The global response to the Coronavirus pandemic may have been the dominant feature of all our lives this year but it is by no means the only topic that is on the agenda. At Ogier, a project to shape the firm's diversity and inclusion policy was already underway. Partner Christopher Jones explored the importance of the project to the firm and the communities in which it works in an article which first appeared in the Guernsey Press Review 2020 Supplement.

There always had to be more to 2020 than getting through a difficult year. Once our firm-wide response to the pandemic was in place, ensuring the safety of our people and providing a robust infrastructure to continue serving our clients, we retained our focus on strengthening the firm so that we are in the best place possible to meet the future.

To do this, we continued to invest. Our global head count has grown 10% since the start of the year. In the Guernsey office, we have promoted three associates to partner, and we have two additional partners joining us early in the new year. We also rolled out our global 2025 Vision, which is our internal roadmap for the next five years, and we set some really strong foundations in our diversity and inclusion initiative.

With nine offices around the world, we see our commitment to diversity and inclusion as a global imperative and one which required an early acknowledgement that we are not perfect and that we have work to do. There is an growing understanding that businesses and organisations should reflect the communities in which they exist and, increasingly, it is a focus our clients expect us to have.

As important as HR policies are to underpinning the culture of a firm, we were also clear from the beginning that diversity and inclusion is a strategic issue, based on honest conversations, led from the top but owned by everyone. It is crucial that as well as being aspirational, the initiative that we pursue is firmly rooted in a realistic commitment to change that we can deliver.

Our first step was to canvas the views of our employees by carrying out a firm-wide survey. There was an extremely high engagement with the survey and the vast majority of our people responded to say that D&I was important and something that we actively should be addressing.  

As result of the first engagement, over 50 people from across the firm have agreed to take part in the project and to contribute to, and help shape, our policy. Each of our offices has a group of people from all levels of the business who are driving forward the initiative, while leadership from our global managing partner and other senior partners ensures that we follow through on our commitments. In Guernsey, as local practice partner, I am leading the initiative together with newly promoted partner, Sandie Lyne. 

We have set up a number of workstreams, including internal audit, education, and new policies and initiatives. These workstreams are looking at their respective areas in relation to recruitment, retention, equal opportunity and treatment, and progression. This includes the leadership level and our pipeline into leadership. An important part of this work has been the creation of a firm-wide charter to frame our commitment, and specific pledges which will help to drive the change in culture and achieve results. Each office has also facilitated discussions with other local businesses to swap ideas and share best practice more widely. The workstreams have been given the mandate that nothing is off limits. We know that this will not be a cosmetic quick fix, and will include learning for everyone. This is our commitment to cultural change for the better.

Our D&I initiative is not limited to gender and race (although they are both an important part of it).  Rather, it aims to create an environment in which all our people have equal opportunity for development, promotion and compensation regardless of any diversity group or protected class of which they might be part. It is also intended to foster a positive, affirmative workplace culture where diversity and inclusion is regarded as a source of enrichment, innovation and creativity. At its most basic, its aim is to allow all our people to bring the best version of their whole self to work. 

This aim is key to Ogier's long-standing employee value proposition which is everything that makes Ogier a fantastic place to work. It is made up of over 100 elements covering our reward and recognition, our working culture and everything that we at Ogier get for doing a great job. Internally we are known for our authentic, forward-thinking vision, our award-winning approach to innovation, our willingness to embrace technology, and our belief in flexibility. This proposition can only be strengthened by the establishment and development of a diversity and inclusion initiative which becomes core to our decision-making and management processes.