“It’s just been announced this week and we’ve already had an incredibly positive reaction from both staff and clients,” said Lesley Elvidge, HRD at Russell McVeagh.
“As a firm, diversity helps us innovate and collaborate and improve our relationships with staff and clients,” she added. “It makes good business sense but it’s also the right thing to do.”
Auckland-based Elvidge says the company first pursued accreditation – a move fully backed by the board – after receiving informal feedback from former and present junior staff.
“They identified this as an area we could look to make improvements in so we knew when we began that we could do more in this space and we really did learn so much throughout the process,” she told HRM.
According to Elvidge, one of the key drivers for the company was to nurture a workplace were employees felt comfortable being themselves.
“Creating an environment where people are able to bring their whole selves to work is a key factor in being able to attract and retain the best people,” she said. “The benefits are huge, you get a lot more out of people if they are their authentic self.”
Again, the business case wasn’t the only thing behind Russell McVeagh’s decision to pursue the Rainbow Tick but something very personal to the company played a major role too.
“For me, a key thing is the prevalence of depression in the legal industry,” Elvidge reveals. “It’s been well documented and it’s an area we’ve done a lot of work on so any step we can take to enable people to be themselves at work and to reduce any anxiety about not being able to be themselves is vital to ensuring their mental wellbeing.”
One of the only worries the organisation did have, was over ensuring staff knew the initiative was a genuine attempt at self-improvement rather than just a modern marketing ploy.
“We were very concerned that it wasn’t just seen as a marketing tool – we wanted real and genuine change within the firm and to create a supportive environment once people had joined the firm, rather than it just being a recruitment tool,” stressed Elvidge.
Assurance, she says, came from being transparent with employees and not being afraid to ask for input.
“I think the key part of the process for this was talking to our employees and actually saying; ‘We don’t know it all and we want to hear your views,’” she told HRM.
“Sometimes, companies are scared of asking for staff feedback so a large part of this has been a leap of faith,” she continued. “We don’t pretend to be perfect by any stretch but what we want to say to our staff is; ‘We want your views and we want to do more. We want this to be the best place for you to work.’
Now, Elvidge is strongly encouraging other HR professionals to take similar leaps of faith.
“Start taking some action – even small steps, my number one advice would be to ask staff for their views and to listen to them,” she says. “You have to build trust and use the information you receive from your staff wisely.”
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One of New Zealand’s leading firms is shrugging off stale industry stereotypes this week after it was revealed the company is the latest of its kind to receive Rainbow Tick certification.