With the importance of creating a culture of inclusion at work becoming more prevalent than ever, it’s valuable to discuss how workplace dedication to culture translates into tangible initiatives that promote equity and psychological safety within an organisation.
In this interview, Hannah Kozlova Lindsay, Global Chief People Officer at BCLP sits down with Chris Mansfield to discuss her unique journey from law to HR, BCLP's commitment to Inclusion and Diversity (I&D), and the dynamic interplay between leadership and the evolving legal field.
I’m Hannah Kozlova Lindsay, Global Chief People Officer at BCLP. BCLP is an international law firm, the product of a merger between two large law firms in 2018. We have 30 offices across nine countries and around 1,200 lawyers. We are structured as a single firm in terms of how we approach our overall operations. Although I’m based in London, I look after all things people-related across our network and head the HR and people teams of around 90 people across our network. I also sit within the leadership team, so I play a role in overall firm strategy as well as the people strategy
I’d never have predicted that I would end up in this role. I started my career as a lawyer, qualified in finance, and quickly realised that it wasn't really for me. There were some things I loved about it, but others didn’t suit me as well. As I looked for what to do next, I came across a job in professional development, which I went for, and that was my step into the people and HR area, where I have been for nearly 20 years now.
It definitely helps in terms of credibility; lawyers have busy lives, and what makes it distinct is that our partners are effectively producer managers, so as they progress, they don’t shed any responsibilities; they acquire more. What really helps is saying that I've been there myself, and I know what it’s like. It also really helps from the perspective of understanding how the legal industry works, both on a micro and macro level. It helps to understand the regulatory landscape, and it’s easier to navigate that within the people area.
Equity being woven into everything is very important, so we take a holistic approach. That means that everything we do as a people team has to be interwoven with I&D — how we recruit, promote, compensate, and do everything else.
Getting more specific, when it comes to psychological safety, it’s very important to provide a voice for people. We have a variety of affinity groups across the firm, such as social mobility, LGBTQ+, race and ethnicity, disability, well-being and more. As well as supporting those affinity groups, we are also trying to make sure they are as inclusive as possible; they have historically been chaired by partners but now we are bringing in colleagues at every level from across the firm to co-chair the groups to ensure everyone has a voice.
We also have a range of firm-wide training. We recently ran a programme that looked at microaggressions and micro-exclusions. We facilitated discussions about the content so that it felt more involved and colleagues could learn from each other.
Recently we have also rolled out our mental health first-aider initiative in all of our offices, so we have trained people to become mental health first-aiders across the company.
Last year, we also relaunched our investment hours policy which gives associates credit towards their bonus for time spent driving an inclusive culture, learning and developing others. We’re aware associates are very busy, but we want them to find that balance and we want to support their well-being, so we incentivise them with additional vacation days too.
In terms of the firm's culture, this is something people are willing to invest time in. An inclusive culture is something we are constantly working towards and I see day to day the power that it has. I know that our work in this area is also a key reason why many people want to work with us, so there is a business imperative there, too. I think educating people about the business advantage of diverse teams is an important factor because our culture is something that differentiates us from other firms. We want everyone to bring their whole selves to the workplace and feel that they can be themselves. I think through discussions and training, there is a high level of awareness of the importance of this. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the right thing for the business.
One of our most powerful initiatives is called Our Voices, a blog with entries from our people with diverse backgrounds where they can share their own unique experiences. I’m hugely grateful for those people because they’re prepared to be very open and speak about some of the challenges they’ve faced. We’ve had a huge variety of topics covered in Our Voices, and I think it’s been really impactful.
My advice would be to be flexible about what the future might hold and what skills you might have. The legal field is a great sector, but it has undergone (and is still undergoing) significant change. Be open-minded about what the profession will hold because it won’t look the same way in the future as it does today.