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Best Companies to Work For: CEOs’ Best Advice on Making the List

Visitors look at devices at Accenture stand at the Mobile World Congress in BarcelonaVisitors look at devices at Accenture stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
Visitors look at devices at Accenture stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Albert Gea—Reuters

Accenture doesn’t have a long history of wading into current events. But after a series of tragedies last summer, and nationwide protests over race relations, CEO Julie Sweet decided the professional services firm needed to say something.

“I was really scared the day we had the discussion,” she says of the ensuing frank, company-wide talk on racial issues. “But I will look back 10 years from now and I will say it was a turning point” for Accenture’s culture.

Accenture is No. 88 on Fortune list of the Best Companies to Work For, which had its launch event on Thursday night. At the event, which took place in New York, Sweet spoke on a panel alongside Anthony McBride, HR chief and principal at Edward Jones (No. 5 on the list), and Mike DeFrino, CEO of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (No. 14), about how to create a great workplace. (You can watch the event in full on Fortune’s Facebook page.)

At Accenture, transparency is king. Last month, it became the first major professional services firm to publish its diversity breakdown. The decision wasn’t an easy one: “It’s difficult to publish a number where you’re not saying, ‘Hey, I’m great!’” Sweet says. But it was a signal the company was openly dealing with inclusion, and it’s importance for business. “There is a very genuine belief that without diversity of thought, companies can’t innovate.”

Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list, produced with research partner Great Place to Work, has chronicled the nation’s top workplaces for 20 years. It’s a role that’s becoming increasingly important as business emerges as a leading force for stability in a politically and economically tumultuous time.

At Kimpton, CEO DeFrino says companies can ward off the ravages of displacement by finding people who are comfortable with change. “Things are not always going to be the same,” he says. “You’re in a fluctuating environment. Embrace that change and embrace the people around you.” That doesn’t mean hiring only workers who know how to code and whose jobs are resistant to the forces of tech-displacement, though. DeFrino is a long time Kimpton veteran, as is his number two, who started as a bellhop. As for the technological know-how within a workforce? “The skills will come.”

For Edward Jones’ McBride, the must-have quality for leaders is vision. He referenced the early scientists at IBM, who saw that the world was going to change, and anticipated how. The researcher who lead that charge did it “not just for herself, but also for her team, and she brought those people along,” McBride said. “I think the ability to do that will propel an individual’s career” and “certainly make folks want to be a part of their team.”