By Jim Fox

Senior Vice President of Human Resources
The RightThing

As the war on talent intensifies and globalization continues to drive future business practices, corporate attitudes on diversity and inclusion have shifted from a moral obligation to a business imperative. Today, the rise of the global economy has led many organizations to understand the importance of hiring employees from different backgrounds and experiences who can work with and lead diverse groups. Mounting research has shown that when diversity programs are utilized correctly, these initiatives can drive profit, increase productivity, innovation and market share, improve retention, and reduce lawsuits. This has led many companies to strategically incorporate diversity specialists at the executive level into the organization, namely Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs).

“Because the CDO concept remains fairly new, talent pools are often limited when identifying individuals with prior experience in this position.”

Defining the role

Leading diversity initiatives at an executive level require a special skill set to implement and drive the organization’s strategic goals. Prior to execution, it is imperative to clearly define the objectives, responsibilities and value proposition for the position. While specific duties may vary between organizations, typical responsibilities include owning the company’s diversity agenda by guiding efforts to conceptualize, define, assess, and cultivate diversity as a competitive differentiator. It’s vital to understand the role of the CDO requires an individual to collaborate across all business units and functions, consequently, these individuals must be flexible, innovative and committed to fluidly adding value in the areas outside of their core area of expertise and experience. They must also be persistent by continuously pushing and strengthening strategic diversity messages across the organization, making them clearly visible and specific when addressing strategies and initiatives, and unwavering in times of uncertainty.

Finding the Perfect Fit

Because the CDO concept remains fairly new, talent pools are often limited when identifying individuals with prior experience in this position. Today, many organizations find and promote officers from a prior role in the organization in which they were successful; still others look externally. Today increased recruiting and sourcing sophistication through Web2.0 and social media has enabled organizations to widen their search to ensure the right fit. Resources and talent communities with a rich diversity focus such as LinkedIn user groups, blogs, and even public speakers provide a great place to start conversations, network and recruit. Additional networking with existing CDOs to gage interest and gain potential references is also key, as is attending national diversity conferences to network and identify candidates. Passive candidate sourcing on individuals who have had responsibilities leading diversity efforts for ERGs or affinity groups also provides a rich prospect.

Since most organizations will lack adequate coaching for this new role, a number of unique professional educational programs are available to provide a solid foundation to develop expertise and provide access to key resources. While the ideal candidate will already possess one or more of these credentials, companies who support and encourage obtaining these will see increased ROI.

As globalization and changing demographics continue to drive the future, key diversity leadership positions will take on increased importance directly correlated to business success. Progressive global organizations who commit to diversity leadership today will reap the benefits of tomorrow.

This article has been sponsored by:
WellPoint, Inc.