In today’s global business environment, a diverse workforce is a vital part of an organization’s success. Diversity ensures the workplace mirrors the world we encounter on a daily basis. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses by virtue of professional and life experiences. Collaboration within a diverse group helps minimize the impact of any weaknesses while collectively leveraging individual strengths into positive decision making and powerful results.
Creating and nurturing a professional environment that meaningfully respects and embraces people’s differences is essential. Emotional intelligence is an integral part of such efforts and plays a fundamental role in each of the key components to a successful diversity and inclusion program, including the recruitment, development, retention and promotion of diverse talent. It also is invaluable in succession planning.
Defining diversity within your organization
Effectively creating a diverse work environment is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year proposition. It involves constantly raising the consciousness and awareness of what diversity means to the organization, and conveying its importance across all levels of the business, particularly from the top, to truly imbue it throughout the culture.
A critical first step is for senior management to carefully define what diversity means and looks like within the context of the organization and to set both short- and long-term goals for achieving diversity and determining how success will be measured. Management’s communications in this regard must be driven by honesty, humility and integrity. There also must be open discussion both about what is and is not working in D&I efforts. Formal committees and other management frameworks often provide helpful ways to develop, implement and execute a strategic plan for diversity. Those charged with creating diversity in an organization must understand their constituency and need to be held accountable. Some have an innate understanding of diversity from a moral standpoint, seeing that it is the right thing to do. Others need to comprehend the economic business case for diversity if their support is to be developed and maintained.
Walking the walk both within and outside the organization is essential to ensure that D&I efforts are authentic and collaborative, not merely window dressing. A strong link between the organization’s espoused values and its behaviors is vital.
Creating, maintaining and promoting a diverse workforce
Recruiting is an essential part of creating a diverse workplace and there are a variety of ways to recruit diverse talent. Typical activities include job fairs, networking events, summer internships and activities focused on diversity awareness. In recent years, pipeline initiatives have become an increasingly popular recruiting tool. Targeted to college, high school and even grammar school students, the primary focus is to develop long-term relationships with young adults, aiming to maximize the likelihood they will attend college, graduate and ultimately enter the workforce.
Once new recruits are hired, consistent and meaningful mentoring and training is essential to ensure they enjoy a successful career start, effective integration and continued awareness. These efforts should also be directed toward existing employees to foster their development and growth. Effective talent management includes recognizing and understanding that the issues and challenges facing a diverse workforce are different and, in some ways, more complex and challenging than ever before. All employees must make an effort to understand, support and feel empathy for one another. “Diversity champions” often serve an important role in this regard. They are individuals in a position of power who are willing to provide meaningful, one-on-one support to more junior employees throughout their careers.
Promotion is the most significant way an institution can demonstrate its faith in, and commitment to, its employees. In many ways, this is the most challenging part of the equation, and it is essential that one’s consideration for advancement be evaluated and strategized well in advance of the actual promotion cycle. Promotions are integral to creating role models for the next generation of lawyers. They actually help ensure that the recruiting, retention and promotion cycle continues into the future – that it is a recognized feature of the institution’s landscape.
Succession planning is fundamental in enabling the organization to be well positioned for the future. Its success lies in the recognition that even senior-level individuals need support, mentoring, guidance and leadership development training to ensure continued success.
The future of diversity and inclusion
These ingredients are just a few tools with which an organization can maximize the effectiveness of its diversity and inclusion efforts. Ultimately, our collective success hinges on our ability to focus on the things that bring us together as professionals and as people, rather than on what divides us. This simple behavioral approach can make all the difference in creating the necessary paradigm shift to build more inclusive environments, both now and in the future.
To learn more about EQ, please contact Christina Martini.