Setting Up Chief Diversity Officers for Success

A popular new position that has been popping up in C-suites across the country is the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). Companies from Google to Uber to Warner Brothers have recognized that it’s time to give diversity programs a seat at the table, even if the seat comes after a scandal that seems to force the issue. What matters is not how the seat came to be, but how empowered the person in that seat is to enact real change in the company. More often than not, those selected Chief Diversity Officers are not given the resources they need to do anything other than act as a figurehead of diversity and inclusion, rather than agents of change. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case. According to Eileen Gray, HR pro and board member of the National Association of African Americans in HR, ‘the effectiveness of a CDO is dependent on the strength of the person in that role and the commitment the organization makes to diversity and inclusion.’ There are many things that companies can do to give their new CDO the ability to begin the hard task of transforming a toxic culture that shuns diversity and inclusion, to one that embraces all employees, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or creed. Here are 3 ways to start the path towards creating an environment of success for your CDO.

3 Ways to Set up Chief Diversity Officers for Success

Give full support and backing, from the top down.

Just like any C-Suite officer, the CDO will need money, resources, and staff to get their job done. Culture transformation is not a one- or two-person job, and your new CDO is going to need more than lip service from you to be effective. Giving your CDO access to a robust budget, a staff of people whose number one job is supporting the CDO, and whatever existing data or data collection tools they need will show your entire company that this initiative is an important one, and not one that can be ignored until a more convenient time. 

Create a D&I task force.

Different from equipping a Diversity department with staff, creating a task force of current employees at all levels will give the CDO the ability to see what diversity and inclusion look like on the ground throughout the organization. It will give the CDO the chance to road test ideas and policies with the people who will be in charge of implementing them, and who will be most impacted by them. By inviting change-makers and organizational leaders to serve on this task force, it will show that people at every level are invested in the success of these initiatives while ensuring that those most respected in the organization are on your side. Finally, research shows that when non-managers are full participants in diversity workshops and task forces, there’s an increased likelihood of their success.

Ensure Chief Diversity Officers have a seat at the table for big decisions.

The impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion should be factored in all major, company-wide decisions. These should not be factors that are investigated after the decision is made to figure out how to mitigate the impact of the decision on them, or to highlight how the decision will enhance them. As such, the CDO should be a voice that is heard during the process of making these decisions. 

It’s not just the CDO’s job to ensure the success of diversity and inclusion programs and policies; it’s the job of everyone in the company. We at Rali understand the difficulties and challenges that can go into ensuring the success of the CDO and of diversity and inclusion policies. As such, we have developed resources to help promote diversity and inclusion throughout your workplace to achieve a robust and sustainable workplace culture of inclusion. Schedule a demo at any time. 

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