The problem with hiring D&I leaders

Lydia Watson

Lydia Watson

It can only be a good thing that the world is talking about how to create a diverse, equal, and safer society. But talking needs to be followed by doing - and for many organisations, one visible action has been hiring a D&I professional.

Learn why and how you should promote diversity in your leadership teams

The situation: diversity jobs are on the rise

Whether motivated by genuine values, or aware of the need to publicly take a position, more and more companies have been creating D&I jobs. There’s been a 67% rise across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) - with the UK the top of the leaderboard.

Compared to HR positions, D&I jobs grew 1.65x faster - with any slowed progress from Covid-19 now clearly over. It’s a clear sign that organisations know that diversity, inclusion, and equity should be a business priority.

The positives: the clear benefits of diversity in the workplace

  • Improves your image: you’re 22% more likely to be seen as “industry-leading” if you have a D&I professional on staff, and 12% more likely to be seen as an inclusive workplace. That’s attractive to customers, partners, and future and current employees.
  • Adds strategic value: we all know by now that diverse teams are more productive and profitable, so taking some kind of tangible step towards encouraging it can only be positive - right? 

The negatives: even top diversity leaders may struggle to make change happen

  • They’re relatively new to their role

Start any job, and it’s going to take a couple of months minimum to properly get going - and that’s in an established role, where you fit cleanly into the existing hierarchy. For many D&I leaders, they’re both new (with 2/3rds hired in the past three years) and a new role completely. 

  • They’re in small, siloed teams

They’re often not just new, they’re on their own. 77% of Diversity & Inclusion hires are in senior or director positions - with just one in five at entry level. Many might be expected to gradually grow their team but, for now, they’re going at it solo without any junior support.

  • They’re up against an established culture

New and working alone: that’s not a good position to completely change company culture. For mature organisations, this will be an even trickier task - as there may be resistance to changing processes and procedures at the behest of a new hire. 

  • They’re not supported by leadership 

To make a difference, then, you need leadership support - but in one survey, leaders put D&I last on a list of eight business priorities. “Buy-in” from the top team is absolutely essential, as they define what an organisation’s purpose and values really are.

  • They’re lacking budget and resources

The other reason you need leadership support? To get a decent budget. Over 50% of D&I leaders said they lacked the resources they needed to get their initiatives started, and - without the financial backing of their leaders - their ideas stay as just ideas.

  • They’ve got too much to do

At this point, it’s easy to see how diversity professionals can be set up to fail. And we haven’t even considered the sheer scope of their role. From recruitment and engagement, to considering supplier relationships and external comms, they’ve got a lot to do for what is often a one-person team that's already lacking support.

  • They don’t have data for a business case

To get everyone on side, they need a strong case - and that means data. But 35% don’t have the demographic information they need, and others aren’t given the right survey tools. Some are even blocked from using metrics, for fear of uncovering uncomfortable truths.. 

The solution? All leaders should be D&I leaders

If you have the capacity to hire an in-house D&I and give them the funding, backing, and genuine support they need to succeed: great. But that’s not the case for every organisation, and hiring just one D&I leader without thinking it through could leave them frustrated and ineffective.

The bottom line is that every leader should be a D&I leader. Because changing a company’s culture and values has to come from the top: from supporting and funding D&i initiatives, to enforcing fair and equitable hiring and progression policies, to think about the organisation’s contribution to social justice. 

For the tools and guidance to make D&I a part of your strategy, discover our solution:

Diversity and inclusion survey button

Topics: Diversity & Inclusion

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