, which can provide their business with a boost.

The proposed solutions above will not be suitable for everyone and every job.  However, if employers want to boost employee engagement, retain talented staff and increase their productivity they would do well to lessen the operational noise and enable staff to do work of value.  One wonders if the French are on to something with implementing and enforcing their right to disconnect from their work phones and computers outside working hours.  I wonder whether this will improve staff productivity to allow much needed head space.  Only time will tell.

NDAs and the #metoo movement

If the last two months are anything to go by, the #MeToo movement shows no signs of abating; with allegations of sexual assault and/or harassment having been made against the superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and, more recently, the British retail tycoon Sir Philip Green. This follows the furore surrounding the numerous allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the conviction of Bill Cosby.

With regard to the famous individuals listed above, it is understood that they had entered into settlement agreements with some of their accusers which included confidentiality and non-denigration provisions i.e. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).  Given that we are aware of these NDAs and the allegations which led to them being entered into, clearly they did not serve their purpose.

Until recently, the Daily Telegraph was prevented from publishing the allegations of sexual and racial harassment levelled against Sir Philip Green due to there being NDAs in place.  It only became public knowledge due to intervention of Lord Hain, who named Sir Philip Green in the House of Lords under the protection of parliamentary immunity. Following the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into the Harvey Weinstein matter, the allegations against Sir Philip have brought the use of NDAs firmly back into the limelight.  As a result, some are calling  for the use of NDAs in an employment context to be banned completely.  Further, Prime Minister May has said she will review the “unethical” use of NDAs.

The Equality of Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) refers to the “pervasiveness” of sexual harassment in the workplace in its report entitled: “Turning the tables – Ending sexual harassment at work”.   The EHRC has put forward a number of recommendations in its report on how to address this such as the introduction of: (i) new legislation to make contractual clauses preventing the disclosure of future acts of discrimination, harassment or victimisation void; and (ii) a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment in the workplace.

As shown by the mass Google walkout which occurred a few days ago, there is a need to review how sexual harassment in the workplace is addressed.  Clearly, this will include a review of the use of NDAs in such circumstances.  While I agree that such a review is required, I contend that it is necessary for Parliament to consider the potential negative implications there could be in limiting the use and/or effect of NDAs in cases involving harassment or discrimination before introducing any new legislation. I have acted for both sides where allegations of harassment or discrimination have been made.  Mutual confidentiality and non-denigration provisions are often a key consideration for both parties. If employers have no confidence in a settlement agreement providing them with the certainty that allegations of sexual harassment will be kept confidential, they may simply decide its best to defend such allegations. This is particularly so, given that the reputational damage may be less than if details of a commercial deal are later leaked.  For example, Sir Philip has denied any wrongdoing, and claims that he only engaged in banter with staff.  He may now be of the view that it would have been better if he had not entered into settlement agreements as their mere existence raises a presumption of guilt.

Should NDAs be prohibited in the employment sphere, I suspect that this will lead to much more litigation.  However, many individuals cannot afford legal fees and statistics show that individuals who seek to bring claims without legal representation tend to be unsuccessful. It also needs to be noted that discrimination claims are notoriously difficult to prove. Further, it should be noted that raising allegations of harassment and discrimination is taxing emotionally as well as financially.  Where I have acted for clients who have done so, they have all remarked about the damage caused to their health and confidence.  As such, undermining the validity of confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements/NDAs or removing them entirely, may have the unintended consequence of making things worse for the victims of sexual harassment who want to settle matters and move on with their lives.  Therefore, it would be remiss for Parliament not to take this into consideration.

Kweku Adoboli – A cautionary tale

I was recently listening to Kweku Adoboli on Radio 4. For those who do not know, Mr Adoboli was the trader at UBS who was convicted of two counts of fraud and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment, having lost the bank somewhere between £1.4 – £1.8 billion (depending upon which report you read).   Having served half of his sentence, he is now in the process of fighting a deportation order, despite having lived in the UK for over 20 years.

As an employment lawyer, this case is of interest to me due to having listened to one of Mr Adoboli’s videos on YouTube.  At almost 90 minutes it is definitely a detailed exploration of his rise and fall at UBS.  Around the 40 minute mark, Mr Adoboli explains how he decided to inform UBS of the significant losses his desk had incurred.  In essence, according to the man himself, he decided to “take one for the team” so to speak, and simply sent an email to senior management about what had transpired, in which he assumed full culpability for the losses.

I remain flabbergasted by Mr Adoboli’s naivety and the manner in which he informed his employer of his desk’s losses.  Having read the email he sent, it is as unhelpful as any email can be and it must have caused his advisers’ much difficulty, particularly as he took full responsibility for the unauthorised trades on his desk (which he later sought to row back from).  Regulatory matters are often at play when I am advising senior executives who perform regulated functions (e.g. approved persons within the FCA regime).  For instance, I have had to advise senior executives who have been caught submitting unauthorised expenses and then have been accused of theft and/or misrepresentation.  In such circumstances, I often have to advise clients that their employment position is the least of their concerns and they should be focusing on avoiding losing their regulatory status and/or the potential criminal sanctions.  At times, this means that I need to advise clients that the safest course of action would be not to engage in any disciplinary procedure, so as to avoid saying anything incriminating, even though this means that dismissal is highly likely.  In my view, staying out of Her Majesty’s Pleasure and hopefully retaining a career must take precedence.

I cannot help but imagine how different Mr Adoboli’s situation could have been had he sought legal advice prior to taking any action.  It is Mr Adoboli’s position that senior staff members were aware of the processes he was using which resulted in the unauthorised trades to which they turned a blind eye.  He also has stated that he was placed under pressure to take such risky actions due to the aggressive culture at his employer.   Without full details on the case, one wonders if Mr Adoboli could have sought protection as a whistleblower, especially if the risky approach to trades was as actively encouraged by senior management as he appears to suggest.  This could have potentially provided him with a much better defence.  However, he will now forever be known as one of the UK’s worst “rogue traders”.

Without wishing to sound self-serving, Mr Adoboli’s case highlights that lawyers can provide real value if engaged early on in such circumstances.  Now Mr Adoboli has lost his career and is having to fight to remain in the UK.  Only time will tell if he is successful with this battle.

Where art thou the sequel – my whereabouts since January

If my blog were a book it would be covered in dust.   So I decided that I would not let this Bank Holiday pass me by without updating my blog family on what I have been doing since January 2018, in part to justify the long absence!

  1. Employment Law Journal: I must admit that I enjoy nothing more than digesting a bit of geeky case law so it has been our pleasure at Hine Legal to write 2 articles for the Employment Law Journal.  The first article was on the dangers of giving a false reason for dismissal as highlighted by the EAT in Rawlinson v Brightside Group Limited [2017].  The latest piece is on the provision of employment references and the recent High Court decision in Hincks v Sense Network Limited [2018]. The article shall be published soon on the Hine Legal website so please keep an eye out for this.
  2. GDPR: Since January of this year I have been beating the drum about the need to become GDPR compliant from an employment law perspective.  I initially discussed such matters at the Tech Tuesday event at Hounslow Chamber of Commerce.  I also gave a half day seminar on the GDPR alongside Bedrock HR and Kweku Aggrey-Orleans.  Somehow I see there being more articles and training on the GDPR horizon!
  3. CMI and Futurism: I had the pleasure of speaking at the Professional Development Conference ran by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).  I was given free range to discuss the future of employment law so of course Artificial Intelligence and automation featured in my discussion.  While I think we are facing unprecedented changes to the labour market and how it is organised I am optimistic about the future (in part due to my sharing Rutger Bregman’s view as espoused in “Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World”.
  4. LBC with Shelagh Fogarty: I was asked at short notice if I wanted to give my views on unpaid shift work and internships.  My autograph can be made available upon request J!
  5. MBTI practitioner: I have spoken several times about my love of personality tests so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and pay to become a qualified practitioner via OPP.  I found undertaking the course so helpful in better understanding myself and others and will certainly be writing about this in the future.  For instance, I got to speak to a number of introverts and now better understand that my desire to create a genial environment by asking numerous questions could well overwhelm an introvert who may have been considering my first question!
  6. Mental Health Awareness Week: LexisNexis sought my views on Mental Health Foundation’s study, which shows that 74% of adults have felt overwhelmed and unable to cope at some point in the past year.  I provided some practical pointers on what employers could do to help.

Thanks as ever for reading.  If anything I have mentioned above interests you or you have questions about anything I referred to, please let me know.

 

Fudia

Musings of a futurist employment lawyer

I am a futurist enthusiast, which means that I am interested in all things artificial intelligence (AI), automation and “fourth industrial revolution” related.  I suspect that my interest is due to growing up in the 80s where movies such as the Terminator and Back to the Future reigned supreme.

I am currently working my way through, “The Future of the Professions” and although I am only at chapter 2, I am more convinced that the legal profession needs to adapt before AI make us obsolete.  Let’s just say we are living in exciting times!

With the above in mind, I am now on the look-out for areas of law which I feel need to be updated to be fit for this modern technologically-focused world.  The first area up on my one-woman task of future-proofing law is the witnessing of documents.

As you may know, there are times when you will need someone to witness you signing a document (e.g. in relation to entering into a mortgage deed or signing a will) in order for the agreement to be valid.  In the employment sphere, you may be required to have someone witness your signature when entering into an employment contract or settlement agreement which is a deed.

Recently a client, who was abroad, asked if I could witness him signing an agreement if we had a FaceTime video call.  This question had me flummoxed and I felt compelled to check what the law on the execution of deeds actually says.

The law

1(3) of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 and section 44(2)(b) of the Companies Act 2006, state the person signing the deed must do so in the “presence” of the witness.

Having regard to the Oxford Dictionary definition of being “present” this refers to being in a particular place.   Clearly, I was not in the same place as my client so I advised that he had to find someone else to assist.

However, is physical presence really necessary?  The aim behind this is to have someone who can confirm (if necessary) to a court that the individual concerned signed the document.  With video calling, document and screen sharing technology and encrypted signatures – surely it is now possible for a witness to provide such confirmation without having to be physically present.  It leads me to wonder if there would ever be a situation in which some form of AI would be able to satisfy the witnessing requirements?

In my practice, most agreements are now finalised electronically and I seldom have regular face to face contact with clients. Therefore, requiring someone to be physically present to witness someone to sign an agreement feels so yesteryear.

What are your thoughts?

Algorithms, diversity and the tech industry – why we need to get this right!

I recently watched an excellent ted talk by Joy Buolamwini regarding her fight against algorithmic bias and why it matters.  Put simply, her talk considered the issues arising from a lack of diversity in tech e.g. that algorithms can exhibit unintended racial or gender biases of the largely White, Asian and male population of the tech industry.

Since we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution – with artificial intelligence at the core – we need to be able to trust in the veracity of the data produced by algorithms.  To minimise the risk of unconscious biases infecting the coding of algorithms, we need to ensure that there is diversity in the tech space.

James Damore (formerly of Google) complained in his now infamous memo that the focus on diversity in the technology sector is creating an “ideological echo chamber” and that Google’s programmes to increase diversity are politically driven and divisive. For instance, he referred to the fact there are biological differences between the genders which can provide a non-discriminatory explanation for the lack of female representation in tech.

In my view, it is imperative that tech companies focus on diversity so as to ensure that algorithms are fit for purpose. I do not want algorithms created to help sift through prospective job applicants to reflect the biased views of those who developed them e.g. weeding out women or those from certain ethnic or class backgrounds because of their perceived inferiority and I am sure I am not the only one. So while I am optimistic about the role AI will play in the future, we cannot ignore that algorithms will simply reflect the views of those who create them.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance that those who code reflect all of us – not only on the grounds of race and gender but on any other characteristics which are likely to shape how we interact with the world such as disability, age, class, sexual orientation, religion or philosophical belief.

Artificial Intelligence, automation and the future of work

You would be hard pressed not to have read an article or heard something about the rise of artificial intelligence and how we mere humans may render ourselves unemployable in the not so distant future.  I am not so pessimistic.  Having recently read Rutger Breman’s “Utopia for Realists”, I am persuaded by his argument that we lack the imagination at this stage as to the type of jobs people will be undertaking in the future.  Anecdotally, I do not recall ever hearing anyone at school talk about wanting to be a mobile app designer or Facebook advertising specialist (the defence rests).  However, I acknowledge that with the growing use of artificial intelligence and automation the types of work we are currently performing will soon need to change.

The International Bar Association has prepared a detailed report entitled, “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and their Impact on the Workplace.”  At a whopping 120 pages this report is certainly not a light read but it does provide some thought-provoking insights.

Reports are suggesting that AI has a 50% chance of outperforming human performance in all jobs by 2045. Further, in the 2013 paper entitled: “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?”, the authors contend that it is not only routine cognitive tasks that are at risk (e.g. telemarketers, secretaries and switchboard operators) but also roles which require “subtle judgement”.

So how can we “AI” proof our careers?  My view is that nowis the time that we give both emotional intelligence (EQ) and social intelligence their due reverence. Given that at some point it is expected that AI will be able to outperform any human’s analytical skills (IQ), this is not the case when it comes to interpersonal skills such as empathising, social understanding and persuasion (well at least not yet).  So while I am seeking to learn how to code (if you can’t beat the machines and all that) I will also be working on my leadership and other social skills in order to remain competitive in this ever-changing job market.

 

Diversity in the workplace series: 4 reasons why we shouldn’t ignore social class

The British class system is alive and well; it just continues to evolve. Traditionally there have been 3 social classes in the UK: (i) working class; (ii) middle class; and (iii) upper class.  Whereas perhaps 50 years ago we had a rather static view on class; in 21st century which group one belongs to now means different things to different people.  In fact, according to Professor Savage from LSE, the three-tiered class structure is now obsolete and there are 7 social classes ranging from Precariat (the poorest and most deprived social group) to the Elite (the wealthiest and most privileged group).  There is a social class calculator which can be used to determine what group you belong to.

Why does this matter?

Class is currently not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.  This is despite research suggesting that social class discrimination is rife. Yet there does not appear to be any public appetite for a legislative change.  Despite this, I set out below 4 reasons why I we believe that we need to tackle social class diversity in the workplace.

4 reasons why we shouldn’t ignore class when considering diversity in the workplace

  1. Because it makes good business sense: It is now considered a truism that diversity in the workplace is a good thing.  According to the Work Foundation, it can lead to improved performance, improved employer image, improved brand awareness, an increase in creativity and innovation, as well as providing an environment where customers feel at home.  All of the above is deemed to give diverse organisations a competitive advantage.  So if we recognise that diversity as a concept is good, there is no reason not to include different social classes into the mix.
  2. Because it has a big impact on job prospects and career development: According to Mr Savage’s research, Elites unsurprisingly dominate high-paid jobs. For instance, research has shown that in 2014 70% of jobs offered at top law, finance and accountancy firms were given to individuals who were privately educated.  Further, it is not only that the Elites dominate in highly paid jobs; their children tend to earn more in the top industries than those whose parents were not in high-salary jobs.  So even if someone from a lower socio-economic class is able to get a seat at the table with their Elite counterparts, they will be less well fed.
  3. Because it is self-perpetuating: According to a 2010 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the UK was one of the worst countries for certain measures of social mobility; with parents’ wealth being a strong influencing factor on a child’s prospects of higher education and a good salary. If we wish to encourage social mobility, we cannot ignore the impact of a person’s class.
  4. Because we are limiting innovation: Given that research indicates that  unconscious biases infect recruitment processes, I suspect that a number of talented individuals are not being recruited or promoted because of their perceived social class.  Do we automatically discredit someone who speaks with a regional dialect or uses slang as part of their vernacular as lacking the necessary skills to perform a role? If so, are those implicit judgements valid and/or credible?

Summary

Whilst I believe a diverse workforce on the grounds of social class would be good for business, we also cannot ignore the social implications. Employment plays a vital part in social mobility as well as a person’s wellbeing and self-esteem.  Given that the gap between rich and poor in the UK continues to widen, if we do not start to take class issues seriously we could end up living in a very divided Britain.