DEI lead and team.

Who should you engage in DEI work? And how should you divide responsibilities?

Action 1: Appointing a DEI lead.

As topics like racism and sexism receive more attention in media and workplaces, many organizations reflect on their culture and identify a need to hire a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), DEI lead, Diversity Director, D&I manager, or Chief culture officer. No matter how you call it, we are talking about an experienced senior leader responsible for driving the organization’s DEI efforts.

Let’s explore what to expect from a DEI lead, how to position them in the organization, and which pitfalls to watch out for.  

  • Who are you looking for?

Since structural DEI work has only recently gained momentum, finding someone with the proper knowledge and expertise is not an easy task.

It is possible to gain knowledge on the job if you allow a learning period. What are other essential skills for DEI professionals?

  • What do you expect from a DEI leader?

Reflect: Does this sound like a one-person job to you?

In many organizations, even big multinationals, this is presented as a realistic set of tasks and responsibilities for one person. However, even the most experienced DEI professionals will struggle and need a team of supporting staff to meet these expectations.

If you are not in the position to hire multiple staff, start with a limited set of responsibilities for your DEI lead. Have confidence that they can identify which additional tasks to take on without overburdening themselves.

  • How to position the role?

DEI is often thoughtlessly associated with HR or CSR. That may seem logical as it concerns people and social topics like equality. But we often see such positioning limiting the impact of DEI work.

“Some people may think, why can’t HR take care of diversity, equity, and inclusion? Isn’t that HR’s job? The simple answer is that most HR departments are not equipped to do so, nor have the time, skills, and staffing to tackle these crucial elements of today’s workforce. Therefore, with leadership’s support, hiring a Chief Diversity Officer is one way to ensure a company transforms into a work culture where all employees and customers are protected, safe, given an equal chance, and treated with dignity and respect.” (Minor, 2021)

DEI is a specialty that requires unique knowledge and a unique approach. Therefore, keeping it as independent as possible allows for an independent and critical review of the organization.

Our recommendation is to:

Collaboration between a DEI leader or team and other departments will be most valuable when it starts from an independent position. (e.g., with learning on training development, with HR on pay equality, with communications on screening marketing campaigns, etc.)

  • What about resources?

As mentioned before, if an organization is deeply invested in and committed to DEI, it must back it up with resources.

Resources can come in different shapes and sizes: people, budget, time, and space.

Finally, you need leaders and employees to have an open mindset. Have honest conversations about what the organization is like today, what needs to change, what you would like to achieve, and how you can reach that goal together. That will help build a sense of community and create a platform and support for all future DEI actions.

Action 2: DEI ambassadors.

Ideally, every employee is engaged and actively involved, but as you can imagine, that is unlikely to happen. Usually, many organizations compose a core team of voluntary DEI ambassadors who drive and own the change process and necessary actions.

What should your DEI ambassador team look like? Make it a mix to make it work!

The benefits of a voluntary team?

The downsides of a voluntary team?

If you have a Chief Diversity Officer, allow them to lead the ambassadors. This way, they are guided and supported and can perform meaningful work to help reach your strategic goals.

If you do not have a DEI lead, appoint a leader within the ambassador team. Make sure responsibilities and expectations within the team are crystal clear. That will enhance the collaboration process and ensure better results.

Action 3: A stakeholder analysis.

As you work through the different steps of your DEI journey, you will find more people involved than you initially thought.

At this stage, practical action is to map all stakeholders.

Here are some guidelines and tools you can use for stakeholder analysis:

If you know your stakeholders, you can call upon them when the opportunity presents itself. That will make work more efficient. In addition, it can be helpful to explain your stakeholder analysis to your top leadership or executive sponsor. That will give them an idea of how all efforts will involve people in different levels, departments, etc.  

Become a DEI expert.