Diversity and inclusion initiatives may start with policies and programs, but it is the company culture that breathes life into these efforts, making them truly transformative. This understanding is at the heart of the work done by Susana Berlevy, Chief People Officer at Irwin Mitchell, who has spearheaded her organisation’s efforts to build a workplace which is welcoming to all.
Susana met with Chris Mansfield, GoodCourse’s Co-founder, to discuss topics including employee engagement, building diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and the importance of company culture.
I’m the Chief People Officer at Irwin Mitchell. I’ve been in the role for around three and a half years now, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Irwin Mitchell is an award-winning legal and financial services firm which works with clients, consumers, and organisations. We have 17 offices across the UK, and we are the No. 1 Legal Super Brand in the UK — that’s something we’re very proud of.
We offer three primary types of services for our clients. The first is personal injury, which includes claims for Serious Injury, Workplace Illness, and Medical Negligence — that accounts for around 53% of our revenue. Then we offer life-cycle legal services, involving a range of services, including Family and Property law for example, but also Commercial and Corporate Law, as well as Private Client and Public Law. That makes up around 30% of our business. Finally, we have Financial Assets Services, which comprise our investment management and financial planning services but also our Court of Protection and Arrears Management Outsourcing business. That’s only around 13% of our revenue, but we already have approximately £1 billion of assets under management, and that number continues to grow. We have an annual revenue of £276 million, around 3,000 colleagues, and 224 partners. We’ve also won a number of awards for people leadership, and we’ve been named No. 16 amongst the Super Large best workplaces in the UK by the Great Place to Work Institute and No. 10 best place to work for Women.
I’m very passionate about diversity and inclusion, and I’ve been working in the field for a long time. Irwin Mitchell has a strong tradition of diversity and inclusion, and we have a variety of employee groups and networks to support that. Overall, we have six networks dedicated to race and ethnicity, gender, LGBT+, disability, social mobility, and multi-generations. And we’ve developed a dedicated strategy to promote diversity and inclusion.
Sure! Our diversity and inclusion strategy is built on three pillars. The first step is increasing the diversity of our workplace and building a welcoming environment for all. We’re not only interested in building a diverse environment but also in facilitating the growth and success of our employees from underrepresented backgrounds. Data is critical to our approach. Through that, we’ve identified two areas where we need to improve: ethnicity and disability. The second pillar of our strategy is building inclusive leadership — we put a lot of effort into training our leaders and line managers, and we’ve introduced mandatory training and workshops as part of a wider program of leadership development. We’re working hard to eradicate any biases which might be built into our processes, especially in recruitment. The final aspect of our strategy is active allyship: building a culture which is inclusive to all. We are trying to accomplish that through educational modules on challenging behaviour but also through guidance to support our managers and colleagues.
This year, they have led some really great initiatives. We’ve been running a series of internal workshops which have been very well-received. Our most recent series is called “Let’s Talk About…” in which we’ve discussed issues such as race and disability in the workplace. Our goal is to raise awareness and make Irwin Mitchell a more inclusive place to work. It’s great to see that our achievements have been recognised: we’ve received several awards including a Gold Award from Stonewall, and we’re a Level 2 Disability Confident Employer. Last year, we participated in the Social Mobility Employer Index for the first time, and we were ranked among the top 75 organisations in the country.
That’s an interesting question. Our staff have a lot of demands on their time, so it can be challenging to find the time to sit down with them. But fortunately, inclusion is a very strong part of our culture. I wish I could claim the credit for that, but a lot of it comes down to the great work done by our employee networks — some of them have been operating for 15 years, and they have been driving progress on diversity and inclusion. We are a value-driven organisation, and many of our employees choose to stay with us because of that. When people feel welcome and included, then they find the time to get involved.
It all comes down to culture. I believe when people are passionate about an organisation and believe in the work they do, then anything is possible.