Senior Vice President of Talent, Chief Diversity Officer Crystal Castille-Cromedy Interviewed by LEADERS

In an interview with LEADERS, Senior Vice President of Talent and Chief Diversity Officer, Crystal Castille-Cromedy discusses the commitment we place on creating an inclusive environment that embraces diversity and celebrates unique perspectives.

Will you highlight your role and areas of focus?

As the senior vice president of talent and chief diversity officer at Hines, I am responsible for leading the company’s talent and DEI strategy. My goal is to ensure that Hines attracts, develops, and retains the best and most diverse talent the globe has to offer, creates high-quality talent outcomes, and achieves equitable diversity representation across the company’s employee base. As a strategic business partner, I also work closely with HR to oversee the company’s integrated vision for talent acquisition, talent management, talent development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

My role includes building upon the creation and evolution of numerous internal programs such as mentorship initiatives, employee resource groups, talent development, performance management, career progression, and succession planning that I have implemented since joining Hines in 2020. I’m also collaborating with HR to create fair and transparent talent practices that can be consistently implemented across the company, regardless of location. This is a critical part of my platform to elevate employees and increase their sense of belonging at Hines.

How important is it for the HR/Talent function to be engaged in business strategy?

It is imperative for the HR/talent function to be fully engaged in business strategy. At Hines, I work closely with our Chief People Officer and her team on multiple initiatives. The HR/talent functions are responsible for managing the organization’s talent – ensuring we have the right people, in the right jobs, at the right time. Therefore, these teams should be involved in strategic decision-making to ensure that the organization’s people strategy is aligned with its business priorities.

Business strategy and people strategy are interdependent, and organizations cannot achieve their goals without cohesive alignment between the two. HR/Talent should work closely with business leaders to understand the organization’s objectives, identify talent gaps, and develop strategies to attract, retain, and develop a diverse and inclusive workforce that supports the organization’s goals.

By collaborating with Hines’ HR/talent teams, we can identify potential barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the organization’s business strategy and develop plans to mitigate them. For example, if the organization is expanding into a new market, HR/Talent can work with business leaders to ensure that the recruitment process is inclusive and attracts diverse talent reflective of the new market.

How engrained is diversity, equity, and inclusion in Hines' culture and values?

At Hines, we prioritize the employee experience because our business is about more than constructing and investing in great buildings and projects. Our commitment is to create environments where people can thrive, whether it’s within our workplace, in the spaces we manage, or across the communities we are involved with. We prioritize making a positive social impact in every Hines project.

Will you provide an overview of Hines' diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives?

Our approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion at Hines is designed to apply a DEI lens to the entire talent ecosystem, including access, hiring, belonging, and elevation. Our goal is to create an inclusive environment that values differences, embraces diversity, and celebrates unique perspectives while supporting everyone’s growth and development.

In terms of access, we prioritize expanding awareness and access to commercial real estate careers for underrepresented groups. To achieve this, we offer opportunities through campus recruiting initiatives and internship programs like Skyline Scholars, which gives college freshmen and sophomores from underrepresented groups access to the commercial real estate industry.

When it comes to hiring, we believe that a diverse workforce is a stronger and more resilient workforce. As such, we are committed to improving gender and ethnic representation in all job families, especially at the senior leadership level, and building teams that reflect the diversity of the communities in which we operate. Our efforts have already yielded promising results: 15 percent of Skyline Scholars participants have converted to the Hines internship program, 68 percent of our interns are from underrepresented groups, and 64 percent of our full-time graduate hires are from underrepresented groups.

After hiring, our next priority is to ensure that all employees feel a sense of belonging. Our belief is that employees’ unique backgrounds and perspectives are essential to driving innovation and advancing ideas that benefit Hines, our stakeholders, and partners. To support this belief, we have created employee resource groups that advance our DEI strategy and promote a firmwide platform to connect employees and celebrate diversity. Hines launched five new ERGs in 2022 for a total of seven with a 45 percent increase in participation from the firm since the launch of these additional ERGs.

Finally, our focus is on elevating our employees. We recognize that hiring, retaining, and promoting diverse talent are critical to the future of our firm. Our aim is to reflect society and to have the right talent in place to meet the needs of Hines, our stakeholders, employees, and the people globally where we operate. We are taking steps towards solutions, such as updating our officer promotion criteria for greater transparency and launching a new mentoring program to drive progression opportunities for all employees. Currently, 41 percent of our workforce is female, 36 percent represent a U.S. racial/ethnic minority group of which 10 percent are officers, and 21 percent of our officers are female, including our C0-CEO, Laura Hines-Pierce. While we are proud of our progress, we recognize the journey ahead and are determined to continue creating opportunities for a more diverse future.

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Founded in 1978, LEADERS has been described as “the exclusive boardroom of the best and the brightest.” Its editorial mission is to give voice to some of the world’s most innovative and thoughtful leaders with an aim of inspiring leaders across the globe. Published quarterly, each issue addresses the unique challenges shared by leaders: coping with change, developing a vision, creating strategic alignments and coalitions, setting directions, energizing teams and creating a profitable future. Via in-depth interviews, readers get to know and understand the men and women running the most important institutions and corporations in the world representing a wide variety of fields: banking and finance, hospitality and travel, luxury goods and services, real estate, health and wellness, sports and entertainment, government, philanthropy and more.