Throughout this week, my colleagues have blogged on important topics to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. To round off the week, I wanted to demonstrate our commitment to take action to improve.
As a firm, not only do we want to highlight key events in the diversity and inclusion calendar, but also make clear what our aims are to ensure we are a diverse and inclusive firm. We want to ensure that comments like this: “I chose KN because everything it seemed on the outside was what I found on the inside; it is professional, competent, very very friendly, with massive integrity” are true for all our employees regardless of their unique characteristics.
We are very aware that creating a disabled-friendly workplace is only the first step towards attracting and retaining more disabled candidates. We want to be a workplace which offers support and encouragement to help our disabled employees perform to their full potential.
With that in mind, we have set ourselves some clear objectives to ensure that we stand behind our pledges and hold ourselves accountable. Whilst our overall objective is to strengthen the talent pipeline of people with disabilities at all levels, there are some key actions we have developed to help us get there:
1. Enhance our recruitment process to include working with a diversity platform
There are many more diversity platforms available now than there were in previous years. We recognise that in the era of digital technology we have to embrace new ways to recruit staff. As an example, our trainee recruitment this year was entirely remote, which demonstrated not only the ability to see far more candidates than we may have done face-to-face, but also that it can work.
In using varied methods to recruit staff, not only will we be able to cast a wider net and reach a potentially new demographic of diverse candidates, we also offer them much needed reasonable adjustments to be able to access us as a firm, thereby demonstrating our drive to build awareness and invest in our future.
2. To create a workplace where people feel comfortable to declare disabilities and feel supported
Collecting and analyzing diversity data is extremely important for any business, but this necessarily starts with employees feeling confident to declare their disability in the first place. In short, we have to ensure that our good intentions translate into employees’ real experiences within the firm.
To my mind, leading by example is a significant factor. As Managing Partner I have to ensure that I demonstrate the values I expect of everyone within the firm such that positive behaviours are truly embedded, thereby leading to people feeling included.
Our (Diff)Ability network which sits within the wider Diversity and Inclusion group focuses on strategies to develop the experience of our disabled employees. As a firm we have engaged with allyship and unconscious bias training, and our Human Resources team is working on developing this further. We intend to use this training to gain insight into how to best support all employees.
3. Ensuring that our office environment meets the wishes and needs of our disabled employees and potential employees
Never before has office space been as important as it is currently. Having offices that make our employees feel comfortable in the working environment and suits their needs is key. Our forthcoming move to a brand new office space next July presents a great opportunity to meet the challenge of achieving that for all of our colleagues.
To that end, we have a steering group representing all areas and roles in the firm and have engaged external consultants, including specialists in disability-friendly working spaces, to consider and plan our office environment, including matters such as accessibility, working spaces, ergonomic design and assistive technology to ensure all our colleagues, including those with disabilities can carry out their responsibilities without impediment.
So to celebrate this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I am pledging to ensure that KN is an inclusive workplace where honest and fair conversations occur and where people with disabilities are given every opportunity to thrive alongside their (diverse in other ways) colleagues.
Linda Woolley is the managing partner of Kingsley Napley.