Workplaces need inclusion and well-being strategies, but there is no doubt that both are more effective when they are created in tandem with one another, both working towards the same goal of creating better workplaces.
Moira Slape, Chief People Officer at Travers Smith sat down with Chris Mansfield, Co-founder of GoodCourse to speak about the valuable initiatives that she has been laying out at the firm over the past two years, and her passion for creating an inclusive workplace.
I have been at Travers Smith for seven years now. It is a city-based international law firm with around 93 partners and a workforce of around 850. I have a history in the legal sector and this is my fourth law firm. My role is the most senior people professional in the firm, where I have responsibility for HR, graduate recruitment, learning and development, and diversity and inclusion.
My formative years were as a trainer, and I was always fascinated by people. I started to deliver and design training programs for clients with the goal of managing and leading teams. Those leadership principles had to be lived experiences, not just things I read from a book. This is what allowed me to teach the principles to others via my own leadership and management style. I led a team in a training company doing this, and that is where my deep interest and experience in leadership come from.
I’m very passionate about mental health. This comes from my career and needing to understand my own resilience levels within that. When I started working at Travers Smith and understood the firm's landscape and the appetite for a dialogue about mental health and well-being, it struck me that there was a stigma associated with mental health. I think this is a general problem in the legal sector and comes from a place where people do not feel they can talk about mental health. At Travers Smith, we are in a place where we have a culture of acceptance where it’s okay to speak about your mental health and signpost it as sickness. I feel really passionately that mental health should never be seen as a weakness.
I feel really passionately that mental health should never be seen as a weakness.
We tackled this in many ways and began with raising awareness. We have set up panels where people will speak about their struggles and how they have dealt with them effectively. We make sure that we have leaders on these panels, too, so that they are really setting an example. We have trained line managers and mental health first aiders, which we continually develop. We work with a therapy service alongside specialist therapists in grief, suicide, and maternity. This all comes together to make a comprehensive mental health service.
When I joined the firm, I was the firm’s first HR Director. The Chief People Officer role was established naturally as a result of the journey that Travers Smith has been on to enhance the experience of the people that work here. What I really care about, however, is not so much my own title, but the fact that people associate my role title with change and a real focus on the human element, which I don’t think you get from the typical HRD title. It helps people understand the commitment we have to diversity and inclusion.
I am on our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) board which is chaired by our Senior Partner. We have representation on the board from all of our working groups. We meet every other month and report to the Partnership Board. This is the commitment we have to tackling the issues that we face as a firm, which really aren’t that different from issues that other firms face.
For engagement, we rely on our three employee committees, who are amazing. We make sure we connect with the workforce in a way that makes people feel that they can commit to pro bono work or be part of a diversity group, anything like that, through utilising our employee committees. Because we have a room system, where a room of lawyers with varying seniority is led by either a partner or a senior counsel, the partner is really in touch with their team. They know the importance of encouraging people to get involved in the initiatives we have available and doing so with confidence.
Pace yourself — it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We all care about our jobs, but we need to recognise that not everything needs to be done all at once and always at pace.
Richard Foley, who was the senior partner of Pinsent Masons. In all of my time in the sector, I’ve admired the firm and its innovation, and that kind of innovation needs to come from the top. He is a very precise speaker with a lot of compassion and empathy — those skills are very powerful when brought together.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M. Lencioni. It’s a fable about the pitfalls leadership teams can face as they seek to grow and evolve. By unpicking the mistakes that other leadership teams have made, we are able to become stronger as a team.