If business leaders want employees to be successful, they must cultivate a workplace that’s diverse and inclusive, says Julie Sweet, the chief executive of North America for consulting firm Accenture.
Sweet tells Fortune that an important part of her role as CEO is promoting cross-company awareness of diversity and inclusion, which is core to Accenture’s business, and supporting initiatives that support that position. A diverse workplace helps the consulting firm attract and retain skilled talent, she says. What’s more, Accenture North America’s ability to deliver innovative solutions alongside some of America’s largest companies on the Fortune 500 list is strengthened by the multidimensional perspective brought by employees with dissimilar backgrounds, Sweet adds.
Consulting at scale requires investments in technology and people. At Accenture, Sweet says “employees are looking at us to both externally and internally represent the values that are important.” To build support for the diversity and inclusion agenda, Sweet has made it her mission to build a workplace that is equally represented by men and women by the year 2025. How is Accenture doing so far? “With 459,000 people globally, 42% [of Accenture employees] are women, so we’re on track,” she says. Accenture also supports ethnic diversity by helping employees build resource groups and professional networks.
Before speaking out about diversity and inclusion, however, companies should invest internally to support both. Sweet suggests starting with defining corporate values that reflect these concepts. Then executives must decide what it is appropriate to advocate for specifically. Next, determine whether you, as CEO, are willing to take action and invest in truly making an impact that is measurable over time.
Drawing on her experience in advising Fortune 500 CEOs, Sweet says workforce development is always on the mind of business leaders. Generally, companies are aware that building a diverse workforce is crucial for creating a culture that yields innovative strategies, services and solutions. The tough part, though, is holding business leaders accountable.
Perhaps it comes back to basics. Good leaders succeed by not only treating employees well, but also by measuring the results of building an inclusive work environment. After all, “the real driver of culture [outside of good leadership] is about how it feels to come into work every day,” Sweet says.
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