Insights Archives - Page 2 of 4 - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Open Communication on Flex Is Vital to Recruiting the Next Generation

This article, by Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, was published in the June 2017 issue of the NALP Bulletin.  We very much appreciated the opportunity to provide this guest article and we are reprinting it here on our blog with permission from NALP.

 

Recruiting the top talent from law schools used to be relatively straightforward. Large law firms enticed students with glossy brochures, “swag bags” of gifts, and six-figure starting salaries. The top payers got the top recruits. In 2017, the equation is not so simple. It’s clear that the new generation of law school graduates is looking for more than a big paycheck. In fact, recent surveys show that compensation isn’t at the top of the list of what they’re looking for in potential employers.

Today’s law school graduates want a firm that shares their generation’s unique values. Millennials want a firm culture that supports corporate social responsibility and pro bono work, teamwork, professional development, mentorship, and, in particular, flexible work options. Even if they don’t need flex right after graduation, they view open communication on flex as a sign that the firm has a culture that supports a work-life balance.

Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation in the workforce today. Because of the relatively small size of their predecessor generation, Generation X, law firms will need to recruit more millennials to fill their partnership ranks in the foreseeable future. In fact, by 2020 millennials will comprise 46% of the workforce. It’s now more important than ever for firms to evolve and address the need for flex and engage this new generation.

While millennials seem to be driving the open conversations on flex, it’s clear that everyone wants it, and everyone needs it at some point in their career. In fact, baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer and are using flex to slowly phase out rather than retire completely. Generation X is now the “sandwich generation” that needs flex to care for children as well as aging parents.

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Business Development: An Integral Part of Your Flex Success®

This is the sixth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s always good to stay one step ahead of your business, your clients, your customers or your marketplace. You always want to be thinking about tomorrow and where your career is headed and where your income is coming from. While you might approach business development in a slightly different manner in light of your flexible schedule, it’s still imperative that you dedicate time to business development and to generating your future revenue.

The sixth strategy in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® is Expand Your Business Development. Whether you’re working with clients or reporting to internal supervisors, make sure you’re demonstrating a deep understanding of their needs, business realities and serving as a trusted advisor to help them accomplish their current and future goals. To help you build future clients, projects and customers, you should turn to the network of colleagues, mentors, sponsors and former classmates that you built in the Fifth Strategy (Build Your Networks and Personal Board of Advisors). This network can help you expand your reach and enhance your ideas on business development, key elements to creating more autonomy in your career and ultimately greater work-life control.

You may be concerned about investing time in business development when you’re working a reduced hours schedule and therefore already have less time for work. However, many professionals working a reduced hours schedule have told us that their flexible schedule has allowed them to excel at business development and, in fact, has become integral to their career success. It’s important to incorporate time into your flex schedule for business development as well as for activities that will raise your personal profile such as speaking engagements, publishing articles and papers and networking.

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Flex Success® – It Takes a Village

This is the fifth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

Seven Strategies for Flex SuccessMost successful corporations are led by a CEO who is advised and counseled by an experienced Board of Directors. As a professional working a flexible schedule, you should view yourself as the CEO of your own corporation, and you undoubtedly need a “Board of Directors” to support you. No matter how effective you are on your own, it is critical that you surround yourself with a group of experienced people who can advise you, guide you, mentor you, and open doors for you.

Our fifth strategy for Flex Success® is “Build Your Networks and Personal Board of Advisors.” This personal board of advisors should consist of individuals from inside and outside of your organization. It should include both mentors who can give you advice, and sponsors who invest in and advocate for you. The internal perspectives can assist you in your career advancement and help you to address blind spots in your career path, especially those related to your flex schedule. Your external advisors can provide you with outside perspectives from an industry point of view and can help open doors to new opportunities, if necessary.

As you build your network and personal board of advisors, it’s important to keep in mind that you want to find people who you trust, who you respect, and who will be candid with you. These individuals should be open to constructive conversations about your career as well as the challenges and opportunities your flexible schedule might bring. It’s important to value and maintain your relationships with these mentors and advisors and make sure to meet with them on a regular basis.

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It’s All About Marketing

This is the fourth in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

The Fourth Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ –
Create A Strong Personal Brand

Seven Strategies For Flex SuccessIn Step Two of our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™ you worked on Owning Your Value. You identified what makes you unique and what only you can bring to the table.   Knowing what makes you special gives you confidence and self-esteem. The fourth strategy revolves around harnessing this self-esteem and creating your personal brand. Just as a corporation would market a product, you need to market yourself to make sure others perceive you the way you want to be perceived.

There is power in perception.

As a professional working a flexible schedule, it’s particularly important to control how others see you to counteract flex stigma that others in your office may harbor.

Make sure that you are speaking positively about your schedule and your work. Remember that how you talk about yourself drives how others are talking about you. Ask for feedback about how people perceive you. In particular, ask your mentor or sponsor if others have a positive perception of you and your work and how you can improve your image. Your career trajectory not only depends on the quality of your work but also your reputation as someone who is serious about your own success and the success of the organization.

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The State of the Alliance –
Looking Back on a Great Year

As we come to the end of the year, we at the Alliance have been encouraging our members and friends to reflect on their accomplishments and celebrate this year’s successes. We would also like to share with you what we’ve accomplished and where we’ve been this year.

In 2016, we provided trainings and workshops, individual strategic planning sessions, policy drafting advice, culture assessment surveys, and focus groups to our 58 member firms and corporations. We welcomed eight new members and were thrilled to continue to expand our reach into the financial services and consulting industries.

We conducted and analyzed critical research on flexibility and gender diversity in law firms and advised our members on how they could continue to improve in these areas. We were proud that many media outlets covered our research reports, including The Wall Street Journal Blog, Yahoo Finance, The Washington Business Journal, Law360, and Courtroom View Network, among others.

We shared our expertise through countless presentations on topics ranging from women’s leadership, women’s initiatives, mindset, grit, and confidence to managing remote teams, among others. We traveled to Mexico City and around the United States providing insights into and expertise on leveraging the value of diversity and flexibility in organizations.

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Appreciation At Home and At the Office

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we at the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance want to thank our friends and members for their ongoing support and trust. We truly appreciate being surrounded by a community of intelligent, enthusiastic, thoughtful leaders who are invested in helping firms and organizations renew their commitment to diversity and flexibility.

In this day and age of constant contact and access to work, we are also thankful for the time to be with our families face to face and, at least for a few moments, disconnect from the office. We encourage you to do so too.

As flexibility is always top of mind, we also want to encourage you to take the time to appreciate your organization’s flexible work program. There’s a term that professional organization strategists use called “Appreciative Inquiry.” It refers to examining and highlighting the positive aspects of a business initiative to create a positive culture. We encourage you to examine and highlight the best features in your flex program and draw on these strengths as you expand and develop it.

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The Third Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ – Activate Your Mindset and Grit to Overcome Flex Stigma

This is the third in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successWe’re not going to lie to you. It’s not always going to be easy to transition from being in the office full-time to a flexible work schedule. While many industries have come a long way in understanding the value flexible work policies provide, biases still exist. No matter where you work, you may come across co-workers who think you’re less committed to the job because you work reduced hours. You may also be faced with supervisors who question your time at home and whether you are actually working when you’re not physically in the office.

It’s best to be prepared for these obstacles, and when they do arise, it’s important to maintain your confidence and harness your grit. You know you are meeting the needs and deadlines of your team and clients. You know you are following your company’s flexible work policy guidelines as well as your own personal flex plan. And, you know the quality of your work has not diminished at all (in fact it may have improved.)

Most of these hurdles and biases should be temporary bumps in the road. Activate your “big-picture,” growth mindset and remind yourself that working flexibly is actually better for you and your organization because it’s helping ensure a longer, more steadfast relationship.

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Highlighting Flexibility & Diversity Initiatives: Ogletree Deakins

From time to time, we will be highlighting our member firms and corporations who we believe are leading the way in flexibility and diversity initiatives.  Recently, Alliance President & CEO Manar Morales spoke with Matt Keen, Managing Shareholder, and Michelle Wimes, Director of Professional Development and Inclusion, at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. about the work they have done with their firm’s flexibility policy and the creation of two Reduced Hours Advisor positions.  The following are excerpts from their discussion:

Ogletree DeakinsMorales: What was the impetus for creating a formal flex policy?

Keen: It was an evolution over time. As more women have taken shareholder, equity shareholder, and leadership positions, our awareness has been heightened. When Michelle was hired five years ago, we adopted a more formal flex policy so that all our attorneys would know what was available.

Wimes: While we’ve always informally tried to accommodate anyone who wanted to work flexibly, we wanted to make it more formal so that everyone in all offices knew about the option. We created the Reduced Hours Advisor positions to increase communication to all regions and to provide support to those working flexible schedules. Now we have two Reduced Hours Advisors – Kelly Hughes on the East Coast and Terry Egler on the West Coast – who have been through the process of working flexibly and can provide coaching and mentoring to others.   Both hold quarterly calls with their assigned regions and provide practical advice and positive reinforcement to others.

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Once You’ve Defined Your Success, It’s Time to Own Your Value

This is the second in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successYou’ve now clearly mapped out your plan for working flexibly and reaching your one, three, and five-year professional and personal goals. The second step in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success involves truly understanding what you bring to the table and then capitalizing on it. It’s all about self-reflection and self-esteem.

Over the years we’ve asked attorneys about their roads to flex success. “Even if you don’t feel confident, you have to exude confidence,” said one attorney. The best way to feel confident is by knowing your strengths and identifying what makes you unique. It’s important to find ways to incorporate these assets and skills into everything you do. This is the value-add that will make you a go-to resource for your internal and external clients, and it’s the lever to exercise greater choice, including flexibility in your schedule.

As one attorney working flex advised, “Differentiating yourself is critical if you’re hoping to take advantage of a flexible schedule. Once you earn the reputation as a hard worker who produces high quality work, people will want you on their team no matter what your schedule is.”

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The First Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ – Define Your Success

This is the first of a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your SuccessOwn Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal BrandBuild Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successOnce you’ve decided that a flexible schedule is right for you, you need to be able to envision your future plans. As you define your successful, flexible career path you should clearly map out your one, three, and five-year vision. That vision should include what you want personally and professionally and how the two can mesh to define success on your own terms.

Once you are clear on your own goals you can begin to envision your long and short-term plans for your career, your lifestyle, and your family. You’ll also need to think through potential opportunities and obstacles and clearly map out financial and professional development needs. Do you want to be home with your children for an extended leave? Can you afford to work part-time? Do you want to take a sabbatical? Do you have childcare options? Your flexible work plan can then be mapped out to support your aspirations. You’ll be much better able to negotiate the needs of your firm once you have a clear sense of your personal needs.

Over the years we’ve asked countless professionals working flexible schedules about their initial planning stages. Here are some of their words of wisdom…

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