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Chief Diversity Officer Job Description + Hiring Playbook

Morgan Lichtenstein
6 min read

Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts have become increasingly important in the workplace. Yet, according to a 2023 Pew Research study, only 33% of surveyed workers report that their workplace has a staff member who promotes DEI.

Suffice to say, there’s some work left to do.

If you're looking to make your workplace more inclusive, it may be time to hire a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). A CDO is a business executive whose primary purpose is to ensure an inclusive and diverse workforce within an organization.

Not sure whether adding a CDO to your team is the right choice? Below, we'll cover the basic job description and responsibilities of a CDO, along with some benefits of having one within your organization. From there, we'll provide some practical tips on what to look for when it comes to qualifications, education, experience, and more.

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About the Chief Diversity Officer

A Chief Diversity Officer is an experienced executive who builds actionable inclusion strategies and diversity initiatives for a company or organization. 

From there, these executive leaders build upon their DEI initiatives with diversity training, workplace activities, and other efforts across all departments. CDOs must also uphold important laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, throughout the organization.

CDOs work for a wide range of businesses and institutions, including schools, nonprofits, and even government agencies.


Do I Really Need a Chief Diversity Officer? 4 Key Impacts They Have in an Organization

Not convinced that your organization needs to hire a Chief Diversity Officer? There are a few compelling reasons to consider.

1. Makes Room At the Table For More Innovation and Better Ideas

Did you know that companies with more diversity tend to have higher innovation revenues (by as much as 36%)? 

The right Chief Diversity Officer can help to foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment where every employee feels as though their thoughts and perspectives are valued. 

In turn, these employees are able to share their unique ideas and bring their fresh perspectives to the table. 

2. Your Talent & Candidates Care About DEI

Another survey finds that up to 75% of workers would reconsider applying for a specific job if they were unhappy with the company's diversity and inclusion efforts. If your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts are lacking, then, you could be stifling the quality of the applicants you receive. 

Having a CDO on your team could help you recruit and retain more employees by making your business a more welcoming and appealing place to work for all.

3. Room For All, For Longer: Improved Employee Retention

According to a People Matters article, companies with strong DEI initiatives benefit from increased retention. Specifically, studies have shown that 20% of workers will stay in an organization for a longer time if the workplace supports diversity and inclusion. 

By hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, you can make sure that all steps are taken to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment, retaining your most valued employees in the process.

4. It Can Help Your Bottom Line, Too

75% of organizations with DEI initiatives are projected to exceed their goals and financial targets. There are many factors that may go into this, ranging from a more diverse talent pool bringing forth more innovative/profitable ideas to a healthier workplace culture cutting down on hiring/recruiting costs

Regardless, focusing on your company’s DEI efforts (with help from a Chief Diversity Officer) can have a direct impact on your bottom line.

Chief Diversity Officer Responsibilities and Duties

Ultimately, the duties and responsibilities of a Chief Diversity Officer will vary from one organization to the next based on its unique needs and goals. However, all CDOs are responsible for creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment for people from all walks of life, with common duties including:

  • Identifying areas of the organization's DEI policies/initiatives that could use improvement and building strategies for enhancing them.
  • Providing company training on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics.
  • Ensuring that the organization is following and upholding all laws related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and discrimination in the workplace.
  • Collecting data and/or researching the area's demographics and community to ensure that the workplace is well represented.
  • Communicating with other human resources teams and leaders/executives and reporting back on the success of diversity programs and inclusion initiatives.
  • Staying on top of the latest news, trends, and ideas in DEI initiative development and implementation.
  • Planning and hosting special events within the workplace that celebrate different cultures, bringing diverse backgrounds and perspectives together.
  • Properly addressing concerns or complaints from employees as they relate to DEI or discrimination issues.

Chief Diversity Officer Qualifications

Thinking about hiring a Chief Diversity Officer? There are some specific skills and qualifications that you may want to look for in your ideal candidate. Some of the most important hard skills that a CDO should possess include:

  • Public speaking experience with comfort and confidence advocating for inclusion both internally and externally.
  • Strong listening and communication skills (both written and verbal) including intercultural communication.
  • Problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.
  • The ability to stay impartial and objective in people matters, growth opportunities, and similar contexts.

Is My Company Ready To Hire a Chief Diversity Officer?

A knowledgeable and skilled CDO has a lot to offer any company, but there are a few scenarios where bringing a CDO on board may be especially critical.

  • Scenario 1: A business is looking to create a more inclusive work environment that will help to improve employee retention. Having a CDO on the team can help create a workplace that promotes employee growth and values all workers.
  • Scenario 2: A company wants to increase productivity and bring in new ideas with a more diverse and inclusive team. A CDO can help to revamp hiring processes and help the company attract a more diverse group of applicants.
  • Scenario 3: An organization is running into legal troubles when it comes to following anti-discrimination laws. They are looking for a full-time professional to help uphold these laws and create a better workplace for all.
  • Scenario 4: An organization is growing and becoming more diverse. You want to make sure that every employee feels valued and respected, and that the workplace remains as supportive and inclusive as possible with initiatives and systems that support this.
  • Scenario 5: A company is struggling with employee happiness and engagement. Bringing a Chief Diversity Officer on board can be a great way to address this issue. Specifically, a CDO can launch initiatives to improve workplace culture and DEI initiatives, which can directly improve employee satisfaction, productivity, and engagement.

Chief Diversity Officer Education

At the very least, a candidate for Chief Diversity Officer should hold a bachelor's degree in business or a related field, such as human resources, sociology, or even law. 

Because this is an executive-level position, however, it is not uncommon for organizations to seek CDO candidates with a more advanced degree. Specifically, a master's degree in human resources, sociology, public administration, psychology, or another related field may be desired.

In addition to a higher education and formal degree(s), proven experience working in human resource management or a similar role may also be preferred. Most companies looking to hire a CDO want someone with at least ten combined years of experience in a related field, as well as experience in a leadership role.


Chief Diversity Officer vs. Chief People Officer: What's the Difference?

As you explore the role of Chief Diversity Officer, you may encounter a similar role known as Chief People Officer. What's the difference between these two positions, and how can you know which is right for your organization? 

While both of these executive-level positions involve working with people and improving conditions for employees within the company, there are some key differences.

Chief Diversity Officer

Chief People Officer

Narrowly focused on matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. 

They’re dedicated to building and implementing diversity initiatives, inclusive workplaces, and equitable work practices related to job opportunities, holidays, wages, etc.

Focused primarily on being the leader of an organization's human resources team. 

Chief People Officers are multi-taskers who focus on everything from talent acquisition and benefits to training, employee relations, and payroll.

While DEI may be a part of their job, it's not the main focus. 


Who Does a Chief Diversity Officer Report To?

Who a Chief Diversity Officer reports to will depend on the organizational makeup of the company. However, a CDO typically reports directly to a company's President, Vice President, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), senior leadership, or other members of the board of directors.


Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer?

Chief Diversity Officers play an important role in creating more inclusive and diverse work environments for current and future employees, regardless of race, age, or sexual orientation.

A skilled CDO ensures that diversity goals are set, and strategic initiatives are in place to achieve key objectives.

If you're looking to add a CDO to your leadership team, Hunt Club can help. 

Our innovative, strategic approach to talent acquisition can help you fill your more critical positions with highly qualified candidates.

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