Not only is the role of the chief diversity officer growing and becoming more vital, but it’s evolving at a breakneck speed. In November 2020, LinkedIn reported that CDO was the fastest-growing C-suite title of the year, expanding at a rate of 84 percent compared with 2019. But considering how limited the size of a “diversity office” usually is, in both resources and staff, the importance of partnerships with other departments cannot be overstated.
In years past, the CDO typically partnered with an organization’s chief learning officer when it came to company-wide training for scaling diversity, inclusion and implicit bias. Although these endeavors are well-intentioned, research shows that over the decades, these programs at best fail to produce a more diverse workforce, and, at worst, negatively impact existing DEI efforts.
To bring about lasting change and improve DEI in talent development, it is crucial to reexamine the partnership between CLOs and CDOs in a way that will get the most leverage for both parties while solving real problems for employees. To do that, let’s focus on four key goals employers often propose to me when undertaking DEI strategies:
- Elevate underrepresented talent, especially Black and LatinX talent, beyond front-line roles.
- Companies want to make sure the community knows the work it’s doing to be an inclusive employer to accelerate the attraction of a more diverse workforce.
- Create a more inclusive environment so every employee feels that they belong.
- Implement clear objectives that can be measured to ensure DEI efforts are having the desired impact.
On the surface, these objectives may seem like they’re only aligned with talent acquisition, culture or people analytics. But each of these goals illustrate how the support of talent development draws a direct and clear path to the goals of a company’s diversity office. Rather than siloing these objectives onto separate teams, CLOs and CDOs can accomplish more by working together, while also measuring and tracking progress at the same time.
Elevate Black and LatinX talent beyond the front lines
In April, the National Student Clearinghouse reported the undergraduate enrollment rate since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the data is bleak, particularly for students in underrepresented populations: Enrollment for Black students is down by 9.9 percent, LatinX students fell by 8.2 percent, Native Americans dropped by 14 percent, and the rate for international students is down by 21 percent.
At the same time, many organizations are trying to increase representation in their exempt roles by focusing externally using college talent pipelines or from their fellow competitors — all while overlooking the Black and LatinX talent they already employ in their front lines. But because that talent is so underinvested, the chasm from starting as a nonexempt employee to becoming an exempt one seems uncrossable, as illustrated in this graph based on CEPR data.