Diversity, Belonging, and Inclusion at RHR: Our Action-Oriented Approach

By: Dante Capitano, Lawrence James, Jr. and Cristina Jimenez

First of a two-part series.

At RHR, we believe in the power of authenticity. We believe that respecting and engaging with one another’s authentic and diverse selves enables both our colleagues and clients to leverage their strengths and achieve their full potential.

After 75+ years of leadership consulting, we believe great leadership has principles of diversity, belonging, and inclusion woven into its very core. A diverse culture is strong, innovative, and high performing. Therefore, our DBI focus is toward both our internal practices and the services we deliver to companies across the globe. How we got here is important, and we believe our journey has taught us a great deal about how to eradicate prejudice and discrimination.

Our Journey

As a firm, we have been good people: socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and deeply psychological. We have an incredible sense of pride toward our history, and more importantly, have established ourselves as a highly credible and impactful leadership consultancy. Our clients depend on us to help them resolve their most complex leadership challenges within the senior executive space. We have evolved many times, surviving big economic challenges, an aggressive competitive market, and the ongoing transformation toward online and digital. However, I wanted more, and I believed we could be more.

As I moved into the CEO role, our mission and purpose became so much more important for me personally as a driver of our business. I believe that we are here to shape leaders and leadership, but more importantly, that we can have a meaningful impact on the world through the people we work with. As such, I asked my team to help me integrate Diversity & Inclusion throughout our entire organization. Even if I wasn’t sure of our end point, I understood that we could not deliver on our purpose or our growth goals without ensuring that leadership within our firm and in our clients was more representative of the diverse and global world.

We started with an aspirational philosophy about who we wanted to be to ourselves and to our clients. Our initial goal was to work through our own biases and assumptions, holding ourselves to a high standard and understanding and acknowledging the complex historical context of race and ethnicity in order to nurture and support diversity. As many of you have likely found in your own organizations, no matter your positive intentions, building self-awareness and understanding our own individual relationship with discrimination and prejudice is an incredibly uncomfortable and difficult but worthwhile journey. This has challenged everything we took for granted for ourselves as a firm and forced us to consider the development we needed to undertake to meet our own aspirational philosophy.

Internal Self-Assessment and Action

We approach self-assessment on a company-wide level, looking at our own internal practices and culture to see how we may be inhibiting effective work with diverse communities and each other. We hold ourselves accountable across the board to model inclusive behavior. This includes:

  • Putting the right people in place to lead this work. We needed the right balance of deep commercial and research-based experience, and I needed strong strategic partners who could drive toward my big vision. Cristina Jimenez and Lawrence James were perfect for transforming our firm and helping us to deliver meaningful client outcomes.
  • Delivering storytelling workshops to create a safe space for our consultants and staff to talk about their own unique history and diversity story. Paving the way for a deeper understanding of the ways that race, gender, sexuality, and more inform who we are and how we act is key to breaking down barriers. We focused on creating intimacy and honesty in judgment-free conversations.
  • Working on an individual level with our colleagues around awareness of privilege, power, and allyship. We have thought about how we define ourselves and others while expanding our understanding of cultural, gender, and racial inequalities.
  • Focusing on quality assurance processes for our client deliverables, has allowed us to deliver unbiased reports.
  • Re-assessing our hiring practices to ensure they were not only inclusive, but proactively sourcing diverse talent. RHR’s hiring focus resulted in an increase of 73% in people of color over three years to our current levels, increasing from 14% to 22% of our employees and 1 board member. We approached our learning as an ongoing and consistent endeavor, sharing best practices and educational materials and engaging in often honest and challenging dialogue within our teams and with our clients.

We know that there is more work to be done and true systemic change happens when this becomes less about work and more about creating norms around candor, compassion, and courage. We can and must do better! At RHR, we are dedicated to continuous learning and development in order to ensure that we make tangible and vital change in ourselves first, but also with the leaders, cultures, and in the world we interact with. The conversation is far from over, and we are ready to continue taking action now and in the future. 

In Part 2 we will describe our offering for clients.

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