You’re aware of the need to actively address issues relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion—most commonly referred to as DEI—within your company. You know you need to choose someone to take on the role of a DEI leader; someone who can craft and execute a plan of action for making the necessary changes. But how do you choose the right person for the job?
Look for Deep Expertise in the DEI Space
One of the biggest mistakes many companies make when they are considering a person to spearhead DEI initiatives is to target members of their current staff purely because they are members of marginalized groups, not because they have any experience or training in DEI. In doing this, you are likely setting that person up to fail, as they will not have the tools to do the job effectively. You are also potentially creating a situation where they may experience even more hardship on the job than they already do as a marginalized person. This is because they are being expected to take responsibility for work that they have not received adequate training for, but will still be judged negatively if their efforts fail. You would never hire, for example, a CFO without ensuring that they have the necessary skills and background to perform the job. The same holds true for DEI leadership positions. Look for a candidate who has expertise in this space and who has delivered demonstrable results.
Find a DEI Leader Who Can Bring People Together
Effectively implementing DEI initiatives requires the participation and engagement of everyone in your company, from the top down. On top of that, making lasting changes that support DEI within an organization can often be an uncomfortable experience for many people involved, especially those who most need to shift their behavior. Discomfort is a difficult but necessary part of unlearning behaviors and changing culture, and humans naturally resist discomfort. The right DEI leader will be able to unite and inspire people in spite of this.
Choose a Person With Strong Communication Skills
An effective DEI leader will be able to connect with people from all different backgrounds. They will also have the skills necessary to help people with differing viewpoints communicate with each other. Ideally, a DEI leader will be able to bridge the gap between team members with different worldviews so that they reach a common understanding. But at the very least, they should be able to help those people achieve an “agree to disagree” standpoint.
Look for Someone With a Strategic Approach to DEI
Successfully implementing permanent changes to any company’s policies and culture is a massive undertaking for almost any business, no matter what size. This is partly because people are naturally resistant to change. But it is also because those people in organizations who have the most influence to enact real changes tend also to have benefited most from the status quo and can therefore be reluctant to “shake things up” with new ideas. Making an effective shift toward DEI efforts requires a leader who is an expert at strategic implementation. This person will know how to create a workable plan for DEI efforts that will work in the real world—with real people.
Choosing the right person to lead your DEI initiatives doesn’t have to be an impossible task. It just requires taking the right approach and making the proper considerations for skills and expertise when you are searching for a candidate.
I’m Dr. Sangeeta Gupta, and I founded Gupta Consulting to help CDOs and HR leaders create and implement DEI programs that meet their organization’s unique needs.
Schedule a conversation with me today to learn more about our DEI solutions.