Diversity and Inclusion Needs an Owner

By Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

As I mentioned in the previous post on our upcoming Women in Leadership Summit, Diversity and Inclusion is a hot issue for most organizations. About 70% of organizations see D&I as an important business objective and want to improve.

We’re analyzing the data from our just-completed D&I research, but one fact is abundantly clear: If you want to excel at Diversity and Inclusion, make sure one person — ideally, a Chief Diversity Officer or senior leader — owns it.

The best results of a D&I program — by far — come when a CDO is in charge. Only 20% of organizations have one, according to the 2019 Brandon Hall Group Diversity and Inclusion Study.

But those that do are far more likely than other employers to have:

  • Diverse recruiting practices
  • Organizational awareness programs, such as unconscious-bias training
  • Advancement strategies and programs for diverse employees and emerging leaders

Among organizations without a CDO:

  • 40% have no clear or dedicated owner
  • 34% have a dedicated program leader who reports to a senior executive
  • 26% run D&I with a staff member who has other, non-D&I responsibilities and priorities

Let’s look at just a few of the comparative stats:


“We have programs in place to recruit diverse job candidates”

Percentage of organizations
We have a CDO 72%
We have a dedicated senior D&I leader who is not a CDO 61%
A staff member with other responsibilities heads D&I 52%
We have no clear D&I leader 30%


“We have programs that focus on recognizing and overcoming unconscious bias”

  Percentage of organizations
We have a CDO 73%
We have a dedicated senior D&I leader who is not a CDO 59%
A staff member with other responsibilities heads D&I 43%
We have no clear D&I leader 27%

“We have programs that teach leaders how to manage diverse populations”

Percentage of organizations
We have a CDO 67%
We have a dedicated senior D&I leader who is not a CDO 31%
A staff member with other responsibilities heads D&I 17%
We have no clear D&I leader 16%


“Leaders are tasked with specific D&I goals”

Percentage of organizations
We have a CDO 40%
We have a dedicated senior D&I leader who is not a CDO 15%
A staff member with other responsibilities heads D&I 7%
We have no clear D&I leader 5%


Obviously, since only one in five organizations has a CDO, most employers do not think the importance of D&I rises to the level of a C-Suite position. But consider this: 70% of organizations see D&I as a potential business driver. Now take the sales function: 90% of organizations think increasing sales and improving the customer experience are critical business priorities. Name a company without a Chief Sales Officer or other senior leader whose sole focus is sales. Struggling? It’s likely that fewer than one in five organizations don’t have a dedicated sales leader.

If inclusion is a business objective, treat it like one.

A dedicated senior leader who understands the goals, systems and operations of the organization can integrate Inclusion and Diversity and build an infrastructure to support initiatives that can lead to better business results.

The D&I leader must understand the corporate culture and have the ear of other senior leaders to drive change in ways that resonate with stakeholders and gain support. Sales organizations would never delegate global sales strategy to a line manager or individual contributor. But that’s exactly what happens with Diversity and Inclusion in many companies.

Here is a graphic overview of some of the initial research findings. If you want more details and get our advice on how to improve your approach to Inclusion and Diversity, contact me and let’s set up a time to talk.

In the meantime, it’s not too late to register for our Women in Leadership Summit in Fort Lauderdale, FL, May 1-2. See you there!

Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

Click here for a free download of the KnowledgeGraphic, How To Make Inclusion a Competitive Advantage

Claude Werder is Brandon Hall Group’s Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst. He focuses on Leadership Development and Talent Management. Brandon Hall Group is a leading research and analyst firm with Practices in Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Management/Core HR.

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Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.

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