Find out how to structure the role so your company will see results from its diversity program

Positioning Your Chief Diversity Officer to Succeed - Talent Intelligence More than a quarter (28 percent) of organizations have placed a C-suite-level leader in charge of their diversity and inclusion initiative, according to a PwC survey — which can be a solid approach to furthering diversity goals.

A chief diversity officer should be able, in theory, to oversee efforts at an enterprise-wide level, using insight from internal groups to shape diversity program aspects, and, in turn, conveying new policies to the managers who’ll be involved in executing them.

The amount of support the company provides will ultimately determine how effective that process is. Without the right assets and encouragement, chief diversity officers may be able to institute some improvements — but will likely fail to achieve lasting change.

If your organization is considering adding a CDO position — or is concerned its current chief diversity officer’s progress is falling short of leadership’s expectations — the following suggestions can help keep your diversity program on track:

Hire a CDO as early as possible

Building a diversity and inclusion initiative from the ground up gives a diversity officers the chance to focus on moving the organization forward, instead of correcting past mistakes. Most who participated in Witt/Keiffer’s survey (84 percent) started before their organization had a strategic diversity and inclusion plan.

While some may have had to adjust certain initial elements that had been put in place, the majority said they didn’t have to spend significant time fixing existing issues; and, likely as a result, a sizeable amount —  88 percent — felt positively about their first year’s accomplishments.

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Allow chief diversity officers to question current practices

The CDO should be able to customize the diversity program, based on what will work best for the company. Training, for instance, has typically been regarded as a popular way to increase diversity awareness within an organization; an analysis of decades worth of data, however, found the effects aren’t always long-term — and mandatory diversity training can, in fact, actually produce an adverse effect, lowering some groups’ representation.

For companies that are struggling to increase the representation of black and Asian female managers and Asian managers who are male, for example, mentoring opportunities and voluntary diversity training may be more effective, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review about the findings.

Back the CDO’s requests

A lack of resources can be the biggest challenge executives who accept a CDO position face during their first year — even if diversity program intentions and the cultural climate within the organization is favorable, according to Witt/Keiffer’s findings. Yet more than half (53 percent) of chief diversity officers say key program components weren’t available. Providing the budget, staff and other items the CDO identifies a need for can help increase the probability an organization’s diversity and inclusion initiative will be successful.

For more thoughts on enhancing your diversity and inclusion efforts, view these blog posts on the top 5 diversity training and other features your program should include, determining whether your organization should incorporate a CDO position or put someone else in charge of its diversity program, diversity missteps you may be making and sharing your diversity program successes.

Our white paper on how to establish the most effective diversity and inclusion initiative may also provide some additionally helpful information.