How To Hire A Chief Diversity Officer In 2021
Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
What Should The Chief Diversity Officer Prioritize In 2021?
My company will soon be headhunting for our first Chief Diversity Officer. We’re in the process of defining the role and I’m wondering what responsibilities or qualifications would make this role a success?
Let’s start right there: what would make this role a success? Do you know? Your answer depends on the goals your organization has set around diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you haven’t established quantifiable DEI goals yet, that’s step one.
“The best organizational research shows that the magic recipe for achieving diversity is no different from the steps necessary to achieve other business goals. In order to change behavior, firms must develop appropriate goals and metrics, share them with stakeholders, and embrace accountability for outcomes.” (University of Massachusetts research)
It may be tempting to delegate the task of establishing DEI goals to your newly-hired Chief Diversity Officer. If this is the case, I would urge you to shift your thinking around matters of equity.
Instead of viewing diversity as one department’s responsibility or a singular HR extracurricular, we need to view DEI as a business strategy that positively impacts the entire organization’s performance.
The businesses that get this positioning right see DEI not as a cost center, but rather as a major competitive advantage. Especially now when economic conditions are choppy.
“In our study of nearly 2,000 companies, we found that key metrics related to equity and inclusion not only drive stronger company innovation, but also predict whether companies will thrive or stumble during a recession.” (Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work)
Moreover, to set your Chief Diversity Officer up for success, they need to report to the CEO, full stop. They must also be an equal member of the senior executive team. Anything less is diversity greenwashing. This will help ensure a.) CEO buy-in for diversity initiatives, and b.) proper DEI integration into all aspects of the business.
With the rising demand for Chief Diversity Officers (we’ve seen a 17% annual increase in hiring since 2015), your business is not alone in pursuit of the hire. As you start your search, remember the following:
Establish metrics to measure progress toward your organization’s DEI goals.
Notice I said your organization’s DEI goals, not your Chief Diversity Officer’s DEI goals. That’s because DEI must be integrated into business strategy. No silos.
Make sure the Chief Diversity Officer reports to the CEO to facilitate collaboration on business strategy. (Again, the keyword is business strategy.)
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© 2021 Pipeline Equity™, Inc.