Back in 2006, I went on a “Seeing is Believing” visit organised by Business in the Community, which focused on helping the homeless and long-term unemployed back to work. I remember walking away with an incredibly vivid sense of the power and potential of business to make a huge difference to society. That’s why I’m proud to support the DWP’s See Potential campaign to encourage businesses to think differently about how they recruit.
As the Chairman of Teach First, education is an issue very close to my heart. I passionately believe that every child deserves an opportunity to succeed in life. But that opportunity shouldn’t disappear as soon as a child turns 18. There is so much talent and motivation out there, business just needs to be able to identify it and encourage it.
Thankfully there are already many businesses giving people that opportunity. For example, Bibby Line Group has supported over 250 young people in The Princes Trust Enterprise programme and Greggs have their award-winning ‘Fresh Start’ programmes, which last year helped more than 600 people from marginalised groups become more ‘employable. Or Veolia, who recently announced that they will ensure that 10% of new recruits come from marginalised groups-including army veterans, ex-offenders, long term unemployed and the homeless.
These businesses don’t take this action because it gives them a warm, fuzzy feeling and ticks a corporate social responsibility box. They do it because for them it is the right thing to do. It’s common sense; employing people based on their potential, and not their background, makes good business sense.
Having a range of staff from different backgrounds and with different experiences also benefits business. It provides a more rigorous and challenging approach to decision making and can also help firms better understand their customers. And crucially it can stop them from missing out on tapping into the ideas and skill sets of a large portion of the population. Seeing the difference that a company is making to society is also one of the best ways to build pride amongst employees in the business they work for. That’s why I firmly believe that everyone benefits from being in an inclusive workplace.
My hope is that ‘See Potential’ campaign encourages even more business leaders to take the time to understand some of the enormous challenges prevalent in society. If you have never had the light shone on a particular issue then you may not see how it fits into your role as a business leader. This campaign will help to shine that light.