Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a clear business differentiator, and it has never been more critical, particularly in light of the pandemic, which has brought about a mass exodus of professionals leaving their jobs. In the face of 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 business culture also fosters greater innovation. According to an Accenture report, “The more empowering the workplace environment, the higher the innovation mindset score. For instance, U.S. employees in robust cultures of equality are seven times more likely to say that nothing holds them back from innovating (44 percent in most equal cultures vs. 6 percent in least equal cultures).”
The following are five ways organizations can build a diverse and inclusive company culture:
- Establish policies that codify DE&I into the organization. In order to ensure that DE&I is not simply lip service, it is essential to make an inclusive culture part of the fabric of the organization. Supplier diversity and inclusive team policies are great examples of ways to codify DEI within your company culture. Within the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) industry, adding an inclusion clause to a company’s contracts is a great way to ensure DE&I is considered within the dispute resolution process. Policies are great guiding principles to cultivate an inclusive company culture.
- Create safe spaces. One of the most important things organizations can do is create safe spaces for employees, such as employee resource groups, allowing them to engage and learn about different cultures. Encouraging employees to bring their authentic self to work fosters an inclusive environment. Once you create an inclusive culture, you will increase employee engagement and innovation, which will lead to higher employee retention.
- Lead by example. Ensure your organization’s leadership team is diverse, setting the tone for the entire business. Leaders should lead by example, acting as bias interrupters, immediately interceding whenever inappropriate behavior is displayed. Having strong and active leaders who place a high value on diversity and inclusion is vital to the creation of a culture that embraces DE&I.
- Maintain a pipeline of opportunities. Make sure the organization creates a pipeline of DE&I opportunities that emphasize growth and retention. Mentorships and sponsorships are a great way to further support employees. By investing in talent, businesses can strengthen themselves, while creating an inclusive culture. The JAMS Diversity Fellowship Program is a great example of a program committed to this mission. Here at JAMS, we are steadfast in pursuing increased diversity among ADR practitioners.
- Set goals and track them. It is important to set diversity and inclusion goals for the business and then track the metrics to see how the organization performs against the stated objectives. Holding the company to set standards is the best way to ensure everyone is held accountable and progress is made in a measurable way. JAMS has created a notable initiative to assist corporate counsel and attorneys in tracking their ADR goals. The JAMS Neutral Utilization Report is an excellent tool that will track the selection of diverse neutrals. The tool allows all stakeholders to monitor their DEI achievements.
The Importance of DE&I Across the Legal Profession
DE&I initiatives should extend across all aspects of the legal profession. Law firms and corporate legal departments are actively working to increase diversity within the profession. It is our goal is to increase awareness to ensure diversity trickles down to all aspects of the legal field, including ADR. When selecting a neutral, keeping DE&I top of mind is crucial. ADR institutions, such as JAMS, are constantly working to increase diversity on the panel. As a whole, the legal community should continue to work together toward the common goal of supporting a more diverse workplace.
DE&I Takes on Greater Urgency During the Great Resignation
In the face of 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 within the workplace and ensure their efforts are authentic and not performative. Once again, metrics are vital to measure success and determine if fundamental change is occurring and the company is moving the needle.
As stated above, ADR institutions are focused on the diversity of their panels with the goal of increasing diverse neutral rosters. A great analogy comes from the movie “Field of Dreams.” If we build it, diverse talent will come. However, if the work they are doing is not meaningful or there is little of it, they will not stay. I urge the legal industry to challenge its ADR selection process and help us open the door of inclusivity within the industry. Once the glass ceiling is broken, we will finally see real change. As participants in the ADR process, we all hold the key to inclusivity and equity within our industry.