Inflation and the rocketing cost of living are a huge concern for everyone. However, these changes directly impact those in poverty the most severely.
At UNLEASH, we often discuss diverse and inclusive talent pools, but we rarely have the opportunity to discuss hiring someone who is in poverty or even homeless.
To understand how those who are in poverty can be hired UNLEASH spoke to the CEO of the Big Issue, Paul Cheal.
As a CEO of a social enterprise that helps the homeless and impoverished, Cheal was able to give incredible insights into the current economic situation and how to hire the right people regardless of their current situation.
Why aren’t businesses hiring those in poverty?
Despite the ‘Great Resignation‘, which has left more than a million vacancies in the UK, many organizations are ignoring a demographic fit to fill vacant positions. Those in poverty can undoubtedly fill the skill gaps left by those who have chosen to leave the workforce.
Cheal shares: “We know that currently, employers are struggling to fill 1.3 million vacancies, despite the fact there are around 1.26 million people unemployed.
At Big Issue Group, our business is changing lives. To achieve our new mission, we will be expanding our service offer to reach and deliver impact to as many people living in poverty as we can. Watch our video to find out more 👇
— The Big Issue (@BigIssue) June 30, 2022
“If there is a stigma, then it is both an economic and social imperative that it is removed quickly.”
The need for candidates in the current job market, “highlights the fact that having a broader hiring policy would be mutually beneficial”.
For organizations, Cheal stresses that it is important to make an “active effort to reach out to marginalized people and those struggling to find employment”.
Cheal unpacks what businesses can do: “I think it’s important for all organizations to ensure they have a more inclusive hiring policy.
“In our experience, there is less a stigma attached to hiring candidates who have barriers to employment, it is more of a fear that overcoming those barriers will be difficult and employers may not feel adequately equipped to do this.
“If they don’t know where to start, I would suggest reaching out to organizations like us or other like-minded organizations who can help them evolve a specific and lasting recruitment policy.”
The economy’s impact on the poverty line
For the Big Issue, skyrocketing costs have meant “mobilizing more than ever before to support those who need us the most [and] protect those who are most vulnerable from falling through the cracks.”
As a result, the organization is actively expanding its offering and who it supports to an incredible 14.5 million people who are currently living in poverty in the UK.
In October, the company will also be launching Big Issue Recruit, “which will be a person-centered recruitment service that supports marginalized people into work with employers across the UK. We will work with individuals to determine and deliver the skills, training, and personal development they need to find great roles and ultimately thrive”, Cheal explains.
This has never been so important as millions face poverty amid a looming recession. Cheal notes: “With bills set to rise at the end of the year this is only going to squeeze those already on the margins even harder.
“More needs to be done to ensure those who need support have access to it, or we could see even more people slip below the poverty line – or even lose their homes.”
Organizations can undoubtedly help people in poverty, but it does require a talent acquisition strategy.
Attracting and equipping the unemployed
Even those with the best of intentions often struggle with attracting diverse talent and getting the right candidates’ eyes on their vacancies.
Cheal explains: “Attracting candidates experiencing poverty is not always straightforward. People living in poverty can experience barriers to work which prevent them from accessing jobs through regular channels.”
Health and mental wellbeing can be barriers to accessing these channels, as well as factors others often take for granted like social, digital, or financial barriers.
To overcome this, Cheal recommends contacting specialists in hiring those in poverty. That way talent can be contacted and begin the hiring process in a way that doesn’t add unnecessary stress.
Once a company hires someone who is experiencing poverty, it is important to develop career paths. Almost all employees want a career path and those in poverty are no different. Purpose and goals drive people. With 79% of people in the UK telling YouGov that there are skill gaps, upskilling is an area you can’t afford not to invest in.
If those in poverty can pick up desirable skills, it will reduce the likelihood of them experiencing issues like homelessness.
Additionally, employers need to be open to conversations about continued accessibility. Life doesn’t improve in a moment, it’s continuous increments towards a goal. Make sure your staff can get to work and can carry out tasks and have a positive working experience.
Creating recruitment plans and helping businesses evolve and diversify their onboarding is an area that Big Issue specializes in.
A five-year plan
The Big Issue has large plans for change going forward. As part of a five-year plan, more than 500 social enterprises will be supported.
Big Issue Recruit is a key part of this. Detailing why the plan is essential, Cheal says: “By linking talented people with sustainable careers, we believe we will reduce the risk of people falling into unemployment and homelessness in the wake of COVID-19.
“It aims to be a reliable, ethical, end-to-end method of recruitment.”
The organization is also launching Big Issue Invest which helps fund hundreds of charities. Cheal explains: “Big Issue Invest facilitates lending for social enterprises and other organizations in the employment space, such as Café Van Gogh in Brixton which runs a program of on-the-job training for people with additional challenges in life, such as a learning disability or a mental health problem to provide them with the support and confidence to seek paid employment”.
Cheal adds: “They also provide paid employment opportunities to the delegates if the opportunity arises. This is just one example of the amazing organizations Big Issue Invest supports and going forward we plan to support even more sustainable organizations and social enterprises in the employment space.”
He concludes: “And we will be launching a campaign later on this year which will aim to safeguard opportunities for future generations… so watch this space!”
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