Find out who should be leading diversity and inclusion initiatives at your company and why it matters.

Is this the Reason Your Diversity and Inclusion Program is Failing?

There are many reasons why your diversity and inclusion initiatives may be failing to hit the mark. But have you considered that maybe the problem isn’t the policies themselves but who is in charge of them? Like many workplace solutions, the answers need to start with leadership.

Is Anyone in Charge of Your Diversity Program? 

Recent PwC research found around 14 percent of organizations, don’t have a designated diversity leader at all. There are so many reasons why workplace diversity is important – now more than ever. And without some form of D&I leadership, what, honestly, are the real chances of formulating and introducing effective organization-wide policies in an orderly, impactful way?

However, often times who you select for this important position can have a monumental impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of your diversity program as well.

Leadership or the CEO as a Diversity and Inclusion Leader 

A 2017 Deloitte report found a quarter of all companies leave diversity to the president/CEO, and there are advantages to this. If a CEO or president of the company wants something done, it is far more likely to happen… and quickly! So, this would appear to instantly increase the chances of policies and initiatives being implemented companywide from the top down, with minimal red tape involved.   

However, while the CEO likely has the ability to make things happen, this will only work if they are fully committed to the project in the first place. CEOs, by their nature, have to keep several balls in the air. And if they take on D&I without fully understanding it or appreciating its significance, or if they’re asked to take on this task by HR/other leadership but don’t prioritize it as needed, you will not achieve the meaningful change your company needs.

Human Resources as a Diversity and Inclusion Leader

The HR department is the most popular option for leading diversity and inclusion initiatives – both oversight and implementation. In many ways, this makes perfect sense. But an important question to ask when it comes to how effective this is, is who in HRM is taking charge? Is D&I the central focus of their role or is it one final thing added onto a busy person’s task list? How much training or experience do they have managing diversity and inclusion needs? How senior are they, and do they have a seat at the senior management table? All of these questions are central to whether your HRM-led diversity and inclusion program will hit its target.

A Dedicated Diversity Officer as a Diversity and Inclusion Leader

The Harvard Business Review recommends hiring a dedicated diversity officer who reports to the CEO or to the HR head “with a dotted line to the CEO.” They further argue that this dedicated diversity officer should work in close partnership with HR, legal, and corporate communications, with direct access to c-suite management. Without this company-level buy in, backing, and support, the Review argues, as impressive as their job title sounds, the program may do little in practice.

A Committee as a Diversity and Inclusion Leader

Not all companies have the resources to support a full-time diversity role – particularly in the case of smaller companies. However, smaller organizations may be able to aid diversity and inclusion programs by forming an advisory group or committee comprised of existing staff members who want to be involved and care about these initiatives.

Research suggests this can be an effective approach. Employee sponsorship is one of three elements that correspond with lower levels of reported bias within an organization, according to Center for Talent Innovation research.

The Key to Leading a Successful Diversity and Inclusion Program: Assess and Adjust

Once your organization has the D&I leadership in place, frequent assessments and adjustments can help ensure diversity efforts are successful. 

You may find a few helpful suggestions in our blog posts on what the most diverse companies are getting right, employee diversity networks that are inspiring change, 4 ways companies are increasing gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace and how to prevent your diversity initiative from faltering. 

For additional information, download our white paper on how to establish the most effective diversity and inclusion initiative at your organization.