Flexibility Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Getting to Know Our Conference Speakers –
Traci Schweikert

We are so excited to have an amazing line-up of prominent leaders and trailblazers speaking at our 2018 Annual Conference Diversity + Flexibility = Embracing Change on Thursday, September 27.  We’ll be introducing these dynamic and engaging speakers throughout the summer and sharing their diversity and flexibility insights here on our blog. We’ve asked our speakers to answer a few questions about themselves, their approach to their career, and their lives. This week’s “Getting To Know Our Conference Speakers” post highlights Traci Schweikert, Vice President of Human Resources at Politico.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: What’s the most important message you hope attendees will learn from your panel?

Traci Schweikert: Flexibility is a crucial part of creating a more inclusive workplace. If we continue to lean on policies, programs and benefits that were in place when we first entered the workforce years ago, we aren’t moving forward to create a more welcoming environment.

DFA: When the next generation learns about the #MeToo movement what do you hope has changed?

TS: That women and men will insist on the workplace culture we all deserve.  No one should ever suffer thinking that they have to ‘pay their dues’ by accepting uncivil or inappropriate behavior from co-workers or leaders.

DFA: What was the most meaningful piece of leadership advice you received? Who has had the most influence on your career?

TS: I have had the benefit of working for and with many excellent leaders who offered me opportunities to stretch.  Once the Global CFO of an organization I was working for told me to never apologize for the choices I needed to make as a working mom.  She explained that those choices needed to be a normal part of the workday, not the exceptions of a few.

DFA: How do you recharge? Where and when are you most content?

TS: Time to read feels like a luxury.  I am most content sitting on the couch reading while my boys sit close reading as well.

DFA: What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

TS: I spent too many years trying to create true work-life balance.  What I know now is we all find our rhythm. We pick important moments at work and at home and let the smaller moments go.  I have also learned to lean on my many support systems to help maintain that rhythm.

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

TS: As an executive, my job is to remove obstacles that prevent my team’s good ideas from sprouting.  I pay it forward by magnifying their voices and negotiating for the resources and organizational support they need to make those ideas real.

DFA: What can we be doing to create more inclusive organizations?

TS: Inclusion happens when each of us steps outside our familiar and commits to one truly new conversation or experience.  We can’t wait for someone else to provide us with an opportunity for diversity or inclusion.  We need to seek it out.

 

Join us for our Annual Conference on Thursday, September 27th and learn how Traci and her fellow panelists are transforming their organizations’ cultures through diversity and flexibility. Their panel, Making Change Happen from the Inside-Out: Industry Leaders Shaping the Organizational Culture, will run from 2:00 – 3:00 pm.

Are Your Organization’s Flexibility Goals Backed By Data?

There’s no doubt we live in a data-driven world. If you don’t have good data, you may not be making good decisions.

As an organization that collaborates with firms and corporations on diversity and flexibility initiatives, we at the Alliance always advise our members to gather data by tracking, monitoring and assessing their programs to ensure their ongoing success. If you don’t track and quantify, you’ll never know if your policy is meeting the needs of your employees and is successfully improving your bottom line. Success in the area of flexibility really translates to the recruitment and retention of engaged, fulfilled, effective and diverse talent.

We also take our own advice to heart. We couldn’t provide the advice that we do without backing it up with sound data. Over the last five years we’ve been able to advise our members on the challenges, opportunities and future trends in flexibility in the legal industry by surveying top US law firms. Initially, our benchmarking survey revolved around whether firms actually had a written flexibility policy. The survey has evolved to include expanded questions on different types of flexibility and leave policies offered and the types of employees, by race, gender, sexual orientation and position, who actually use the policy. For example, do attorneys on a partnership track feel comfortable telecommuting? Are those returning from caregiver leave provided support, tools and fair compensation? Does the firm use surveys, interviews, evaluations and pilot programs to ensure that the program is meeting the needs of its employees?

In particular, our survey seeks to help firms uncover and remove biases and thereby allows them to offer policies that can truly impact the success of their business. Firms that participate in our survey are able to benchmark themselves against others in the industry and uncover the gaps in their policies and its usage.

We recently released the results of our 2017 Law Firm Flexibility Benchmarking Survey. The survey, which is available in full to our members and participant firms, (the Executive Summary is available to everyone else) allows us to take a glimpse at the state of the legal industry and predict the most important trends we see moving forward.

From the data, we’re able to advise law firms on how they can lead the industry in recruitment and retention of top talent. Whether it’s through increasing the types of leave policies and expanding their reach, offering extra compensation and additional support following a leave, or simply creating a more inclusive environment that ensures a culture that embraces flexibility, firms that want to meet the needs of the workforce of the future need to be on top of the current trends.

Our Annual Conference on September 27 will highlight the latest research and trends in flexibility and provide attendees with the key steps to take to truly embrace flexibility and its benefits. Register to join us today.

We’re Part of Your Team

With the New Year just six weeks away, you’re undoubtedly beginning to make your plans for 2018 and developing a strategy for the advancement of your diversity and flexibility initiatives. As you begin to map out your plans, we hope you’ll remember that you have the Alliance to turn to for support. Consider us part of your team. Whether you’re a Diversity & Inclusion professional with increased responsibilities and a decreasing budget, or a human resources executive tasked with bias training, we can help. We can serve as your trusted advisor and, if you’re a member, we encourage you to schedule your Strategic Planning Session soon.

Maybe you’d like to see more women in leadership or you’re wondering why so few professionals are using your flex policy. Our Policy Reviews are one of our most popular Member Benefits and we can help you to identify what’s working and what’s not. If you’ve participated in our Law Firm Benchmarking Study in the past, make sure you make some time to review where your firm stands in comparison to your competitors and where you can improve.

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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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Are You Ready to Transform Your Approach To Working Flex? In Just Six Hours
You Could Completely Change Your Future

Do you have the right mindset to be successful working flex? Have you taken stock of your professional and personal successes? Do you know how to train your brain for positive results? These and many other questions were answered last Thursday in the first session of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s Flex Success® Institute We want to congratulate those flex professionals who have already set off down this life-changing road by committing to spending a total of six hours with the Institute this summer. The Institute is a five-session virtual professional development program, plus a one-hour individual coaching session, that is guaranteed to transform your approach to working flexibly.

Last week’s participants also learned how to harness the power of goal setting to achieve their vision. They uncovered their biggest confidence killers and discovered how to persevere in the face of failure. They identified their own unique key to empowerment and ways to increase their productivity. They learned about the importance of rituals and risk-taking and how self-care and authenticity are essential. In just one hour these participants already have a step up on building their self-esteem, their career success and finding true happiness in their personal and professional lives.

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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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Spotlight on Flex – Jennifer Nowlin

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Jennifer Nowlin, Associate General Counsel, Labor and Employment, in the Bentonville, AR Office of Walmart Legal.

Jennifer NowlinDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career? 

Jennifer Nowlin: I started practicing law as a commercial litigator at a Dallas firm. I’d been practicing for less than one year when my husband was offered a job at Walmart in Bentonville, AR. We had to decide whether it was time for us to relocate, but I knew my marketability was limited with such little experience under my belt. From the beginning, Walmart supported my family’s needs; the company allowed us to stay in Dallas while my husband traveled back and forth to Bentonville. We kept this arrangement for a year and finally relocated to Bentonville when I joined Walmart’s legal department in 2005. I started with the employment practices legal team, but in 2009, I joined the legal team supporting labor relations, and I’ve been with them ever since.

Walmart had developed a Professional Work Option Program, and when I had my first child in 2007, I was one of the early participants in it. I really wanted to spend time at home with my newborn, but I also wasn’t ready to stop working all together. I talked with my supervisor at the time, and she encouraged me to develop different work scenarios that would work for me. If my first choice wasn’t accepted, then I would move on to my next scenario and so forth. My first choice was to work a 3/5 schedule which meant three days in the office, and two days off.

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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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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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