The DDC Systematic Approach

My first 3 articles focused on the selection process to obtain the best possible Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) candidate for your organization, then transitioned to Step 1 of the DDC approach – the Assessment.  Before exploring Step 2, I wanted to add a bit more texture to Step 1.  It starts by gathering key information on the company i.e. the vision statement, values, and demographic composition of all levels of the organization. This information helps the CDO frame confidential 1 on 1’s with each member of the leadership group starting with the CEO.  These sessions are critical to obtain a relationship of trust allowing for a free and honest sharing of information to the CDO, which is best achieved by utilizing an outside resource.

Once these 1 on 1’s are completed, the CDO meets with the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) twice with the goal of reaching alignment. The first meeting focuses on sharing D & I priorities, solidifying key D & I definitions, and finalizing the Vision of Success (VOS). The second meeting revolves around integrating a D & I lens and actions around the current/future Annual Plan. Next, the ELT establishes measurement components (outcomes vs. impact) utilizing the measurement technique currently used by the organization i.e. SMART, FAST, etc. Finally, a communications plan is established to cascade the good work done by the ELT, led by the CEO.

Avoid the tactical trap of deploying a series of D&I related courses right from the start.

We begin with a thoughtful approach centered around your ELT, as those are key people who will carry the ideas forward.

Once the aforementioned steps have been completed, three new key steps need to be energized.  First, a D & I Council needs to be established and comprised of a diverse group of “high potential” employees. The right Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) should lead this selection of this group and with the lead of the Succession Planning process in the organization. The CDO should also lead the guidance and implementation of this group. The primary purpose for this group should be to provide the CEO & the ELT with honest and constructive input on a regular basis. The company vision, values, and VOS need to guide this group, so it stays focused on its primary mission, optimizing the engagement of all employees leading to improved results.

The second part of this step centers around the CDO meeting with each ELT member and his/her key team member(s). Why? To take a similar approach within each business unit, as undertaken by the ELT. This action step helps ensure that the D & I lens, along with accountability, is cascaded throughout the company. The CDO partners with each ELT member to ensure integrity and continuity within the entire company.

Finally, the CDO needs to shape the Learning and Development (L & D) roadmap for the organization, as part of the 4-5-year strategic D & I plan. While every company’s needs will vary, I strongly urge you, the CEO, to focus on the ELT, first. Build and improve the skills of this level to optimize your results. Avoid the tactical trap of doing a bunch of D & I related courses, initially, like so many companies do. The best tool for 1 on 1 development for the ELT is the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). As a certified administrator with significant experience with the IDI, I can administer and coach your team to expand their skill set in selecting and developing a diverse team through real world and effective guidance.

A Guide to Implementing D&I

In my first two articles, I focused on the selection of the right person to lead your organization’s Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) initiative. With that critical decision made, how do I begin?  With best intentions, most companies focus on specific classes, i.e. Unconscious Bias, etc. targeting and attended primarily by employees at mid to lower levels of the organization. The theory is that creating better civil discourse at this level creates a more inclusive and more harmonious workforce. 

I have conducted my fair share of D & I learning sessions, and there is some excellent curriculum and instructors out there. Here is my concern. Unfortunately, there are other approaches that do more harm than good. D & I classes occur due to a desire to impact Civil Discourse quickly and positively, especially in today’s polarized world that is seeping into the workplace more and more every day. However, despite the good intentions, impact is minimal and can even be disruptive for the organization. Why??

A vast majority of companies take a tactical approach to D&I implementation, but there’s a far more effective way forward.

The correct DEI strategy needs to impact EVERY aspect of your business. It can’t be a human resources or PR initiative – It needs to be real.

A vast majority of companies take a very tactical approach to D & I implementation. D & I education surely seems like the right thing to do. But, there is a far more effective way forward. The DDC Approach takes a very laser focused, strategic process that starts with you, the CEO, and your Executive Leadership Team (ELT). The “Approach” begins with a comprehensive ELT assessment and alignment process that sets the foundation for your company’s 4-5-year strategic D & I journey.

There are several critical steps in the assessment component that produces key definitions and a Vision of Success (VOS) that support your specific culture and its current vision, mission, and values. Most importantly, it allows for ELT input that helps create alignment and integration of DEI while laying a foundation for a strategic roadmap that embraces and supports your vision for the organization.

Achieving success with this part of the process will depend on the skill set of your Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) that you have selected. By now, I’m positive that you are asking yourself:  “What’s the potential pitfall to taking this step?” Candidly, I advise NOT moving forward, if you are not prepared to assign a CDO title with this person reporting directly to you, the CEO. 

If you are truly committed and believe that the right DEI approach will enhance your strategic results, then move forward. If not, expect mediocre results at best. It starts with the selection of the right person followed closely by the approach that optimizes the overall outcomes and impact that you seek for you organization. Remember, the correct DEI strategy needs to impact EVERY aspect of your business. It can’t be a human resources or PR initiative. It needs to be real.

Selecting The Right D&I Lead

As the CEO of a small or mid-sized organization, you understand the urgent need to take a significant step forward in your DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) efforts. You want to take the right approach, but resources are tight. Your instinct is to proceed slowly and thoughtfully. This critical decision revolves around selecting the right person to lead your efforts. In my first article, I offered several tips on how to go about this critical decision.

So, let us dig into this selection process even further. The person that you select and their title, yes, their title, will send a message within the company on how sincere you are along with your personal commitment level. For example, I recently worked with a new President of a large gaming company who was sincerely committed to take the right steps forward. He truly wanted his business unit to lead this multi business organization in the Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) arena.

My strong advice is to find a highly qualified person, inside or outside of the organization, while being cost conscious.

If you already have someone who can absorb this role internally, you are very fortunate. Most likely, you will have to look outside.

Unfortunately, many in his employee base came to a quick determination that his actions were a token not to be taken seriously. Why?? He hired a wonderfully dedicated women but brought her in at a “Manager’s” level. While she had a strong passion and desire to succeed, her background, skillset, and experience reflected this entry level title. To make matters worse, she was faced with a matrix reporting relationship which created total confusion. Predictably, the results have been minimal and frustration levels are high.

Here is the moral to this story. This very large and financially successful conglomerate could only muster a “Director” level as the company’s D & I lead. Now, here you sit as a small to mid-sized CEO trying to chart a course back to financial viability. Your organization’s resources are stretched, especially in these turbulent times. So, what is the answer??

My strong advice is to find a highly qualified person, inside or outside of the organization, while being cost conscious.  Seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? This strategic move is no different than any other that you have or will make in the future. Throwing money, money you do not have, at this strategic imperative is not the answer. As I have mentioned before, a well thought out strategic plan that integrates with your current strategic plan is the way to go. So many organizations of all sizes often take a very tactical approach that focuses on entry level employee training versus a more strategic top down plan. 

My next article will provide recommendations on how to focus on the right steps for your organization, once you have selected the correct person who can provide real and sustainable results for the organization, now and in the future. If you have this person who can absorb this role internally, you are very fortunate. Most likely, you will have to look outside.  Consultants are a dime a dozen; a sunset “Fractional” CDO (Chief Diversity Officer) may meet the qualifications and cost criteria. Feel free to reach out to find out how this can work for you.

The Truth About Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) is on just about every business leader’s radar these days. But even more important is business continuity due to COVID-19. No industry has been spared, while some businesses have fared better than others. As a CEO, how do you assess what needs to be done in the D & I space and how do you find the time and money when business resources are being stretched to the max? What’s the right answer for my business?

Most internal D&I attempts hit the wrong mark and are driven by tactics instead of strategy.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.

The truth is that every business is different. The culture is different. Values are different. The size of the organization makes a significant difference. The industry is a key factor. And, how do I afford this investment, especially at this time. There is no “one size fits all” solution. Many CEO’s delegate this key business factor to the HR lead in the organization expecting this person to “get it done.” 

The problem with this approach is that many HR leads are overloaded with current responsibilities, and often, they have limited experience in this area. D & I has recently added an “E,” DEI into the descriptors of this area. The “E” is equity, and the HR lead is generally in a good place to handle this part of the equation through annual salary structure reviews along with advocating for Equity in promotions.

However, most internal attempts hit the wrong mark and are driven by tactics vs a strategy.  Any attempts at D & I should start with an assessment and gap analysis with the leadership of the company.  Once effectively diagnosed, your company needs to create executive alignment on priorities and pace of the process. And, the D & I strategy needs to be embedded into your current culture and strategic plans vs a stand-alone strategy.

A vast majority of the time, the answer is seeking an outside perspective. Easy to say, but finding the right person is critical. It will require the CEO’s direct involvement with this selection process. Hopefully, I have provided you with some key questions to ask. The most important part of the selection decision is to find a solution that provides a bridge tailored to your culture and is cost effective. A “sunset” Fractional CDO (Chief Diversity Officer) approach could be your answer to optimizing this decision.