Five Tips to Help Design the Chief Diversity Officer Role

November 7, 2022 – A diverse workforce is essential to the success of an organization. And when it comes to building strong teams, successful organizations focus on developing a more inclusive culture that welcomes and supports diverse leaders and talent. Many companies have created diversity, equity, and inclusion roles to align with their strategic goals and create a sense of belonging for employees. These goals are often centered on diversifying the workforce, expanding supplier diversity, and improving employee engagement.

Numerous studies show that diverse teams are more innovative and successful than their homogenous counterparts. Developing a culture that’s centered on belonging increases psychological safety and overall team engagement, which accelerates performance across several key metrics: Diverse teams are 35 percent more likely to outperform their competition; they achieve higher revenues by 19 percent; their performance shows an increase of 56 percent; and they have 50 percent less turnover.

As the job market becomes more competitive, DEI jobs are in higher demand. With candidates being courted for multiple opportunities at once, companies must be mindful as they consider the framework for positions like chief diversity officer. In a new report, Sally Stetson of Salveson Stetson Group offers five key tips to guide you as you prepare to enter the talent market for this important role:

1. Commitment to DEI

Diversity officers must understand how committed your company is to DEI, where the organization is on the journey, and if there is executive and board sponsorship. “Strong organizations do more than include people at the table,” said Salveson Stetson Group. “They back this commitment with measurable goals, accountability, and resources to ensure the work is sustainable.”

2. DEI Job Titles

DEI is a growth field where you can choose the best title to suit your organization using some of the most common titles available in the job market. The most popular job titles for diversity, equity and inclusion include:

  • Chief Diversity Officer—Chief DE&I, head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
  • Vice President of Diversity—VP of DE&I, VP of culture, VP of inclusion and belonging.
  • Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion—Diversity director, director of culture.

DEI titles typically vary based on the size of the organization.

Related: Achieving Diversity in Private Equity

3. Who Does the Chief Diversity Officer Report To?

The CDO may report directly to the CEO, COO, CHRO, and sometimes the VP of talent, said Salveson Stetson Group. In any case, candidates want to precisely know the rationale for the existing reporting relationship, if they have access to executives at all levels, how progress and concerns are reported to the board of directors and how success will be measured.

4. Individual Contributor vs. Manager

Organizations just starting their DEI journey may design the position to serve as an individual contributor with more grassroots support within the organization. Larger organizations and those further along the journey tend to have a DEI team reporting to a leader. “Depending on your goals, you’ll need to decide the level of support required for the DEI leader to impact the company and achieve successful outcomes positively,” said the report.

Diversity and Inclusion Trends for 2023
These days, clients care more about D&I hiring because it is the right thing to do as opposed to for financial reasons, says a new report from Sheffield Haworth.  Companies are also showing a growing determination to measure the effectiveness of their diversity efforts and find practical solutions to problems. 

Considerations include: Will the DEI leader have access to other consulting resources or colleagues to get the work done? Is the organization open to adding team members to meet the needs of a DEI strategy? What is the budget to support the strategy and priorities?

5. DEI Leadership Competencies

Some candidates gained their DEI experience while working in human resources, and others moved into DEI roles from other functional areas, including marketing, operations, etc. Consider your goals when determining what kind of business and leadership experience is needed but remember to focus on the core competencies versus experience.

“As with any role, candidates want to ensure they are aligned with the company’s vision, business goals, and overall approach,” said the report. “However, with DEI roles, this is heightened. DEI leaders want to work with companies open to thinking differently, operating transparently, and focusing on diversifying the workforce at all levels.”

“As you begin recruiting your next chief diversity officer, keep these five critical considerations in mind to find the right candidate – someone who will align with your vision, drive results, and move your organization’s DEI journey forward,” said the report.

Proven Search Consultants

Founded in 1996 by John Salveson and Ms. Stetson, Salveson Stetson Group is today a multi-specialty search firm which places senior executives in a wide range of business positions, including: general management, sales, marketing, finance, operations, and human resources. The firm has several specialty practices in human resources and finance, with specialty practices in the life sciences and wholesale distribution sectors.

Ms. Stetson brings more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant. She has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit and professional services. Ms. Stetson also serves as practice leader for the firm’s human resources specialty practice. Prior to co-founding her firm, Ms. Stetson served as vice president of client services for Right Management Consultants and as vice president of W.K. Gray and Associates, an executive search firm. She also held senior human resources management positions at Thomas Jefferson University.

Related: The Importance of Setting Proper Diversity Targets

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments