Diversity matters: choose diversity for your firm

01 Mar 2019
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Diversity remains a key consideration for all professional services businesses, whether that’s law firms or otherwise. In its 2018/2019 Risk Outlook, the SRA highlighted that diversity poses a key threat to law firms particularly, especially when it comes to the effectiveness and services of the justice system. However, there are ways to improve diversity within firms to ensure that access to legal services and careers within the profession remains available to all. One way to achieve this is through external training resources to help manage risk and ensure overall firm compliance whilst also maintaining a happy and more inclusive workforce. For our blog this week, we’re discussing choosing the right diversity course for you and your firm, and the key factors you need to consider.

 

More than just a tick box exercise
According to Strategy+Business, diversity and inclusion training was introduced in the 1970s and 1980s where the issue of varying demographics impacted performances and stopped individuals from reaching their full potential. However, when made compulsory rather than simply encouraged, it has been reported that many individuals feel discontent, with one study of 830 mandatory programmes reporting strong backlash against it. We believe that diversity training should not be forced or part of a tick-box exercise, although it should be actively encouraged to ensure inclusivity. After all, diverse companies can outperform non-diverse companies by a whopping 35%. In the UK specifically, for every 10% increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rose by 3.5%, making a strong case for inclusivity and diversity in the workplace not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes business sense.

 

Perspective-taking training
We’re sure you’ve heard the saying, ‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.’ Bringing added perspective can increase levels of empathy and understanding, which is especially important when addressing the issue of diversity. For example, Harvard Business Review recently reported on its research involving 118 undergraduate students which showed that taking the perspective of LGBT individuals or racial minorities (by writing a few sentences imaging the distinct challenges a marginalised minority might face) can improve pro-diversity attitudes and behavioural intentions towards these groups which can inevitably have a positive impact on hiring decisions. Also, introducing different perspectives in the workplace can help to produce 60% faster decision making than in non-diverse teams, increasing business efficiencies.

 

Take an organisation-wide approach
Overall team compliance should not be the responsibility of one member of the firm, the compliance officer for example, but instead should fall on the shoulders of all team members.  By encouraging an organisation-wide approach, it can help your firm to champion good risk management and cover key SRA competencies across the board, whilst encouraging diversity of thought within your firm. However, before selecting a diversity course, you must understand its benefits. Ask yourself, what do you hope to get out of this course, whether that’s a better understanding of diversity and planning with this in mind, why a lack of diversity is a problem or grappling with unconscious bias, before reviewing course content from trustworthy training providers. 

 

Lead by example
According to Michael Rosenberg, “A positive leader will inspire 100% effort from everybody’, meaning that in order for the whole workforce to implement new training, they must be led by example from the top down in order to encourage buy-in. According to Learning Solutions, this can in time lead to bottom up learning which is cheaper, less controlling and altogether more in tune with business culture of today, addressing 80% of knowledge needed with 20% of the time commitment.  Plus, this can help mould a happier, more engaged workforce that has the potential to improve fee-earning activity by 37%.

 

Work closely with your training provider
As professionals, we should actively seek diversity of thought to make improvements, which is particularly true when appointing a training provider to help address diversity issues. For example, at Kaplan Altior we understand that accessibility is a key consideration when introducing any new training programme, which is why we’ve introduced a range of compliance courses delivered directly in short 1-2 hour sessions through our virtual classroom environment, Live Online. However, if you feel as though you require training across the firm or organisation-specific training, there will be tailored options available and you can work closely with your training provider to bring your training in-house if necessary.

 

Increased diversity can help not only the legal industry by introducing a wider range of perspectives and opportunities for those operating within the sector, but it can also make the justice system more accessible, particularly as some individuals may want to be represented by those who share the same social or cultural backgrounds. Additionally, in 2017, a survey from PwC highlighted that 54% of women and 45% of men surveyed said that they had researched whether a company had D&I policies in place when deciding to accept a job position from their most recent employer, showcasing that diversity is front of mind for individuals as well as organisations. However, compliance and inclusion needs to be spread throughout the organisation and  as increased training opportunities have become available and made more accessible with the introduction of virtual classroom environments, this should be easier to achieve. For more information about our upcoming compliance courses or to book your place, contact us today on 02920 451 000 or email us at altior@kaplan.co.uk