Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are top of mind for leaders across every industry and geographical region today. To gather first-hand insights and perspectives, Russell Reynolds Associates spoke with a number of leaders at companies known for their leading-edge approach to D&I. Our conversations with CEOs, chief diversity officers and other influential members of the leadership teams at these game-changing companies – the #GameChangers – revealed a number of insights:

1. Create a sense of belonging.

#GameChangers focus not only on hiring diverse talent and fostering an inclusive culture, but also on the end goal of “Belonging” – the extent to which employees feel they can be their authentic selves at work. #GameChanging companies recognize that, ultimately, if employees do not feel like they belong, efforts around D&I will fall short. They use an effective litmus test for gauging the success of their D&I policies: Will this make employees feel like they belong?

2. Leverage diverse talent to meet business goals.

#GameChangers see business sense in hiring and developing diverse talent. Our conversations repeatedly showed evidence of #GameChanging companies experiencing a better ability to serve customers, a higher level of innovation, and a more attractive employer brand.

3. Think holistically and long-term.

#GameChangers engage a broad spectrum of employees in D&I efforts, not just diverse individuals. Second, they tackle their own specific pain points, moving away from quick wins and a ‘checking the box’ mentality. Finally, they realize that hiring and developing diverse talent require an inclusive definition of “great talent.”

4. Set your company up for success.

Most companies realize the importance of establishing objectives around D&I, but #GameChangers realize that broader processes and behaviors need to align and support those objectives. #GameChangers actively address unconscious bias, build out a globally-oriented talent strategy, and hold leaders accountable to diversity goals. Marta Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports, explained, “Our goals for diversity and inclusion are woven into recruitment, business practices and our strategic plan.”

5. Hire Leaders Who “Get It”.

#GameChangers hire and develop inclusive leaders with a culture-challenging mindset, who will be the key to long-lasting, resilient companies. As Julie Coffman, Partner at Bain & Company, summed up, “This is a journey. While we cannot make people do this, we can put in leaders who are passionate about it.”

We discovered that all #GameChanging companies have one key distinguishing feature: a real understanding that a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture is critical today and for a resilient tomorrow.

You can learn more about the #GameChangers with whom we spoke and their thoughts in our paper, Diversity and Inclusion #GameChangers.

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