Chief Diversity Officers are the Key to DEI Success 

A Chief Diversity Officer, a woman wearing a brown blazer with matching hijab while talking to a woman with long hair. An ipad sits on the desk in front of them wile they review key documents.
Drive inclusion with strategic diversity and inclusion consulting

Equity, diversity and inclusion (DEI) are hot topics in the modern workplace. But for it to be truly successful, companies and organizations must be strategic, and prioritize the work appropriately. A Chief Diversity Officer should play a key role in that strategy.

Maybe you’ve engaged DEI consultants for workshops in the past, or attended a DEI strategy presentation at a conference that made you excited to bring what you learned back to your workplace. Effective DEI work cannot be done by one person alone: strategic planning, change management, and implementation require intention, dedication, and strong leadership. It would be very difficult for one person or team to take this work on while balancing other primary goals or outcomes. This, unfortunately, is often the case, where organizations create committees out of existing team members, adding to their workloads. 

If your organization already has a team made up of diverse individuals, it may feel easier to approach the work of DEI this way. We argue that this is an unsustainable approach! Making equity and inclusion work a strategic priority for your organization must include a dedicated officer, because it can be a huge undertaking to create and implement an effective, sustainable plan over time. 

This is where the role of a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is the key. A CDO’s typical duties will include creation of a DEI plan, consultation with the organization to determine its goals, and advising senior leadership to promote the success of the plan. An effective CDO will drive change, lead (sometimes sensitive) discussion, and push follow-through on actions for the organization to create a more inclusive work environment. 

Hiring a Full-Time Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)  

A traditional hire is a solid option for an organization looking to demonstrate their commitment to DEI work, starting from their organizational chart. Creating a position can be a good way to set up a business to have a long-term staff member dedicated to the strategic plan. This method is also easier to quantify in reporting, based on the number of hours or other resources used to hire and support the person in the role. 

This option can also have its drawbacks. It can be quite costly to create, and hire, a brand new position: in order to attract a highly talented candidate pool, industry standards can range from $135k to $275k annually — that’s before benefits, and does not include future adjustments for inflation or job performance. 

Finally, fitting a DEI specialist into a hierarchical structure can make the work more challenging. Conversations about equity can be sensitive, and crucially involve vulnerability and care that may be undermined by an organizational structure that places a CDO under the supervision of more senior staff, particularly at the outset of strategic planning. A person whose job can be affected directly by the people they are trying to educate can skew their ability to do their work effectively: DEI work is most effective when even the most senior members of an organization are involved in addressing inequalities, and implementing changes. 

The good news is, there is a solution to combat this particular challenge. 

Fractional CDOs — an alternative approach

A Fractional Chief Diversity Officer (FCDO) is a contractor — potentially a team of contractors — hired by an organization to guide their diversity and equity initiatives. Rather than creating a new role and trying to shoehorn them into an existing org chart, engaging an FCDO can provide an easier way to get a business or organization’s DEI work off the ground.

An FCDO is a consultant without the restraints of hierarchy, because they are naturally excluded from that dynamic. Their job is to bring a third-party perspective, informed by their expertise and experience. By using a contract-based approach, the autonomy and impartiality of the CDO’s position can be leveraged more effectively. This method also allows for increased flexibility, because you can choose to hire them for a specific project or time frame: the scalability of this approach makes it highly accessible to organizations of various sizes.

You can also think of contracting a Fractional CDO as a kind of “try before you buy” approach: if your goal is to eventually have a permanent position for this work, an FCDO can be a first step towards creating a structure that supports the long-term fit of such a role. An FCDO can even help identify existing talent in your organization, and help to train and coach them to be successful in a permanent CDO position. 

At MT Consulting Group, we are Canada’s sole provider of Fractional Chief Diversity Officer services. We understand that every organization faces unique challenges on their journey toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our Fractional CDOs stand as strategic partners, and we are ready to work with you, wherever you are with your organization or business goals. 

Learn more about our services and book your free consultation with us today by visiting our website. 

Kristin Michelle is a small-fat, feminist, freelance writer. She can be found reading, writing, and fibercrafting at [at]ramblereader on Instagram

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