COVID-19, widespread social unrest in the wake of the death
of George Floyd, global demands for racial, social, and economic justice, and
rising divisiveness in politics worldwide combined to make 2020 an unimaginably
tumultuous year for everyone.
The cumulative effect has been even greater for those who
work in the field of DE&I. These unparalleled challenges have had the added
impact of the uneven weight placed on underrepresented groups and women, which
will persist into 2021.
The pressure to move from rhetoric to real change has never
been more acute than in 2020. Meaningful progress is the expectation for 2021.
The call to publicly disclose diversity data and goals will become more
pressing in 2021, only increasing that pressure.
Most DE&I executives are shoring up cultural elements,
with ongoing organization-wide DE&I education and the need to build up
communities in a virtual setting being two prominent challenges. Many are also
ramping up metrics, transparency, and accountability, with particular emphasis
at the leadership level and in choosing DE&I metrics to disclose publicly.
The new year will see increased emphasis on the talent
acquisition process, with the expectation of improved diverse representation at
all phases. And not surprisingly, many CDOs are looking at structural changes
to their functions to adapt to both the urgent underscoring of racial and
social equity and the shift of large segments of the workforce to working
CDO Priorities & Predictions
1. Organization-wide DE&I enablement
While most organizations provide DE&I training (which is mandated by
many), ensuring ongoing education and better effectiveness is a 2021 focal
point for over half of the members of i4cp’s CDO Board. More organizations are
improving their bias training programs and also facilitating peer-to-peer
dialogue and town halls on issues of race and inclusion. Other enablement
initiatives include bias audits of all talent management functions and strengthening
development programs for underrepresented groups.
2. Build and maintain cultural cohesion
As unrest related to racial and social inequities boiled over in 2020,
organizations turned to employee/business resource groups (ERGs/BRGs), which
were instrumental in advising on and guiding meaningful response in both their
organizations and the communities in which they operate. This has compelled
some companies to look at restructuring and empowering employee groups to be
more effective and rewarding going forward for participants and leaders alike
(i.e., dedicated on-the-clock time, administrative support, greater visibility,
more resources, leadership training). There is also a small but growing
movement towards compensating volunteer leaders who dedicate their time and
passion to supporting their organizations while raising the visibility and
engagement of their groups.
3. Metrics, accountability, and transparency
Strengthening and refining metrics has been a focus of CDOs for many
years, but 2020 accelerated the need for greater transparency, effectiveness
metrics for equity initiatives, and accountability for leaders at all levels.
While rules and guidance regarding non-financial metrics vary by country and
range from sweeping (e.g., the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation) to
imprecise, such as new human capital disclosure requirements from the U.S. SEC,
it is clear that organizations that tout diversity as a strength will be
required to disclose evidence to support those claims. Forward-looking metrics
implemented in some high-performance organizations include talent bench
diversity, inclusion scorecards for managers and employees, deeper analysis of
candidate sourcing and hiring, and participation in ERG/BRGs. Increasingly,
companies are examining executive compensation ties to diversity goals.
4. Structural changes to increase effectiveness
In line with the need for greater accountability, many
organizations are reexamining DE&I governance. This includes a clear model
for reporting DE&I actions and outcomes to the C-suite and board. Areas
being redesigned include supplier diversity, a revamped ERG/BRG model,
alignment of DE&I committees throughout the organization, building diverse
partner relations (i.e., community, education, business organizations), and
changes to the overall DE&I team structure.
For more insights from Chief Diversity, Equity, and
Inclusion Officers, download
our 2021 Priorities & Predictions report.