Diversity and Inclusion are Not Mutually Exclusive – Here’s Why

Society’s expectations are shifting the sands of the business world and is sweeping the legal world with it. Successful legal firms are increasingly operating more like ‘start-up businesses’ – changing everything from how they call themselves to how they deliver their services. What’s also changing is the rules of engagement which mean transparent behaviours, open attitudes, and collaborative team behaviours are the new norm. It’s a game-changer. Yet the benefits are anything but a game and the proof is in. Deloitte’s detailed global analysis and study “Eight Powerful Truths” of how diversity and inclusion have impacted businesses since 2016 have indicated that the value of diversity of thinking alone increase innovation by 20% and reduces risk by 30%. It means firms with an inclusive culture are twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial targets, three times as likely to be high performing, six times as likely to be innovative and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

If that’s not proof enough, then your firm may have a bigger problem.

For businesses who adopt the new way of working they will definitely achieve a distinctive competitive edge, reduce turnover, boost company culture, encourage engagement and creativity and stay relevant. They will become known as business partners and advisors rather than ‘law firms’ and respond to the needs of their internal customers with the same commitment as it does to its external customer. By virtue of their open-mindedness, they will empower staff to be innovative and creative giving clients the confidence they are dealing with cutting edge thinkers and solution providers more agile than ever. For those businesses who don’t adopt the new way of working in a diverse and inclusive way, they will reach a use-by date faster than a carton of A2 milk and the results will not be pleasant.

Research also shows that in Australia, workers in inclusive teams are 10 times more likely to be highly effective than workers in non-inclusive teams, and five times more likely to provide excellent customer/client service. So we really need to understand what diversity and inclusion is in order to get these best results. Yet let’s be careful not to confuse the terms and expect diverse teams on their own to be inclusive. That’s because businesses can be diverse but not truly inclusive. For example; yes, we hire a diverse range of people – we’re legally bound to. And we hire them expecting that they’ll be team players – that they’ll fit in with the rest of the crew. To cover ourselves, we give them a three-month trial period and leave them to it – and if they don’t settle in or we find they are not ‘like us’, well, sorry, “unfortunately it hasn’t worked out.” Is that inclusive? No, it isn’t. Strange, we hire them to think and be different and when they are we can find that unsettling.

Perhaps a more inclusive way, for example, would be to have both the employee and the business on a three-month trial, coming together at the end to mutually discuss the outcomes. It would support the new employee from day one, not just show them the ropes, the computer systems, and the OH&S policy, but really drilling down, connecting and communicating with them across all business channels. It would buddy them up, take them through the business strategy, and ask them for their input. It would ask them for what their version of ‘best practice’ is compared to what we currently do; it would be looking for ways to improve existing operations through new eyes and experiences.

As legal-preneurs and professional advisors it is our job to find out what makes others tick, what value will we bring to the table and what we can do to help us add more diversity into our operations. Most businesses now have a workplace diversity and inclusion policy in place of sorts but many may be just paying lip service to it without really understanding its true potential. Why? Because it is often a static policy and one that employees do not have the opportunity to add to as things change. Yet we know that encouragement and the opportunity to engage and keep engaging fosters growth. We also know that by encouraging staff to put forward their ideas, build the policy further and drive it across the business is continuous but it will result in greater loyalty as people feel more connected to their employer. And loyalty is something that AI can’t replace.
In conclusion, the Australian legal industry among other professional services is now swept up in this dynamic wave of new thinking and teams are becoming interdependent eco-systems that rely on candid opinion and radical transparency. And it’s working.

But are you doing your bit to ensure you have the right balance of Diversity and Inclusion in your workplace? And if not, what are you doing to rectify it?

If you want to reap the rewards of a diverse and inclusive workplace reach out now to Ricky Nowak on 0419 839 994 or ricky@rickynowak.com. She specialises in working with successful leaders and businesses in professional services across the APAC region as a leadership speaker, facilitator, and executive coach.