The IDC (Inclusion, Diversity and Culture) team at Fieldfisher recently hosted an event for firms to discuss their experiences of partnering with external organisations. Below are some of the learnings that have come from these partnerships.
Advantages of partnering with external organisations
- Validation: External partners can help validate the steps an organisation is taking, reinforcing and ensuring that they are moving in the right direction
- Resources: They provide valuable extra resources (and the issue of resources is a reoccurring one in the IDC landscape, especially as it is still a growing and under resourced area)
- Expertise: they can provide specific subject area knowledge or expertise
- Refresh: they can provide fresh ideas and new ways of thinking. This is particularly useful after initial inclusion and diversity steps have been taken by an organisation and they are perhaps unsure of how to progress past this stage
Tips for working with external organisations
- Review: Like any other supplier, external partnerships should be reviewed regularly
- Define the scope of work: Ensure the scope of work (or services) is clearly defined by putting in place commercial terms
- Put it in writing: Ensure the standard of work expected is put in writing, agreed upon by both parties
- Audit: Organisations are encouraged to audit the partnership that they wish to collaborate with and thoroughly understand the ROI, especially if the partnership charges a fee for the support they are providing. It can be challenging but ultimately result in accreditation which can be very useful
- Allow internal feedback: Whilst organisations themselves can source external partnerships, employee representatives groups can suggest them too. This is also a way of involving your workforce and making everyone feel that they have a say in the running of the business, which can lead to an increase in engagement from employees
- Quality over quantity: The quality of partnerships matters more than the quantity, so businesses must be strategic when choosing a partner. It’s not always necessary to have a collaboration which represents every single protected characteristic in an organisation, instead, it’s paramount that the partnership identified and collaborated with fits within a company's inclusion and diversity strategy
- Prepare to be challenged: Organisations are encouraged to be wary of all partnerships where it is easy to become a member and they are not challenged, or suggestions aren’t made as they progress along their inclusion and diversity journey. Some partnerships provide little support in terms of change management and it’s important to do research before diving into a new relationship
Organisations are encouraged to make a list of due diligence questions before embarking on any external partnership agreement and it may also be useful to involve the procurement team. Due diligence questions could include but are not limited to:
- What do you want the partnership for?
- How do you know it is the best fit for your business?
- Will the partnership enhance or reduce your reputation?
- Many organisations have a fluid approach to external partnerships and use different ones for different needs. For example, those providing coaching or training to boards and non-executive directors may differ from those that provide coaching and support to managers.
- The partnerships that provide less value for money are those that offer generic information and offer little by way of practical ideas and support. Those that provide practical support are the most useful and an example of this was disability groups, who a number of attendees had worked with. They stated that these groups were incredibly useful and not only provided a review of processes, but great ideas in terms of reasonable adjustments and assistive technology, including hotlines for managers.
- Collaborating with Regulators could be extremely beneficial to an organisation. Both the FCA and the Pensions Regulator have taken steps towards collaboration. The former has encouraged its members to reach certain gender and ethnicity targets and the latter has encouraged organisations to have diverse pension trustees. In addition to regulators, universities could also be useful organisations to partner with- particularly academics who are researching areas which are relevant to the company in question.
- Interestingly, our networking group identified that whilst there were a number of networking and lobbying groups that represented people from different genders or ethnicities, there were very few that provided guidance on how to improve inclusion and diversity through practical steps. Most were campaign groups, raising awareness of the issues faced by women and people from different ethnic heritages.
- The group also agreed that there was a gap in the market for partnerships who were focussed on inclusion and diversity issues with technology, particularly AI.
- All agreed that it would be useful to have a database of external partnerships who are experts in particular areas that organisations could refer to.
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