Why DE&I Requires Its Own Department & Seat at the Table

As companies intently focus on their diversity hiring practices, evaluating how best to move forward, the choice they face is whether to commit to dynamic, company-wide change, leading to a truly diverse and inclusive organization or view this as a compliance issue, and hire junior or mid-level DE&I staff to quell criticism, but do little to help the company mirror the diversity of its customer base. 

Aside from doing the right thing as a corporate citizen (which doesn’t always win the day in a board room), the business imperatives are pretty clear:     

~ Research by leading HR Analyst Josh Bersin shows that diversity positively impacts the bottom line (Diversity & Inclusion is a Business Strategy, Not an HR Program, August 29, 2018) 

~ An organization that embraces diversity is more creative (Harvard Business Review, Jan. 30, 2018)

~ 47% of Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, prefer to work at diverse   companies (Institute for Public Relations with Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, Dec. 2016)


To truly impact DE&I, companies need to do two critical things:

1.     Get C-Suite and corporate board financial commitment to make DE&I part of the company’s DNA.  Without senior leadership and long-term commitment i.e. funding, sweeping organizational change will not happen.          

2.     Establish a DE&I department, headed by a Chief DE&I Officer, reporting directly to the CEO and holding a seat on the leadership team.  This is a clear message that the CEO is committed to DE&I and is giving voice to this catalyst for change, the Chief DE&I Officer.   

Most DE&I executive(s) are part of HR, reporting into a mid to senior level HR executive with little visibility or accountability to senior leadership.  With a Chief DE&I Officer on the Executive Leadership Team, and their own team of Director and Manager reports, the organizational commitment is clear.

The Head of HR has too many other responsibilities to provide the focus and attention to make the enormous company-wide changes that will be required of this role.  However, the DE&I Department will  work closely with HR and Communications to drive change and implement training and education programs throughout the organization, while also directly communicating DE&I initiatives and progress with customers, candidates, partners, investors, vendors, prospective employees, academia, and other stakeholders.    


Talent Acquisition, Rising and Committing.

This role requires someone with significant HR and Communications experience.  The Chief DE&I Officer needs strong leadership skills to oversee messaging (internal/external), issues management, traditional/social media, change management, analytics, recruiting, and training and development. This position must also collaborate across functional areas and inspire every department and individual to play a critical role.   

These skillsets are not typically embodied by a single HR or Communications exec, so it will require a dedicated search to find this unicorn who will strategize, inspire, collaborate, and tirelessly seek to alter the corporate DNA. 

Of course, talent acquisition alone will not meet this challenge.  The entire organization must rise and commit — or be left behind.  


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