NALP 2019 Takeaway: The Importance of Inclusion


Christina Ahn is an Attorney Search Director in beautiful Southern California. She joined Special Counsel in 2016, and she always strives to use her network to benefit her candidates and clients. Christina loves the professional matchmaking process of connecting candidates to clients and making a difference in their lives. She finds it extremely gratifying to connect people who may not have otherwise found each other.

Imagine you’re an employer working to fill your team roster with well-rounded candidates, and you have just found your dream hire! They are qualified, seem to be a good fit and bring more diversity to the team. Both you and the new hire begin the collaboration excited and ready to hit the ground running. They get started in the role, but after a few weeks there seems to be a mismatch and the employee feels disengaged. Suddenly someone who was once a promising new hire decides to pursue another opportunity, leaving you perplexed and everyone involved disappointed. You’re back to the drawing board, looking for your next dream hire.

This scenario happens more than you might expect. As a recruiter, my first suggestion is to make sure you have a thoughtful onboarding process, which my colleague Jennifer Kohl walks you through. However in this case, an internal culture mismatch provides an opportunity for a valuable conversation about diversity and inclusion. The importance of the inclusion piece of this conversation cannot be understated.

Focusing on Inclusion at NALP

I recently attended the annual education conference hosted in San Diego by NALP, the National Association for Law Placement. It was my first experience at this conference, and I was pleased to attend a variety of sessions on the topic of diversity and inclusion. One presentation that particularly resonated with me shared that the majority of people surveyed report they experience “identity cover” at work.

Engaging in “Identity Cover”

This phrase indicates the respondents do not feel like they can be entirely themselves in their workplace, feeling the need to withhold some of their true identity and culture back to feel comfortable at work. Retention issues are significantly impacted by issues of identity cover, and businesses with high inclusive engagement have an operating profit that is almost three times(!) higher than those who did not.

It’s clear that if you try to promote diversity among your team but ignore inclusion efforts to make it a collaborative and safe experience for everyone, it can have a negative impact on both the business and the employees. So how can we do better? From the corporate level, creating an inclusive environment is a prerequisite to having pride in the workplace.

Implementing Inclusion

Here are a few things I learned from NALP and my experiences at Special Counsel that may help as you consider ways to promote inclusion in your own workplace:

  • Form an internal company Inclusion Council. This will signal your commitment to diversity and inclusion to your employees, as well as provide a valuable opportunity to collect feedback from your team and implement internal initiatives to improve the company culture. As an example, the colleagues at Special Counsel came together to form the I.D.E.A. Alliance, and is comprised of team members from every aspect of the business. IDEA stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equality, and Acceptance.
  • Find ways to promote inclusiveness. There are creative and subtle ways to nudge people in the right direction and generate discussion. For example, you can display artwork on your office walls with a variety of artists and styles. You can also promote diverse events at the top of the front page of your company newsletter. When colleagues share personal and life experiences that may be different from your own, take the opportunity to listen and be supportive.

Corporate policy can only go so far

At the individual level, it’s important to remember that corporate policy can set diversity and inclusion policies, but inclusion is delivered through individuals who are doing the real work on the ground. At another presentation, I learned that relational mindfulness (connecting with others and listening) goes hand in hand with diversity and inclusion. Relational mindfulness can help you spot and interrupt bias, and also help with difficult conversations. Encouraging individuals to be present and engaged will go a long way in promoting inclusion.

Implementing policies to encourage inclusion and then delivering the inclusion will not happen overnight, but we can all take steps to contribute to a more inclusive environment.

Christina Ahn is an Attorney Search Director with Parker + Lynch Legal, a service offering of Special Counsel. Connect with Christina on LinkedIn or via email today.

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