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Diversity Case Study — 3 Success Fundamentals

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Michelle P. Wimes, Esq., is the Director of Professional Development & Inclusion at Ogletree Deakins, an international labor and employment law firm representing management. In my interview with her, which can be read in full here, Wimes describes the strategic action plan she developed and implemented after joining the firm in January 2011. Her plan has three fundamental aspects: Vision, Foundation and Success Modeling.

Vision

Before taking action, Wimes focused on creating a shared vision with her organization’s leaders, most of whom were white males. To make the vision fully shared, diversity needed to be a business imperative, not simply a moral obligation. Wimes states, “Diversity and inclusion are integral to our outstanding performance and exceptional client service. They must be integrated within all of the firm’s strategic initiatives.”

Foundation

Wimes next focused on gathering information from within her firm and creating an approach that would include both majority and minority employees. Wimes emphasizes the importance of not launching a diversity initiative without first doing your homework. An extensive study of the firm’s culture, needs, challenges and opportunities yielded information that enabled her to frame the diversity and inclusion strategic action plan as something arising from within the firm as opposed to an external concept imposed.

Success Modeling

Wimes has found that many diversity initiatives fail because they focus only on workplace demographics – How many diverse people did we interview, hire and currently employ? For a diversity initiative to be truly transformative, it must focus on what happens after diverse candidates become employed. To this end, Wimes and her team are in the process of creating success models or profiles. They identify the firm’s top producers, analyze the behavioral characteristics that distinguish them, and use these models or profiles as training and development tools. They also enlist top performers (often white males) to serve as mentors in the program.

Success modeling provides three major benefits: (1) Diverse hires become more likely to develop into long-term, valuable contributors; (2) Desirable job candidates become more likely to select the firm; and (3) Diverse and non-diverse members of the firm become more connected with each other.

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