Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives are not just about being nice, although a workforce that feels supported, listened to and respected is no bad thing. Creating an environment in which people of diverse backgrounds can thrive is essential to an organisation’s success.
As Andrew Keith, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at DAC Beachcroft, expresses, talent comes in all shapes and sizes. He sat down with Chris Mansfield, Co-founder of GoodCourse, to talk about his global experience, the diversity and inclusion networks at his firm, and the importance of attracting the best talent.
I’m Andrew Keith, and I’m the COO for DAC Beachcroft. We are an international firm headquartered in London with recognised market strength in insurance, health, real estate and business advisory. I have been with the firm for just under five years. My remit is to help manage the business services of the firm; I also work very closely with the managing partner, practice director and CFO.
I have been in people leadership since I graduated. I served in the royal navy, where I was leading people, albeit in a slightly different environment. Part of my remit was a bit of HR. I looked at training, pay, appraisals, as well as general naval nuts and bolts. After I finished at sea, I was sent to London to be a naval recruiter, which I really enjoyed. So when that was finished, I applied for a few jobs, and now, years later, I’m the COO of a major international law firm, having worked for several different firms, all over the world.
I came to DAC Beachcroft because, in 2018, I met a really inspiring group of people who were the management team here. I have enjoyed working for them every moment since. In any move, I think it’s all about the people you work with; ensure they are inspiring and challenging, because you never stop learning.
We are very clear on our businesses’ purpose, which is to help our firm and clients grow sustainably, whilst being a place where talented people want to work. Therefore, all of our cultural principles support that. Being a welcoming and inclusive place to work is really important because talent comes in all shapes and sizes.
Being a welcoming and inclusive place to work is really important because talent comes in all shapes and sizes.
A number of initiatives underpin this work. Access is a colleague-led network for racial diversity. It exists to help people understand the perspectives and experiences of those with different ethnic backgrounds. It does valuable work in celebrating the various cultures we have within the organisation. Access educates the firm on cultural events and extends this work out to clients, running seminars with colleagues and clients to promote understanding of different people and cultures.
This network also helps our recruitment activity. We work very closely with Aspiring Solicitors, the Black Solicitors Network, the Social Mobility Fund, Urban Lawyers — and more! — to drive and widen our talent pool.
We have other employee-led networks, such as Women’s Plus, our LGBT+ network Spectrum, Working Dads, the Parents’ network, and our disability working group. Each of these groups has an executive sponsor, which brings it up to the executive board level, embedding this work throughout the firm.
I alluded to our cultural principles earlier, so allow me to contextualise those now. These principles underpin our drive, strategy, and success as an organisation. They are not things we do just because we think they’re nice — they are absolutely fundamental.
The first is being supportive, approachable and inclusive. We really do take time to listen and understand others, respecting their contributions and trusting them to make decisions when authority is given to them. The next one is determination; we act with integrity and are relentless in our pursuit of excellence. This has been very important over these past few challenging years. We also share knowledge, insight and encourage constructive debate. These principles have helped us redefine our EDI strategy.
Beyond our employee-led initiatives, we started a programme called Reconnect, which has won a number of awards. It supports legal professionals returning after time away, in particular women who might have taken a career break for family, who want to come back and do both.
We also introduced an initiative called Flex Forward two years ago, which challenges the traditional thinking around both place and time of work. It’s a role-based approach; depending on your role, we can agree on different work styles. We have also done more to support men with parental responsibilities, and we’re one of the early signatories of the mindful business charter to demonstrate our commitment to removing unnecessary sources of stress.
Don’t think that you have a monopoly on good ideas. There are so many people who can give you answers. We have had some really great initiatives that came about from listening to colleagues at all levels, in all areas of the organisation. The best advice is to listen to others and understand them to see what can be done.