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Annie Qureshi



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3 Essential Guidelines to Hire a Diversity Officer


Diversity has been a prime focus of many organizations for the past 20 years. However, the discussion started heating up more than ever over the past year. Google engineer James Damore created controversy when he released his memo on biological differences between male and female employees last summer. This drove more organizations to evaluate their diversity efforts.

While many companies are making since efforts to increase diversity, they may not be administering their diversity programs effectively. Their shortcomings often stem from hiring the wrong diversity officers and failing to train them appropriately. Here are some guidelines to avoid these issues.

Establish your diversity goals before interviewing candidates

One of the reasons that diversity efforts often fail is that they set very vague goals. “Improving diversity” is not nearly specific enough. It is important to identify specific areas where diversity efforts have fallen short and identify practical solutions to address them.

You should begin by conducting a diversity audit. What groups are underrepresented in your organization? You may find that racial diversity targets are exceeding the industry average, so less effort needs to be extended in that area. On the other hand, gender diversity maybe an area that requires a lot of improvement.

It is a good idea to take a more granular look at departmental level data in organizations with head counts of over 50 employees. You may find that organization-wide diversity figures are impressive, but more diversity is needed in some jobs.

Once you have established diversity deficits, it is important to outline a strategy to meet them. You will need to find a diversity officer that can help you execute the strategy or provide a more effective alternative.

Hiring a diversity officer

As with many positions, some people sincerely strive to live up to their job description, while others merely want to fill a seat to collect a paycheck. Even among those that are driven to exceed expectations, there is a shortage of qualified candidates that can actually deliver on their promises.

People seeking employment as diversity officers are no exception. You need to know how to screen them during the hiring process. Here are some things to look for while conducting interviews for a new diversity officer.

See how they intend to incorporate employee feedback in their diversity models

Too many organizations and diversity officers believe that raw data exemplifies the success of their diversity initiatives. Once a group’s representation reaches parity with its representation in the general population, they assume that their efforts have been a success.

The problem is that underrepresented groups may not share those sentiments. They need to feel that their contributions are respected. Bank of America conducts periodic surveys to see how groups feel about diversity efforts and the degree to which managers appreciate their work. Other diversity officers should do the same.

Know how to utilize new communication methodologies

In 2018, it is essential to provide seamless communication between all employees. Diversity officers must understand the technology that makes this possible. Here are some reasons that these competencies are so important for diversity officers:

  • They must understand the importance of tracking communications between employees to ensure compliance with diversity policies.
  • They must make timely announcements to address new diversity initiatives.
  • They must use technology to respond to these issues in a timely way.

Diversity officers must make use of the latest tools to achieve their career goals. This entails understanding webinar meaning and how webinars can be used to conduct diversity training programs.

It is a good idea to assess the diversity officer’s technical competencies during the interview. If they are not proficient with a particular communication system, you should determine their ability to learn it based on their familiarity with similar platforms.

Know how to provide constructive feedback to nondiverse employees.

Diversity programs must make a point of nurturing the company culture, which begins with every single employee. Non-diverse employees must understand and appreciate the nature of these programs.

Unfortunately, some diversity programs undermine their effectiveness by providing overly harsh feedback to groups that make up the majority of the organization. This often leaves them feeling jaded and unlikely to conform to the new expectations.

Your new diversity officer will know how to present feedback in a nonthreatening and constructive way.

Knows how to ensure a stable diversity program without lowering the bar on nondiverse employees

Vidya Narayanan, a former Google manager that launched her own startup, acknowledged that she hired women employees that were unqualified, solely so she could boost diversity. Not only was this a poor business decision, but it also hurt the perception of the qualifications of other female employees that did meet their expectations.

Don’t make this mistake. The long-term success of any diversity program hinges on the company‘s ability to onboard staff that align with company goals. All employees are going to work together more harmoniously if they all demonstrate similar competency levels. Rather than lowering the bar on expectations for nondiverse employees, diversity officers must help them reach their true potential.

Meeting this goal requires them to do two things:

  • Increase the pipeline of non-diverse candidates, which may include tapping professional organizations and academic programs that are composed of nondiverse professionals.
  • Building close relationships with other managers that can provide the right mentoring programs to help them thrive.

Over the long term, this is going to and sure the viability of your diversity program.

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