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By: Richa Srivastava on March 9th, 2021

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Is Your Business Ready for a Chief Diversity Officer?

Diversity & Inclusion

It is tragic that it took the death of George Floyd for our nation at large to become more aware of the social injustice and systemic racism that has been present for centuries. The Black Lives Matter movement not only created a societal uproar in 2020, it also initiated worldwide dialogue on the significance of having a more diverse, inclusive, and safe workplaces.

During the wake of the protests, we saw many organizations coming up with diversity statements and forming inclusion programs. While in recruiting, we started to see employers make the intentional decision to hire their first Chief Diversity Officer or Director of Diversity and Inclusion. This decision isn't just reserved for Fortune 500 companies, we are seeing businesses of all sizes create this new position.

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By bringing in a Chief Diversity Officer, the organization is making a commitment to incorporate diversity and inclusion into the business strategy, and focus on implementing initiatives that will advance a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion. This intense level of focus truly is a full-time job and requires experience in the D&I space to be effective.

Have you thought about hiring a diversity leader for your business?

As an executive leader, here are five questions to think about whether your business is in the position to hire your first Chief Diversity Officer or Director of Diversity:

1. Are you struggling with inclusion and belonging?

If your organization is struggling with making your current environment feel inclusive of employees who bring diversity to your team, and that they really belong, then hiring a diversity leader might be worth considering. Turnover may be one indicator of whether or not this is an issue in your business. The Director of Diversity (or CDO) will initiate diversity and inclusion goals and identify a plan that will lead you on the path to future success. If you don't already have inclusive networks or employee resource groups, that may be a good starting point. 

2. Are you revamping your hiring strategy?

Many of my clients are now looking into revamping their hiring strategy to focus on D&I.  If you have a Chief Diversity Officer on your team, they will usually work closely in collaboration with the recruiting or talent acquisition team. Together, they will leverage external and internal metrics to make data-driven decisions and develop hiring strategies to plan and shape Diversity & Inclusion practices, set diversity targets in new hiring, educate around unintentional biases, and review the entire candidate to employee experience to ensure it is welcoming to all.

3. Is your revenue being hit?

People from different backgrounds bring a variety of perspectives and provide different solutions to business problems. Diversity stimulates innovation, fresh thinking and cultivates creative workplaces. The more diverse ideas you have from your staff, the more likely it is for your organization to be increasingly productive - ultimately leading to higher revenue.

A study by Harvard Business Review states that diverse companies are 45% more likely to grow their market share and 70% more likely to have captured a new market in the past year.

4. Is your Human Resources team overburdened?

Over the years, the role of HR has grown from a policy and procedure maker to playing a pivotal role as a strategic partner in the business. With an already full plate, taking on the additional responsibilities of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) can be a full-time role in itself with many priorities and initiatives. If you feel your current HR team is stretched thin trying to keep up with conflicting action items, it may be a good idea to hire a Director of Diversity to compliment your HR team.

5. Do you want a shift in your company culture?

Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer is perhaps one of the best ways to incorporate cultural change. While changing work culture takes time and trust, a diversity leader can be an incredible asset to revamp it. Having a new perspective to review and revisit your current workplace culture, norms, practices and programs to create a more diversity-friendly environment can be a huge shift in the right direction. A diversity leader may be the catalyst for the overall cultural and behavioral change that your business needs.

While the decision to hire a leader to focus on your Diversity & Inclusion efforts is based on the needs of each unique organization, it is of course, important to think about how each of these questions are impacting your business today. It may justify or rationalize the need to hire someone in this role. 

Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer is not going to magically change the dynamics of your organization overnight. Turnover for a Chief Diversity Officer is especially high compared to other executive positions, with an average tenure of three years.

If you decide to bring someone in to lead your diversity and inclusion initiatives, it is critical that DEI is a business strategy that is imperative to the entire executive team in order for the person to be successful in their role. They will need the full support of the executive team as inclusion and belonging is truly led from the top-down. 

As the leader of your business, you ultimately set the tone. Regardless of whether your business is ready to make the strategic hire of a Director of Diversity or Chief Diversity Officer today, it is the right time to be an equitable, fair, and inclusive employer.

If you would like a thinking partner to help talk through if your business is ready to hire a Chief Diversity Officer, or perhaps alternative steps you could take now to prepare for that in the future, we welcome the conversation. Please schedule a time for a complimentary consultation with our Practice Leader of Talent Acquisition.

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