Action Steps Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

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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Action Step –
Easing the Transition
From Leave to Work, 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

On-ramping policies, also known as gradual return to work from leave policies, continue to serve as a low-cost, high-value bridge between leaves of absence and flexible work. They are simple to implement, effective as a pilot for reduced hours work arrangements, and have a positive impact on retention at a pivotal time in the careers of many professionals. Our Action Step, Tips for Starting an On-Ramping Policy describes how organizations can reap these and other benefits of on-ramping with a well-designed policy. Here, the Alliance builds on these tips to share recent developments and additional best practices in on-ramping in this two-part Action Step series.

As evidence of the value of on-ramping, a growing number of law firms, for example — including some Alliance members — have bolstered their policies to provide full-time pay to individuals on a temporary reduced hours schedule upon return from leave. In addition to a desire to increase on-ramping’s retention benefits, these firms recognize there is a natural ramp-up period when professionals return from an extended leave of absence, and historically, professionals have been paid full-time during that period in the absence of on-ramping policies…

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Action Step –
What’s Your Plan? 7 Steps to Creating
A Leadership Development Strategy

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 are responsible for creating opportunities for their talent to grow professionally and providing equitable access to those paths forward. It is up to individual professionals, however, to be ready to seize those opportunities. Beyond developing technical expertise, being ready starts with getting clear about what one wants for his or her career and having a plan for getting it. Whether one wants to move into formal leadership roles and/or expand her or his knowledge and capabilities, the following seven steps provide a framework to create a leadership development plan that prompts professionals to work on their careers, not just in them.

  1. Create a Vision: Mapping out a leadership development plan starts with envisioning where you want to go. Specifically, look at where you want to be one year from now and three years from now, as research shows that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a one year but underestimate what they can get done in three. Accordingly, focusing on both points in time can bring you to a more realistic view of what you can accomplish. In addition, take the time to define what success means to you, and consider what success looks like for those who have an impact on your career as well as within your organization.

 

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Action Step –
Taking the Pulse of Your Workforce

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

TAKING THE PULSE OF YOUR WORKFORCE

Before launching any initiative to promote or improve diversity or flexibility within an organization, it’s important to ensure you’re solving for the right problem. That is, rather than rushing to apply the latest industry best practice, the initiative should be tailored to address the particular needs of your organization with input from those who will be impacted. In addition to tracking a variety of workforce metrics, the Alliance recommends seeking that input in a systematic and meaningful way by engaging in one or more of the following three information gathering processes.

Surveys: Conducting engagement or climate surveys can provide a rich set of data points to understand the perception of a variety of diversity, flexibility, and/or other cultural issues within an organization, including what’s going well. These surveys typically take the form of an online questionnaire featuring a series of multiple choice questions for quantitative analysis, as well as a few open-ended questions to allow participants to comment about a specific topic or a range of topics covered by the survey. When developing the questionnaire, the organization should limit inquiry to areas it is prepared to address. Surveying without follow-up action can contribute to low participation in future surveys and even increased frustration among employees due to skepticism about the organization’s commitment to addressing the issues about which it asks…

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Action Step –
Feedback Essentials Part 2: How to Get the Feedback You Need

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

FEEDBACK ESSENTIALS PART 2: HOW TO GET THE FEEDBACK YOU NEED

In Part 1 of this Action Step, we focused on delivering feedback effectively, which is one side of what should be a two-way conversation. While it may seem the individual providing the feedback is doing all the work, the recipient has an equally important role to play, including initiating the discussion when needed. Following these steps will help you carry out your responsibility to get feedback and make the most of what you receive.

Ask for It: Research shows many lawyers and other professionals feel they receive feedback too infrequently from their supervisors, and find it difficult to improve their performance as a result. While supervisors retain responsibility to provide feedback, professionals can and should be proactive in seeking this information. For example, rather than waiting to hear how things are going in an annual performance review, you can initiate ‘check-ins’ with supervisors at natural intervals, such as when projects are completed…

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