Action Steps Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Action Step –
Supporting Parents Returning From Leave

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

Organizations need to support parents before, during, and after parental leave in order to retain top talent. In last month’s Action Step, Providing the Right Support Before Parental Leave, we discussed the need to support employees prior to parental leave by communicating available resources and policies, creating a systematic procedure for the transition of work, and utilizing existing and targeted programs to provide assistance. When employees return from parental leave, it’s crucial to ensure they receive adequate flexibility, guidance, and support to transition back to work successfully.

To help employees have smooth transitions back to work and avoid unwanted attrition, organizations should implement formal on-ramping and flexible work policies to help parents find their own work-life control, create a culture of acceptance for on-ramping policies through leadership promotion and education, and provide support through community, mentorship and guidance. By focusing on these key areas – Formal Policies, Culture of Acceptance, and Support & Resources – organizations can create smooth and seamless transitions back to work for parents. While the framework discussed in this action step focuses transition back to work from parental leave, organizations can apply these best practices for any family or medical leave or sabbatical.

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Action Step –
Providing the Right Support Before Parental Leave

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

In order to retain top talent, companies and firms need to support parents before, during, and after parental leave. While more organizations are utilizing on-ramping programs and providing support to parents returning from leave, organizations also need to remember to focus on smoothly transitioning parents to parental leave to promote team productivity, enhance client satisfaction, and reduce turnover.

To help with this process, companies and firms need to communicate available resources and policies, create a systematic procedure for the transition of work, and provide support through existing and targeted programs. By focusing on these key tasks – Communicate, Systematize, and Support – organizations can accomplish a smooth and seamless transition for parents to parental leave. While this action step focuses on easing employees’ transitions to parental leave, organizations can apply these best practices for any family or medical leave.

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Action Step –
The Building Blocks for a Successful D&I Initiative

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

A successful diversity and inclusion program requires clear focus, strong implementation of activities to meet delineated goals, and responsibility assigned to key players to effectively lead and engage in these activities. Whether your organization is looking to start a new D & I program or reenergize/resolve an existing one, the Alliance’s building blocks provide guidance for a successful initiative. By following each step in this path – ASSESS, ARTICULATE, ALIGN, and ACTIVATE – your organization can achieve a strong D & I program with specific objectives, focused activities, and measurable outcomes.

ASSESS State: The first critical step is to assess the current state of your organization’s D & I needs with respect to attracting, retaining, and advancing top talent. Organizations often look to see new programs and policies their peers are implementing, but you want to make sure those programs and policies meet the specific needs of your organization. To truly understand your organization’s unique D & I needs, start by analyzing various data points. For example, assess the demographic breakdown at each level of the organization to gain insights into any glass ceiling effects, review exit interviews to see if there is a disproportionate turnover rate with women and/or underrepresented demographic groups, analyze employee opinion surveys to see if there are any D & I issues raised, and review your organization’s check-in meetings with new hires to recognize challenges with recruiting top diverse talent. In addition, you should further investigate any red flags through focus groups and one-on-one interviews in order to gain essential first-person perspectives…

 

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Action Step –
Truly Inclusive Flexible Work and Leave Policies Must Include Staff

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

Many organizations offer vastly different flex and leave benefits to employees at different levels of seniority and with different responsibilities. For example, at a number of law firms, attorneys have access to better flexibility and leave policies than professional staff. Given the integral role that staff plays at companies and firms, we recommend that organizations make their formal flex and leave policies more widely available to staff in order to promote higher satisfaction and retention rates. While the flex work types offered should reflect the diverse needs of staff and may differ from those offered to other professionals, providing flexibility to all employees is important to realizing your organization’s inclusion objectives.

The results of our 2017 Law Firm Flexibility Benchmarking Survey, which tracks workplace flexibility in law firms, show there has been little progress on closing the gap between the level of formal flex and leave policies offered to staff as compared to attorneys. While nearly all participating firms (94% of this year’s respondents) have a flex policy for attorneys, only 16.7% of participating firms report having a flex policy for staff. It’s worth noting the difference between firms offering paid gender-neutral leave to attorneys (89% of firms surveyed), as compared to firms offering paid gender-neutral leave to all staff (61% of firms surveyed). Of the firms surveyed, 22% do not offer any paid parental leave for staff.

These results serve as a good reminder to make sure your flex and leave policies are inclusive of all employees. Here are some ways to reduce the disparity in flex and leave benefits among employees…

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Action Step –
Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

 

Recent surveys show that men perceive greater progress towards gender equality than women do:

– More men (63%) than women (49%) think their organizations are making progress on gender diversity.[i]

– More women (83%) than men (76%) see gender diversity as moderately or very important.[ii]

– When asked about discrimination against women in the tech industry, 29% of men and 44% of women say it is a major problem.[iii]

This presents both an insight and a challenge for initiatives to advance women. For the insight: it explains in part why women’s advancement is so slow. For change to occur, there has to be a sense of necessity and urgency to overcome inertia. If men see no particular need to prioritize women’s progress in their organizations, they will be more prone to sit on the sidelines while others work to advance women. Even worse, organizational leadership may believe their organizations have done enough to ensure gender parity and actively resist initiatives to advance women.

Which brings us to the challenge: how can change advocates use this information to advocate for the advancement of women? The key foundational step is to address the disconnect through evidence and encouraging reflection. Here are some suggestions…

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Action Step – Monitor & Measure Flex Success®

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

One of the key, but most overlooked, steps in the Alliance’s Flex Success® Framework is to Reinforce Flex Success® by regularly monitoring and measuring flex programs. Through this process, organizations can more effectively assess, improve, publicize, and build upon flex programs. As a number of law firms and corporations have started to expand their flexible work offerings, we need to focus on what’s working, what we need to improve, how to share successes, and what additional flex programs we should consider. By doing this, we can gain true acceptance of flex programs in order to promote usage and reduce flex bias. Here are some specific ways to monitor and measure your flex programs:

Surveys: Surveys are a great way to collect information and metrics from a large workforce in an efficient manner. Organizations can conduct annual surveys to understand the importance employees place on flexibility, whether employees have the flexibility they need, the types of flexible work arrangements most appreciated, how often formal and informal flexible work options are utilized, and additional types of flexible work arrangements needed. These responses can help build a business case for the need to offer and expand flexible work arrangements. If you conduct a general employee opinion survey, see if these flex-related questions can be added and compared with responses from other questions related to employee satisfaction/commitment to demonstrate how flexibility impacts these areas.

Interviews: Interviews and focus groups with employees are a great way to gain more detailed information as to what’s working and what’s not. Think about adding questions relating to flexibility in exit interviews and check-in meetings with new employees. In order to understand the impact of flexibility on turnover, ask employees during exit interviews if they felt like they had the flexibility they needed, if they would have stayed if they had more flexibility, and what types of flexible work options they would have wanted. In order to understand the impact of flexibility on recruiting, ask new employees during check-in meetings the reasons why they chose to join your organization and how important flexibility is to them.

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Action Step – Top 10 Takeaways Vital to the Success of Your Flexible Work Initiative

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

 

Recent news articles have highlighted a few companies that have revoked their flexible work policies citing a loss of teamwork and productivity. It’s likely these flex initiatives failed due to either a lack of planning, analysis, structure, communication, education, and/or tracking. When it comes to developing your organization’s flexible work initiative, there are key components that need to be addressed to ensure its success. Here are our top 10 takeaways to consider when developing your flex policy:

  1. Understand that Flex is a Real Business Benefit

The foundation of a flexibility initiative must be the business case. Why does flexibility matter to you, and how will it improve your numbers? (Think about recruitment, retention, and the bottom-line.) Even the most change-resistant organizations are realizing there’s a war for talent out there, and they must evolve to keep up. Research shows that non-stigmatized, flexible work strengthens organizations by increasing tenure among employees and leads to stronger client/customer relationships, better recruitment, and greater profitability. Flexibility is not about being nice to your employees or providing an accommodation – it’s a true business imperative.

  1. Count Your Regrettable Losses

The easiest way to formulate your business case for flexibility is to count your regrettable losses. How many valuable and talented employees have walked out the door because of a lack of flexibility? You can take the organization’s business case further by considering the opportunities the firm has gained because of its flexibility or lost because of its lack of flexibility…

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Action Step – If You Think Your Organization is a Meritocracy, It’s Probably Hurting Your Diversity Efforts…
But Here’s What You Can Do About It
(Part 2)

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

In Part I of this Action Step, we explored why debunking the notion that most organizations are meritocracies is essential to the success of diversity and inclusion efforts. To support this link, we discussed how evaluative processes such as promotion decisions are often less about objective, merit-based criteria and more influenced by in-group favoritism and other cognitive biases that tend to provide greater access to people in majority groups and less to others. With that background, we offer the following three steps to tackle the notion of meritocracy and open the channels for greater diversity and inclusion among those who advance in your workplace.

First, have a discussion about the factors other than merit that may help or hinder promotion in your organization. This can be an emotionally-charged topic, and could cause some people to feel that their achievements are being attacked. For this reason, it may be best for the discussion to be led from the highest levels of your organization, or to have a more generalized discussion of meritocracy in your industry. Questions that can help stimulate discussion include: What do we mean by “merit”? In determining who gets ahead, what should we prioritize: intelligence or hard-work; book smarts or experience; business development or results; people skills or revenue generation? What, if any, role should where a person was educated or personal connections play in who gets promoted? What is our explanation for why people at the top of our organization/industry are not more diverse? What makes it easier or harder for people to advance in our organization/industry?

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Action Step –
If You Think Your Organization is a Meritocracy, It’s Probably Hurting Your Diversity Efforts, (Part 1)

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

All of us like to believe that we work in a meritocracy where strong performers are catapulted to the top. What could be more fair? People who do good work and put in long hours are rewarded. People who don’t, well, they end up where they probably should be. It’s the American way; it’s the immigrant way; it’s survival of the fittest. It’s an idea that is fundamental to business itself. Except that it isn’t true…

Most of us do not work in a meritocracy. Our misguided belief that we do, however, prevents us from taking the necessary steps to ensure the best performers get ahead and undermines diversity and inclusion efforts.

Why aren’t our workplaces meritocracies? Ability, hard work, and a good character are key ingredients for success in any organization, and the people at the top most likely excelled at all three. But for most, these alone did not get them there, particularly if they’re part of the dominant and/or majority group(s) in an organization. The people who have reached the top likely were assisted by in-group favoritism which causes us to perceive achievements of people in our own group as the result of superior innate qualities. On the flip side, the achievements of people outside of our group are viewed as the result of luck or external circumstances, and they likely benefited from not having the same obstacles others have faced…

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Action Step –
Easing the Transition
From Leave to Work, Part 2

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

In Part I of this Action Step, we discussed recent developments in on-ramping policies, including full-time pay for professionals working a temporary, reduced hours schedule after returning from a leave of absence. In this second part, we explore resources organizations need to establish to support a smooth on-ramping process, including what needs to take place before a leave of absence starts.

Mobilize Your Flex Management Team: Establishing a point person to manage the on-ramping process is an important first step to implementing a successful gradual return to work from leave policy. This coordinating role is typically fulfilled by a flex program manager or a human resources professional who handles the organization’s flex and leave policies. The on-ramping coordinator should be easy to identify and be listed wherever an organization houses details about the types of leaves of absence that would trigger an on-ramping schedule. This role should be responsible for contacting professionals before they go on leave, just before returning, and again upon returning to work to discuss processes and available resources. The on-ramping coordinator should also track on-ramping usage and monitor experiences of on-ramping professionals to provide a basis for celebrating the program’s success and/or making improvements.

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