Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are a clear differentiator for businesses, and they have never been more critical, especially in light of the pandemic, which has caused a mass exodus of professionals leaving their job. Faced with this challenge, companies that have built inclusive cultures have an advantage when it comes to hiring and retaining top talent.
Creating a more diverse and inclusive corporate culture also fosters greater innovation. According to an Accenture report, “The more empowering the work environment, the higher the innovation mindset score. For example, U.S. employees in strong cultures of equality are seven times more likely to say that nothing prevents them from innovating (44% in the most equal cultures versus 6% in the least equal cultures).
Here are five ways organizations can create a diverse and inclusive workplace culture:
- Establish policies that codify DE&I in the organization. In order to ensure that DE&I is not just paid lip service, it is essential to embed an inclusive culture into the fabric of the organization. Supplier diversity and inclusive team policies are great examples of ways to codify DEI into your company culture. In the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) industry, adding an opt-in clause to a company’s contracts is a great way to ensure that DE&I is considered in the dispute resolution process. Policies are excellent guiding principles for cultivating an inclusive corporate culture.
- Create safe spaces. One of the most important things organizations can do is create safe spaces for employees, such as employee resource groups, for them to engage and experience different cultures. Encouraging employees to bring their authentic selves to work fosters an inclusive environment. Once you create an inclusive culture, you will increase employee engagement and innovation, which will lead to better employee retention.
- Lead by example. Make sure your organization’s leadership team is diverse, setting the tone for the entire company. Leaders must lead by example, act as bias switches, immediately interceding whenever inappropriate behavior is displayed. Having strong, active leaders who place a high value on diversity and inclusion is essential to creating a culture that embraces DE&I.
- Maintain a pipeline of opportunities. Ensure the organization creates a pipeline of DE&I opportunities that focus on growth and retention. Mentorships and sponsorships are a great way to further support employees. By investing in talent, companies can grow stronger, while creating an inclusive culture. The JAMS Diversity Scholarship Program is a great example of a program committed to this mission. At JAMS, we are committed to pursuing increased diversity among ADR practitioners.
- Set goals and follow them. It is important to set diversity and inclusion goals for the company and then track metrics to see how the organization is doing against the stated goals. Holding the company to set standards is the best way to ensure that everyone is held accountable and that progress is being made in a measurable way. JAMS has created a remarkable initiative to help in-house counsel and attorneys track their ADR goals. The JAMS Neutral Usage Report is a great tool to track the selection of various neutrals. The tool allows all stakeholders to track their DEI achievements.
The Importance of DE&I in the Legal Profession
DE&I initiatives should extend to all aspects of the legal profession. Law firms and corporate legal departments are actively working to increase diversity within the profession. Our goal is to raise awareness to ensure that diversity affects all aspects of the legal field, including ADR. When selecting a neutral, it is crucial to keep DE&I in mind. ADR institutions, such as JAMS, are constantly striving to increase panel diversity. Overall, the legal community should continue to work together toward the common goal of supporting a more diverse workplace.
DE&I Takes Greater Urgency During Big Resignation
Faced with the “Great Resignation”, employees are increasingly interested in working for companies whose DE&I goals and initiatives are aligned with their values. Company culture and work-life balance are also top priorities for recruits. That said, organizations need to focus on DE&I in the workplace and ensure their efforts are authentic and non-performative. Again, metrics are key to measuring success and determining if fundamental change is happening and if the business is making things happen.
As noted above, ADR institutions focus on diversity in their panels with the goal of increasing the diversity of neutral lists. A great analogy comes from the movie “Field of Dreams”. If we build it, various talents will come. However, if the work they are doing is meaningless or there is little of it, they will not stay. I urge the legal industry to challenge its ADR screening process and help us open the door to inclusiveness within the industry. Once the glass ceiling is shattered, we will finally see real change. As participants in the ADR process, we all hold the key to inclusiveness and fairness within our industry.