D E Consult Ltd in collaboration with Boies Schiller Flexner (London) LLP and Sasha Scott of Inclusive Group.

Date: 25th February 2020

Diversity in the workplace is not just a valuable asset, it is inevitable. You may have recruited a diverse workforce that includes a range of ethnicities, religions, ages and backgrounds, but what about the other half of the Diversity & Inclusivity picture? Creating a culture where people are respected and appreciated requires another level of effort, and that means getting the inclusion part right. The future of work is inclusive, and the goal is to develop a culture where all employees feel safe and included.

D E Consult Ltd were delighted to collaborate with Victoria Bingle, Senior Human Resources Manager of Boies Schiller Flexner (London) LLP and Sasha Scott of Inclusive Group. Vicky and I share a professional and personal interest in supporting ethnic, gender and social diversity as it is a topic which is very close to our hearts.  We were also interested to know what techniques law firms had successfully implemented to reach their Diversity & Inclusivity goals, especially when it comes to recruitment.  We decided to present a session about Diversity & Inclusivity specifically for Law Firms.  Our aim was to bring together HR and Office Management professionals from various sized law firms, and to facilitate a conversation so that we could all learn from each other by sharing our experiences.  We were incredibly grateful when Sasha agreed to lead the conversation as she is considered an international thought-leader on diversity, bias and inclusivity, and has already helped numerous organisations.

The session took place in the beautiful office of Boies Schiller Flexner (London) LLP with its contemporary design and stunning 360-degree panoramic views across London and St Paul’s.  Diversity is at the heart of firm’s DNA and Natasha Harrison, who is now the co-Managing Partner of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and head of the firm’s London office, has been recognised for driving change and increasing gender, ethnic and social diversity in the workplace. With the recent addition of Partner Tracey Dovaston, who joined the firm from Barclays, more than 40 percent of the London partners are women.

Delegates from various sized, US and international Law Firms, who are dedicated to effecting positive change, were warmly welcomed by Tracey, who is also a member of Boies Schiller Flexner (London) LLP’s Diversity & Inclusivity Committee. Sasha opened the session with a presentation called The Inclusion Imperative, which outlines where we are now, and what we should be looking out for in 2020.

Here are some of the key points which Sasha covered:

In a powerful image captioned the Waterline of Visibility, we were shown that the focus on Diversity & Inclusivity predominately seems to be race and gender but there are so many other attributes and experiences that encompass it.  Diversity includes all our differences from age, gender, ethnicity and physical appearance as well as underlying differences such as thinking styles, personalities, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, education and background. Diversity represents all the ways people are different not just the visible way. We are barley scratching the surface of the inclusion iceberg and we need to dig deeper.

Diversity in the workplace means that a company hires a wide range of diverse individuals, but workplace diversity doesn’t just extend to hiring the right quotas, we need to ensure that the participation of these employees is equal. In 2020 the focus will most certainly be on inclusion and behaviour. True inclusion should feel like community, fairness, a safe place where someone can be themselves without fear of judgement. Evidence suggests that hiding just an element of oneself reduces productivity by 25%. Without authentic inclusion, organisations cannot optimise diversity, the focus must be inclusion.

Firms are starting to get pulled up on gender and race diversity, sometimes publicly, and there is an increasing demand for more transparency and authenticity. Whilst gender pay gap reporting is still going to take some time, it has made a huge difference in shining a light on the topic which firms cannot ignore. We are entering a phase where five generations are working simultaneously, bringing about different ways of thinking, and generating innovation and change.  Organisations must be ready for this change and need to create a culture of safety, starting at the top with the executive team and filtering down through the organisation.

Evidence shows that fear stops people from sharing their ideas. Research has shown that authentic diversity encourages creativity and enhances innovation by 20%. It also helps organisations spot risks, reducing these by up to 30%. Diversity without Inclusion is worth less than when the two are combined and it is evident that organisations with inclusive cultures  are twice as likely to exceed their financial targets, three times as likely to be high performing, six time more likely to be innovative and agile, and 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

Inclusive behaviour must start at the top and it is important that organisations have proper representation and diverse role models. Firms need to ensure that their recruitment partners share their Diversity & Inclusivity goals, and are doing everything in their power to attract a broad range of talent.

Once the presentation concluded, the conversation was opened to the group who had some interesting points to raise, such as:

  • How to take a local approach when initiatives from the head office don’t filter through
  • The impact of GDPR and the issues around asking for and storing sensitive personal data without impeding people’s privacy
  • How to get people in small offices to share sensitive personal data without feeling exposed
  • How HR can take control by using software which is specifically designed to increase diversity in recruitment
  • Extending Diversity & Inclusivity goals throughout a workforce and bridging the divide between professional and business services
  • How to measure inclusion, and the importance of having authentic role models
  • Recognising the distinction between being comfortable and being confident enough to speak up

Thank you to everyone who attended and participated, it was wonderful to hear from you all and inspiring to know that so many people are committed to achieving true inclusion.  We may have a way to go yet, but there is a lot we can do on an individual basis; listen, be open minded, be understanding and don’t be afraid to ask questions or to have difficult conversations.

Until next time, take care!

Dominique

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