DCS Multiserve – Can accents determine your success in employment?

Britain is made up of many different accents, some quite soft and some quite tough. What are attitudes towards different accents and what impact do have on employment?

Facilities management company DCS Multiserve has provided us with this research that can shine a light on the situation that many people in the UK are facing.

Accents odds in employability

Having a strong accent can determine how you are treated at work, whether this be at the interview stages or working alongside a team.

A report from the Guardian said that a Cumbrian teacher was told to “sound less Cumbrian” by their employer. Another instance from the report suggested that a school in the West Midlands recently banned pupils from talking with regional slang to improve their chances of getting employment in the future.

8/10 employers have admitted to discriminating on candidates due to their regional accent – something that they can’t necessarily change, a report from a law firm in Peninsula has said.

Some accents are more ‘employable’ than others

People who speak the Queen’s English or Royal Pronunciation are more likely to get a job, a report from University of South Wales’ Professor Lance Workman discovered, even though that it is only spoken by 3% of the UK as it is associated with intelligence. The same can be said for the Yorkshire accent.

Professor Workman commented: “Despite changes in attitudes of the general populace to RP, when it comes to recruitment to the elite professions, it is clear that many of those with regional accents are still hitting a class ceiling.”

In opposition to the Yorkshire accent, the Birmingham accent was said to be described as less intelligent. 16% of people from Birmingham with the accent have openly tried to reduce their natural accent in job interviews.

Professor Workman, from the University of South Wales, also found out that some employers are bias to certain accents – reported by Recruiting Times.

The views on different regional accents

Different assumptions are made based on accents in the United Kingdom. In 2013, ComRes and ITV interviewed 2,006 adults in August and 2,025 adults in September to determine the attitudes to different regional accents. They discovered that…

28% of Brits feel discriminated against because of the way they speak. 14% feel accent discrimination in the workplace and 12% in job interviews.

Discrimination in different situations varies, with 20% also feeling discrimination in social situations and 13% when being served in shops or restaurants.

Devon accent is voted the most ‘friendly’ regional accent

Voters decided the top five ‘friendly’ accents, which included:

  • Devon (65% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Newcastle (56% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Edinburgh (51% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Cardiff (51% of votes as ‘friendly’)
  • Cockney (49% of votes as ‘friendly’)

Liverpool accent is voted as the most ‘unfriendly’ regional accent

The top five ‘unfriendly’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, included:

  • Liverpool (26% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • Belfast (24% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • RP/Queen’s English (23% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • Manchester (21% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)
  • Birmingham (21% of votes as ‘unfriendly’)

RP/Queen’s English is voted as the most ‘intelligent’ accent

The top five ‘intelligent’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, included:

  • RP/Queen’s English (62% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Edinburgh (38% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Devon (28% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Belfast (23% of votes as ‘intelligent’)
  • Cardiff (23% of votes as ‘intelligent’)

Liverpool accent is voted as the most ‘unintelligent’ accent

The top five ‘unintelligent’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, included:

  • Liverpool (37% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Birmingham (33% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Cockney (32% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Newcastle (26% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)
  • Manchester (22% of votes as ‘unintelligent’)

RP/Queen’s English is voted as the most ‘trustworthy’ accent

The top five ‘trustworthy’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, included:

  • RP/Queen’s English (51% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Devon (51% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Edinburgh (44% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Cardiff (37% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)
  • Newcastle (36% of votes as ‘trustworthy’)

Liverpool accent is voted as the most ‘untrustworthy’ accent

The top five ‘untrustworthy’ accents, as voted by survey respondents, included:

  • Liverpool (29% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Cockney (24% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Belfast (20% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Birmingham (17% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)
  • Manchester (17% of votes as ‘untrustworthy’)

The survey suggests that respondents were also conscious of focusing in on someone’s accent – 6% admitted to discriminating against someone’s accent in the workplace, and 4% in a job interview.

How to combat accent discrimination as an applicant

There are a few different ways to tackle accent discrimination. Some of the approaches included:

Stay clear of using regional slang, but don’t hide your accent – advice from Francesca Turner, adviser from the National Careers Service.

Don’t change your accent or the way you speak – advice from Brian Staines, Senior Career Adviser, University of Bristol.

Embrace your accent – Liverpudlian minister Esther McVey advised people from the North West not to feel obliged to change their accent for job purposes. McVey argued that people make a variety of judgements when looking for employees, and that “we just need people who reflect other people” and that her accent hadn’t held her back in her career. McVey also added: “I think it can be a colourful accent.”

How to combat accent discrimination as an employer

When employers who are trying to combat this issue and want to make decisions based on someone’s experience and not their accent, the HR Daily Advisor has a list of measures that they can make:

  • Make sure those with accents are not singled out in any way
  • Make sure all parts of the interviewing process do not discriminate
  • Try to avoid placing individuals with certain accents in certain roles
  • Avoid questioning the suitability of certain accents for roles over others.

Sources

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