How the Chief Diversity Officer is changing the face of the corporate boardroom

In the past year, there have been significant pressures on the business community to take action in order to bolster the representation of their workforces and provide opportunities for individuals to progress at each level.

This urgency stems primarily from the racial injustices we have witnessed across the globe, the delay in gender pay gap reporting as well as attention towards LGBT+ inclusion as a whole. The voice calling for organisations of all sizes to take meaningful action to improve their diversity is louder than ever before and the lack of positive action can be damaging to you your company’s reputation. This has galvanised some businesses, who haven’t already, to search for and hire their first Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), a positive step towards fundamentally, changing how organisations operate.

Why now?

There is a clear need to improve the diversity we see in businesses across an array of industries. We know that diverse teams perform better, and so the role of a CDO is to oversee the end-to-end diversity, inclusion, and fairness in the company.

The role of a CDO is a fairly new one within an organisation, and not something that existed 20 years ago. But its increasing importance comes from the strengthening diversity and inclusion strategies within organisations and the need for one individual to focus on bringing each aspect together.

This role is heavily reliant on influence. Across the board, we are now seeing a focus on ethnic diversity, as senior leadership teams and diversity in general is disproportionate to the population here. Interestingly, younger workforces are also now beginning to put pressure on older working generations to deliver on inclusion, with a CDO helping to shape the workforce and drive expectations for the future.

With employees, clients and customers all invested in the journey of their business and as the multiple impacts of the pandemic continue to unfold, leaders are seeking to re-energise their organisations and forge new paths. For example, analysis tells us that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies in the fourth quartile. Successful, forward-thinking businesses are the ones invested in inclusion, and this will now be at the core of a CDOs role for an organisations long-term strategy.

In order to make that hard-hitting change and ensure workplaces are more equitable, there are several key qualities that they should inherit.

Culture building mindset

The role of the Chief Diversity Officer goes a lot further than assessing and reporting on the numbers. Although today, they play a key role in working with human resources teams in relation to collecting, measuring and tracking diversity data, A good CDO will create meaningful actions from the findings too.

They need to play a critical role in creating a culture that embraces diversity, inclusivity and innovation, to better meet the needs of the diverse employee population. In working closely with their teams to inspire and encourage each person to achieve their goals and visions, the CDO can also ensure that each person feels comfortable and able to share their experiences. Organisations that provide a platform for all voices to be heard create a more engaged workforce and working environment too. Indeed, these measures can embrace anything from developing change and culture management initiatives, to building on and encouraging team members to attend networking events.

Network and communication builders

In a short space of time, we’ve come to see just how important communications are. With the workplace shifting from the office to a digital world, organisations need to be able to effectively communicate with their employees in order to support them. This isn’t just important for your business to succeed, but vital for your employees’ wellbeing and a CDO is in a great place to be able to offer organisations effective and innovative ways to fulfil this.
A CDO will need to be able to communicate across all levels of the business, drawing on the experiences of the employees to learn from, and in turn inform, the strategy and policies that underpin the business. This is not only about delivering results, but also building up a network and talent pipeline of highly skilled, dedicated professionals.

Working with passion

The ability to empower others is a key quality in a CDO. They will need to be able to work with the CEO and board to create a more diverse and inclusive company culture, as well as ensure that the talent pipeline is thriving with professionals of different backgrounds and experiences too.

As a passionate leader, this role also requires the individual to take a look at the business with vision and ambition in order to create a strategic plan for how the organisation can be enhanced. The role of a CDO is now broadening out, and organisations are looking to where synergy can exist, with some likely to include corporate social responsibility within their remit.

It’s becoming more and more evident that we need to add new diversity leadership roles into our organisations. Chief Diversity Officers will have a real passion for the role, needing to overcome the complex challenges and hurdles that lie within an organisation to work towards building a truly inclusive company. The time for a CDO on your team is now.

We know the importance that diversity of thought brings to an organisation. Our team are here to support you in making your chief diversity officer search. Get in touch to find out more.