November 12th to 18th 2018 is IP Inclusive Week! So what does that mean and what exactly is the intention of the week and the wider initiative itself?

Here, Andrea Brewster, leader of the IP Inclusive initiative, explains both what this push within the IP profession hopes to achieve and why diversity and inclusivity is key to ensuring that promising graduates feel they can join this niche sector…

 

“Glass Door” is not just an employer review website.  It is also a metaphor for what happens when you are deciding where to work.

You genuinely can peer in, as though through the entrance to an organisation, to see what kind of working environment it offers. You can look through the lens of the organisation’s website and its promotional materials, over which it has some control. But you can also, via the internet and your own professional and social networks, seek the views of both current and past employees – and here it is authenticity that counts, not PR control.

Yes, you will be looking at promotion prospects and salaries, at the range of clients and projects the organisation works with, and most probably at professional testimonies and accolades.  But increasingly these days, the glass door is also a form of looking glass: potential employees can check whether they see themselves reflected in the organisation’s values and policies, and in its existing team of people. Will they fit in? Will they feel accepted and included, for who they are, and not for example have to keep quiet about their sexuality or their religion or the people they care for at home? Will they be looked after and supported, in terms of their physical and mental health?

Applicants will quite rightly assess a career opportunity holistically, as a blend of the personal and the professional. They will wonder if it will be personally rewarding, allowing them to contribute ideas, to be creative, to acquire new perspectives.  They will want to know the impact it might have on their lives outside the office: work-life balance is becoming an important driver of career choices in a profession that can be demanding and stressful.

An organisation that wants to recruit the best talent must address these concerns. There is stiff competition for IP recruits, especially in certain technical fields.  So employers need to consider what the glass door both reveals and reflects.  What does it say about their organisation’s values, its priorities, the variety of people and ideas allowed in, its diversity and inclusivity (D&I) policies and practices? What will newcomers learn, from reviews and personal testimonies, about the well-being of its staff and their job satisfaction?

For lateral hires, competition is if anything fiercer and work-life balance a stronger differentiator.  These applicants know exactly what they are looking for through the glass door. Stories told by the existing workforce will soon get round and it is becoming increasingly important to treat staff well to retain them and to attract others.  Lateral hires are also more commercially savvy, and will be on the look-out for signs of an unduly traditionalist approach that might limit an organisation’s shelf-life.

The IP professions are beginning to recognise that improving D&I makes it easier for an organisation to recruit, develop and retain talented staff.  IP Inclusive’s presentation on the business case for diversity (available here) highlights the HR benefits of D&I, from enhancing competitive advantage when seeking new talent and widening the pool you are able to recruit from, to the downstream benefits in the workforce. Diverse and inclusive teams have been shown to be more robust and adaptable in the face of change, more innovative, more responsive. They bring access to wider networks of new clients and recruits.

They are also happier.  And happier people are more efficient, more productive, more comfortable about developing their professional skills. They are less likely to look around for alternatives and they are better ambassadors for the organisation.  Staff churn is costly; a happy, stable workforce is a good investment on many levels. Recruiting “more of the same” is simply not a healthy way to grow a team.

When new applicants see a diverse workforce, they see an employer that is open-minded and inclusive. Keep an eye out for that: it will speak volumes to the organisation’s staff, clients, suppliers and investors.  And it will almost certainly help the business to attract and compete for the best people.

 

IP Inclusive is an initiative devoted to improving equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the IP professions. “IP Inclusive Week”, from 12-18 November this year, is an opportunity to celebrate what the initiative has achieved, to raise awareness of its work and to get as many people as possible involved in the IP Inclusive community. Supporters are being encouraged to do at least one thing during the week, however small, to improve diversity and inclusion; there will be regular updates about what’s being planned, on the dedicated IP Inclusive Week blog page and on Twitter using the hashtag #ipinclusiveweek.

Andrea Brewster OBE is a chartered UK patent attorney and European patent attorney, a former President of CIPA and leader of the IP Inclusive initiative.
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