Building a better future: The role of social value

More and more companies are finding that their ‘Social Value’ is coming under scrutiny. This can take the form of being queried about how we are helping achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or how our Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) measures up when investments are being considered. It is also a factor that is coming into the world of bids and tenders, as these now place greater weight on our Social Value in comparison with our neat technical offering or ability to deliver the work in a timely manner.

Social Value, or Corporate Social Responsibility as it has also been known, is one of the many aspects of doing business that doesn’t directly generate financial revenue for a company, but is nevertheless an important part of company strategy – and all the more so now that it is impacting how likely we are to win a contract.

But is Social Value just a new box on tenders, like the requirement for Cyber Essentials, ISO27001, and a good set of quality policies being in place, or is there more to it that the whole company should be taking seriously?

The government has also done work in trying to quantify the Data Skills Gap in the UK, and the more we engage with our various stakeholders the more we too discover that this widely thought of as an important gap to close. Not only do we want to see a constant stream of skilled personnel being trained so that they can come and work in Bays, but we also find that often a gap in understanding means people don’t know what data science can do for them – or even indeed that data science could do anything to help them.

We see this at both an operational and strategic level. Often the data teams we work alongside are small, and don’t have all the data they need at their fingertips to conduct the sort of analysis we can do. We’ve also seen that without interested directors and managers it’s rare that we will ever be approached for our data science ability. Closing the data skills gap is important to allow us not only to do our work, but to ensure people want us to do the work.

Part of our own Social Value offering is in trying to help close this gap. We aim to build a diverse, inclusive, and flexible company, which allows us to make use of all the skills that are latent in the UK, while also giving the opportunity to people to grow in skill.

Though we are based in Guildford, I often describe us as a ‘remote company that has an office’. Our use of flexible working arrangements, means that people are able to work wherever suits them, be it in a business lounge area of a SPACES office, from home, or in our actual office. This means that those who don’t live in the south east, or those who have caring responsibilities and other priorities on their time, are able to work in a way that means they don’t have to compromise on their normal lives and can still be involved in working with data. It also allows us to cast our net wider and bring in other skills to the world of data.

Our commitment to promoting opportunity begins early, engaging with schools and communities through a range of initiatives. This includes Royal Institution Masterclasses, primary school assemblies, and secondary school workshops. Our goal is to demystify the image of mathematicians and statisticians, making these fields accessible and interesting to young generation.

We provide lots of Work Experience and Internships opportunities for GCSE and A-level students and provide paid internships for university students. These hands-on experiences bridge the gap between education and employment, significantly enhancing participants’ employability. Over the past 3 years we have had more interns working at Bays than full time employees.

We have learned as much from evangelising about data science as we hope those we have spoken to have learned from us. Experience from those who are ‘not like us’ is very important to ensure we are best able to tackle a wide set of problems, rather than just doing the same thing again and again. So, although writing about Social Value for a bid can feel a bit out of place for a company that wants to write about maths, we have found that the neat purpose behind it is fundamental to ensuring we have the skills, talent, and opportunities we need to continue succeeding in the future.

By James Hawkes

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