How To Hire A DE&I Lead And Set Them Up For Success

How to Hire a D&I Lead and Set Them Up for Success
How To Hire A DE&I Lead And Set Them Up For Success

Despite DEI investment falling to 27% in 2023 (down 33% from the previous year) and predicted to drop to just 20% in 2024, the question of how to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace continues to be a pressing question for businesses.

DE&I leads come in a range of job titles, such as Head of Diversity, Director of Diversity or Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officers. Whatever you choose to call them, their responsibilities remain the same. These leaders will play a crucial role in instigating changes within an organisation and steering them to a fairer, more inclusive place of work.

Following George Floyd’s murder and the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement, chief diversity and inclusion officers (CDIOs) became highly sought after. Companies hired these C-suite executives to show a commitment to improving diversity within their organisations, acknowledging that inclusion had not previously been a top priority. Data from LinkedIn reveals that CDIOs saw the largest growth in hires among US companies, increasing by 168.9% between 2019 and 2022, more than any other C-suite title. However, recruitment for this role is already declining, with high-profile businesses like Disney, Warner Bros, and Netflix parting ways with their diversity and inclusion leaders, despite some roles being created as recently as last year.

Diversity and inclusion leads are often new roles for many businesses, and hiring them and setting them up for success is a new challenge that many executives face.

How To Hire a D&I Lead

The person you choose to fill your DE&I lead role must have the right skillset and capacity to be able to drive real change. A successful DE&I lead will be passionate whilst also having an expertise in the field. This position requires a professional who can effortlessly move between many different roles and teams in the business. This is a role where cross-functional understanding is critical to make a business impact

A DE&I lead is often expected to be a coach, an advisor, a therapist, an educator and perspective broker all at the same time. They need to be involved within conversations around promotions and compensations, they need to work with PR and marketing teams to think inclusively about communications, and they need to be able to discuss policies with legislators.

These skills aren’t always easy to find, or recognise, especially when hiring a DE&I lead as an entirely new role. Here are a few interview questions that can help you to find the perfect DE&I lead for your business;

Can you describe a change you have made to a benefits policy which helped to make the programme more competitive?

Give an example of a time you have helped to mentor or coach someone. What improvements did you notice to their skills or knowledge?

What are some long-term objectives which you developed in your last role? How did you achieve them?

How have you demonstrated your commitment to diversity, and what does that mean to you?

What is your vision for diversity and inclusion at our organisation?

How To Set Your New DE&I Lead Up for Success

After finding the perfect candidate for your DE&I lead role, it is vital that you set them for success in your business. Hiring a DE&I lead is not enough; you need to make sure your entire organisation is prepared to work with them to make a change. This one person can’t be solely responsible for making changes to the whole business, and they will need the support and guidance of others.

In order for them to be successful, you need to consider a few important aspects;

The Role’s Purpose

If this is a new role for your business, you need to think carefully about the purpose behind it. Some organisations look to hire a DE&I lead just to be seen as though they are doing something. If this is the case for your company, then a D&I lead is not for you.

When this happens, the role is tokenised, and its only real purpose is to exist. No change will ever truly be made because the rest of the company and the people within will not support it. Consider who you want this new role to impact and why.

Is Your Business Ready?

In order to do real, meaningful work when it comes to diversity and inclusion, your business must be ready for it. This can mean complete overhauls of your existing business policies and processes. If you are not ready to allow these changes and prepared for a major shift, then a DE&I lead might not be a good move for your organisation.

Define Seniority and Accountability

For a DE&I lead to be successful, you need to be very clear on their seniority level and communicate it to your teams. DE&I leads should ideally be part of your senior leadership team, and so they need to be treated as one. Make sure they are included at your decision-making table and given the freedom to have a say on the company vision.

Not only that, but you need to clearly define the lines of accountability for the role. The D&I lead will impact your workforce, your products, your sales tactics and everything in between. This is a lot of responsibility for a new role to hold, and direct communication with all other managers is essential for keeping up to date with progress.

Set A Budget

Diversity, Equity and inclusion initiatives should have a dedicated budget, and this will differ depending on business size, industry, and company goals. When setting your budget, you should consider DE&I strategies, staffing costs, external partnerships and training resources. DE&I leads should be trusted to manage this budget as they are the ones with the expertise in this area.

Making Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Your Focus

If your company’s mission focuses on diversity and the fact that diverse workforces are more successful, then there has never been a better time to really practice the beliefs of the organisation and having someone leading diversity and inclusion in your business. With a D&I lead, you can foster innovation, engagement, improve your brand’s image and make it easier to recruit top talent too. This could be the best way to set your business up for success in 2024 and beyond.


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