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Future Directions: Moving From Diversity to Inclusion

As mentioned earlier in this study, inclusion is the ultimate goal of organizations and law departments. Some law departments have successfully completed their initial diversity work, and therefore are ready to begin moving toward inclusion. Others are already accomplishing goals at the level of inclusion. The process of moving from diversity to inclusion, however, is at its core an evolutionary one, in which the stages overlap. Moreover, it can be a lengthy process; successful transitions do not occur overnight.

In the realm of inclusion, many corporate law departments have in place specific plans aimed at removing the barriers to success for traditionally under-represented groups. By eliminating obstacles, people in these groups have an open path that enables them to contribute more successfully to corporate goals.

One set of principles used by law departments that are in the process of moving from diversity to inclusion is the Workforce Diversity Network’s “Attributes of Inclusion” (see below) to help them attain an inclusive department. A joint project of Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and The National Conference for Community and Justice, the Workforce Diversity Network has devoted considerable effort to the research and study of inclusion. The following “Attributes of Inclusion” were generated as part of this project.

Attributes of InclusionStrategySample Tactics
Access to opportunityCreates a professionally nurturing environment in which all employees have equitable access to opportunities for personal and professional growth.Open jobs and promotion opportunities are posted and advertised using all available internal channels.
360-degree communicationCritical information is disseminated and communicated in all directions and across all levels of responsibility.Employees and managers solicit and receive constructive feedback to foster open communication and better problem solving and professional skills development.
Holistic view of the organization and its employeesAll employees are viewed and respected as whole persons who are free to behave authentically and truthfully in the work environment.The non-discrimination policy is supported by continuous employee education programs that address issues of diversity and discrimination and are mandatory for all employees.
Systems of rewards, recognition, and acknowledgementEstablishes systems to recognize, acknowledge and reward the diverse contributions and achievements of employees at all levels of responsibility.Establish systems to assess, recognize, and reward diverse forms of excellence through vertical advancement or promotion, professional skills development opportunities, or public commendation.
Commitment to continuous learningAcknowledges that every employee is a learner and creates a flexible, fluid organizational culture in which continuous learning is a priority.Continually assess the effectiveness of the succession planning and career development programs in order to ensure that all employees are fairly evaluated, trained and rewarded.
Participatory work organization and work processRecognizes the traditional and non-traditional skills, aptitudes, educational experiences, bases of knowledge, personal potential and life experiences of each employee and structures work organization and processes to utilize these diverse skills.Management analyzes turnover rates through numerical data and exit interviews to identify organizational gaps, challenges, and weaknesses.
Commitment to organizational heterogeneityVisible and invisible heterogeneity is present throughout all departments and at all levels of responsibility. Heterogeneity is welcomed, valued and utilized at all levels across all formal and informal organizational systems.Management works with employee-sponsored affinity groups to eliminate bias in performance appraisal systems or to produce educational training opportunities for the entire department that help to improve communication and problem-solving.
Mutual accountability and responsibilityEmployees at all levels share accountability and responsibility to uphold organizational values and achieve clear organizational goals and objectives in a mutually respectful work environment.Tracks promotions demographically and holds managers responsible for the alignment, performance, and achievement of their groups.
Recognition of organizational culture and processesAn inclusive organization is one that acknowledges the existence of an explicit and implicit organizational culture and continuously seeks to align this culture with its organizational values.Mandatory orientation sessions, which explicitly define organizational goals and illustrate the importance of diversity to the company.
Effective conflict resolution processesValues and utilizes effective conflict resolution systems that empower employees at all levels, across all departments, to work collaboratively to solve problems, resolve interpersonal conflicts and achieve mutually satisfying dispute resolutions.Company provides periodic training in conflict resolution techniques to solve interpersonal and inter-group problems. Employees whose behavior is inconsistent with organizational values are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Commitment to organization-community relationshipsFunctions as a responsible citizen neighbor by continually forging constructive alliances with local government, education, public and private entities to support the community's economic, social, political and environmental goals.Law department sponsors networking opportunities that enable employees to engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue about their diverse backgrounds and common interests.

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