Many law firms understand the importance of building a diverse workforce. The changing demographics within the United States have indicated to companies that diversity is an important goal that will affect the business’s viability and ultimately the bottom line.
In response, many companies have launched diversity recruiting efforts designed to attract more women and lawyers of color into the company. The problem has been that within a couple of years of being hired lawyers that qualify as”varied” leave the company in search of more inclusive, diverse and culturally competent work environments. Below are some vital reasons why efforts at creating diversity have neglected.
1) Lack of Commitment at the top: In order for diversity initiatives to be successful, there has to be vigorous support for it in the senior level of the company or business. Partners are the change agents of the company. Committees formed to deal with issues of diversity, recruiting, retention and cultural proficiency has to be lead by key leaders within the business.
2) Failure to estimate the business’s environment: Assessment is crucial in helping to create and execute an effective diversity initiative program. It is critically important to understand that an organization’s level of development before establishing a cultural or cultural competence initiative. Firms must be prepared to evaluate their hiring practices, overall culture, social relationships, views about diversity and marketing practices
3) Over focus on recruiting and hiring: Focusing on recruiting as a principal way of creating diversity will prove to be an ineffective strategy. Rather, recruitment is simply a first step in the overall procedure. Firms have to make certain that their work environment can support a diverse team. Next, firm-wide, culturally effective systems and practices have to be implemented so as to avoid excessive attrition among girls and attorney’s of colour. Retention and development of a strong and diverse pool of lawyers is dependent on the firm’s ability to create a work environment that values and leverages gap, mentors cross culturally and always measures and tracks the progress and development of all lawyers.
4) Failure to add diversity objectives in the organization’s strategic plan: Many companies don’t incorporate diversity goals into the companies overall vision and strategy for development and growth. Organizational change is a process and to be able to successfully reach goals related to diversity, goals must be included in the firm’s strategic plan. Businesses successful in developing a diverse workforce have implemented specific strategies in the areas of hiring, retention, professional development, communication, promotion, mentoring etc..
5) Lack of understanding of diversity phases: Many companies don’t view the introduction of a diverse organization as a developmental process. Diversity and cultural competence develops along a continuum. In the early phases of this process, firms will need to define diversity, identify issues and opportunities, provide awareness and education, and develop a leadership strategy together with the business case for diversity, a clear vision and well defined goals. Finally firms must realize that building a diverse and inclusive work environment is a continuing work.
6) Ignoring the importance of training and development: Cultural competence and diversity training with a focus on building alliances and consciousness vs.”blaming and shaming” is essential to developing a productive, diverse and inclusive workforce. Staff should have the opportunity to explore current views and misconceptions about issues of inclusiveness, race, sex, sexual orientation, faith and people with physical challenges. Failing to link development and training with firm-wide diversity goals will lead to the business’s inability to construct an inclusive and diverse organization.
7) Cultural Incompetence: Many companies communicate a desire to construct an inclusive and diverse work environment yet they still put a high value on”sameness”. Whether consciously or subconsciously this value for sameness is communicated to others in the business. Instead, firms will need to develop a high level of cultural competency. Cultural competence requires that organizations:
O Have a defined set of principles and values and demonstrate behaviors, attitudes, policies and structures which allow them to work efficiently cross-culturally.
O Possess the ability to (1) value diversity, (2) behavior self-assessment, (3) handle, love and leverage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of the employees and the customers and communities they represent. Think of cultural competence as fertile ground upon which to plant, grow and produce a successful recruitment, retention and business wide cultural diversity program. Without the essential foundation, efforts to construct a diverse group of attorneys will turn out to be unsatisfactory.