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Why Leadership is Key to Making Diversity and Inclusion Plans Work

A just-released study by executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates sheds new light on how companies approach diversity and inclusion, and offers six key steps for more effective results.


Hunt Scanlon | October 11, 2017



The Hunt Scanlon article, “Why Leadership is Key to Making Diversity and Inclusion Plans Work," was a feature on the firm's research, "Diversity and Inclusion Pulse: 2017 Leader’s Guide," and quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultants Amy Hayes and Jamie Hechinger. The article is excerpted below.

Committed leadership, from the top down, is the key to companies having effective diversity and inclusion strategies, according to a newly released report by Russell Reynolds Associates. The survey, “Diversity and Inclusion Pulse: 2017 Leader’s Guide,” illuminates the challenges that businesses face and steps leaders can take to achieve D&I success.

“Our new research shows that in spite of the clear advantages of committing to a D&I strategy, many companies still struggle to execute it effectively,” said one of the study’s eight authors, Amy Hayes, a leader of the diversity and inclusion, assessment and succession planning practices for the firm. “In order to ensure real progress toward these goals, leaders need to evaluate policy and processes, and be public in modeling inclusive behaviors.”

The study polled 2,167 executives worldwide to better grasp how businesses align around diversity and inclusion. At the heart of the study, the search firm and leadership advisor wanted both male and female executives to share how they understood their organization’s D&I strategy and the barriers faced in executing it effectively.

The report indicates that although progress has been made, companies are still falling short of their potential when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Among the more revealing results, the study found that only 47 percent of the executives surveyed believe that their companies have a “clear, holistic understanding of diversity.” And only 24 percent “are aware of a definition of inclusion.” Similarly, the findings revealed that many more companies publicly align their business strategies with diversity than with inclusion, according to their executives.

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Many companies, the study said, fall short of achieving the full benefits of a diverse workforce. “Companies with a proactive and authentic approach are better positioned to compete globally, understand their customers and innovate,” said another of the authors, Jamie Hechinger, a leader in Russell Reynolds’ diversity and inclusion practice and global leader of the social justice and advocacy practice. “We know that D&I is a business priority for our clients, and for decades we have helped them build more diverse teams and inclusive cultures.”

To read the full article​​, click here.

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Why Leadership is Key to Making Diversity and Inclusion Plans Work