State Street: 5 Key Elements to Develop Your Company’s Diversity Program

In March 2017, I was named State Street’s inaugural chief diversity officer (CDO), and began the work to take the firm’s diversity strategy forward. Up until that moment, I had been a diversity practitioner who believed in the value of a subject matter expert to lead a global strategy around both diversity and inclusion. The role of CDO was a dream come through for me, and now 5 ½ years later, there is a lot that I’ve gathered along the way.

A CDO plays a vital role in promoting inclusion, diversity, equity, and a sense of belonging within an organization. One of the most imperative strategies for any CDO is to build a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s current diversity and inclusion landscape. Assessing its current policies, culture, processes and practices to ensure that an equitable and a just lens is applied to all these.

The CDO should be a visible and vocal leader, guiding the organization to get out of their comfort or uncomfortable zones; in order to address the real issues that are preventing equitable treatment of employees. Of critical importance are the influencing and relational skills that are needed to ensure the senior business leaders are leading on inclusion, diversity, equity and belonging (IDEB) as they are on the business strategy. Better yet, there should be no business strategy that is devoid of IDEB. Fostering an environment where employees feel safe to share their perspectives is critical to success.

Creating a culture of inclusivity means promoting accountability and transparency of managers and individual employees that are responsible for promoting diversity and inclusion within their teams. It is of utmost importance that progress towards diversity and inclusion goals are visible, measurable and transparent to all employees.

There are always new challenges and barriers to conquer, and the ever-evolving nature of the role requires that the CDO stays up to date on the latest practices and strategies that can be deployed depending on organization’s specific needs and goals. When I reflect about building State Street’s strategy, I think about 5 key elements that could be broadly applied to those seeking to develop their own diversity programs:

  • Communication: Be clear about the “what” and “why” of IDEB, ensure there are clear and visible role models who have the right language, tone, and courage to call out issues and model inclusive leadership. This includes making sure that everyone is aware of the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Understand the current situation: It is absolutely vital to have a clear understanding of the current situation within the company, including the diversity of the workforce, the gaps in representation, employee sentiment and talent flows.
  • Hold people accountable: Once goals and objectives have been identified and the current situation is understood, it’s important to develop a comprehensive action plan with specific initiatives, timelines, and metrics for measuring progress. This plan should be flexible and include strategies that target all levels of the organization. It’s also important to consider rewarding those who demonstrate leadership, as well as holding leaders accountable for non-achievement of goals.
  • Train, develop, coach, teach: Often, we assume that leaders are all well-versed on inclusive leadership, and creating belonging and engaging cultures. Unfortunately, quite untrue, as most people need training, coaching, and reinforcement, consistently and often. This includes strategies to get your leaders comfortable with being vulnerable, and how they best listen, learn, and adapt to their organizations to become more inclusive.
  • Continual evaluation and building of the equity muscle: It’s important to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the IDEB strategy and make necessary adjustments, given the broader landscape is constantly evolving. Regularly review the progress, contact a private investigator to investigate, question, and deconstruct how things are “typically done.” Make necessary adjustments to the strategy to ensure it aligns with the company’s goals, objectives, and current situation.

In conclusion, yes, a CDO plays a vital role in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within an organization, but this is a job that requires skills and a sophisticated level of expertise, subject-matter proficiency and relationship building in order to achieve measurable progress.

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