In an effort to inform and inspire our members and friends, we often share diversity and flexibility Bright Spots – those small or large successes that impact an organization in a positive way. We believe that important diversity and flexibility initiatives can truly impact your organization’s bottom line, recruitment and retention capabilities and employee satisfaction.
Kutak Rock’s operating procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic are clear Bright Spots that demonstrate its people-first philosophy. Before the COVID-19 National Emergency was declared on March 13, 2020, the firm’s Regional Managing Partner for D.C. and Virginia had begun discussions with firm leadership about operating procedures aimed at keeping people safe at home and working. The procedures, which remain today and apply to all staff and attorneys, allowed for 100% remote working on a “reason-neutral” basis.
Kutak Rock leadership worked with each employee on a case-by-case basis to ensure that everyone continued to be productive and maintain their positions and their employment status while working remotely. The focus continues to be on keeping all employees and offices safe from COVID (first and foremost) and helping every individual become productive in this unique COVID work environment.
The firm also made it a priority to provide several training sessions focused on remote learning, including:
- A weekly set of training options about the logistics of remote work (submitting time, setting up a printer, security, etc.);
- A seminar attended by over 90% of the firm’s associates focused on ongoing professional development in a remote work environment;
- Annual inclusiveness training with information about creating inclusive working teams in remote and hybrid remote/in-person environments; and,
- A session with firm leadership with information about building teams in a remote or hybrid remote/in-person environment.
In addition, the firm created a guide for employees and a guide for leadership with tips for working remotely. All employees were also provided a resource kit with information about inclusiveness and bias in remote environments.
In keeping with its “people-first” mindset, the firm continues to communicate with employees on a regular basis about the performance of the firm in an effort to relieve anxiety and stress caused by COVID-related uncertainty and countless legal industry articles talking about furloughs, lay-offs, and firms with difficult financial situations. The firm also, repeatedly, reminds employees to take care of their mental and physical health. The firm sent information about benefits available to all employees related to mental and physical health and has created a Mindfulness Group that has met every Friday since the beginning of April.
Kutak Rock has made it a priority to maintain its commitment to diversity and inclusion during the shut-down. Since March 11, the firm has finished all of the tactics in its three-year inclusiveness, diversity, and engagement strategic plan, developed the goals and tactics for its new three-year strategic plan, and has had the plan approved by the Executive Committee. In addition, the firm ran its annual training program (by Zoom) with well over half of the firm attending and 80+% of leadership attending. Affinity groups continue to meet and new initiatives have been added.
While some Kutak Rock offices have allowed employees to return to the office for limited amounts of time and a targeted purpose in recent weeks, almost all employees continue to work remotely. Many employees voiced their appreciation for the firm’s focus on their and their community’s safety.
Over the long-term, the COVID-specific operating procedures will be transformed into a flexible working arrangement policy similar to the current procedures. The primary goals will continue to be focused on allowing flexible working arrangements, on a reason-neutral basis, while also maintaining the function of the team in a way that supports the clients, individuals and firm.