The See Potential campaign gives people from troubled backgrounds a new lease of life – but businesses that embrace diversity will see the benefit too, writes Simon Walker
Diversity is not just an issue of gender and ethnicity. Businesses need to think more broadly about the range of people they employ, so I welcome the See Potential campaign, which seeks to expand the agenda to include people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Diversity, or the lack of it, can have a fundamental impact on the individuals it affects, but it also matters to companies. Whether an individual has been in long-term unemployment, is an ex-offender or rehabilitating from drug or alcohol addiction, their past should not define their ability to obtain meaningful employment.
To that end, See Potential aims to persuade employers to look beyond a candidate’s history and give them the opportunity to change their lives. With the motivation to work and contribute to a company’s success, individuals do not have to be held back by their experiences.
Employers may at times be daunted, but those who take a chance can access a wider variety of perspectives. Business thrives on new ideas, and needs people to challenge existing ways of doing things. And there are big gains to be had by being more flexible on recruitment.
Firms such as Timpson and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are leading the way. For the last 12 years, Timpson has been training potential employees while they are still serving the final months of a prison sentence, and then employing them directly on their release.
Freshfields takes a different approach to the same problem, in 2014 becoming the first major law firm in Britain to sign up to the Ban the Box campaign, which encourages companies to remove the criminal-record disclosure box from their job application forms.
Notwithstanding the challenges that may arise, both businesses claim the schemes have been successful for employees, and also for their company.
The IoD represents 35,000 business leaders, who provide employment in communities across the UK. We support this campaign as it offers people from disadvantaged backgrounds a sustainable route out of poverty.
Getting these people into steady employment provides them with a second chance, and utilises skills that would otherwise be wasted, strengthening our economy.
We believe other businesses should be following in these footsteps. We encourage our members to ensure their businesses are open-minded and consider the benefits that can be realised if they embrace diversity in all its forms.