Where should responsibility for diversity and inclusion (D&I) reside within an organization? The location can have a big influence on the ultimate impact of D&I policies.  Located only at the senior level, a strategy may lack effective implementation. Located in HR and the focus may be too heavily on recruitment. Located in Corporate Social Responsibility and it may overly emphasis the social impact. So where should it reside in order to be the most effective?


A noticeable shift…

Long before TRIEC was founded in 2003, organizations were creating capacity for D&I specialists and strategists to advise senior organizational leaders, whether driven by compliance, the bottom line or their brand. Lately, however, we’ve observed a shift away from in-house D&I professionals.

At first, D&I directors – positioned at senior levels to influence organizational strategy – were gradually replaced by managers or coordinator-level staff. Later, many organizations stopped resourcing these roles in a dedicated way altogether. Instead, D&I responsibilities moved elsewhere in the organization, often to human resources, strategic talent management, organizational development and effectiveness or learning and development.


… with a noticeable impact

Organizations are fluid and dynamic and these shifts are not unique to D&I. Rather, it’s often the result of familiar ‘build or buy’ pressures on the bottom line.  With more than half of Toronto’s metropolitan population and workforce born outside of Canada, organizations that went through this shift continue to see the value of inclusive workplaces and have diversity goals. But this shift can have two effects we’ve observed.

First, organizations that stopped having senior diversity and inclusion staffers had reduced opportunities to apply a dedicated D&I lens to strategic brainstorming and decision-making as well as support across the enterprise. Second, D&I work had the potential to become more tactical in nature, as it was increasingly delegated to others responsible for a wider range of deliverables.


Another possibility

Fortunately, D&I can reside in other departments. Increasingly, organizations are resourcing corporate social responsibility or sustainability roles, providing new opportunities for D&I. Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) promotes 19 qualities of transformational companies, one of which – Inclusive Business – speaks directly to “expand[ing] opportunities for all populations as employees” in order to “address systemic societal risks, challenges and opportunities,” such as those resulting from a culturally diversifying workforce.


So where should D&I be located?

No one answer to that question will fit for every organization. Indeed, we’ve seen a couple of new dedicated D&I managers installed at some of the large organizations we work with. Every organization needs both strategic and tactical capacity from senior and operational staff but each organization needs to consider its own unique context and culture to identify the best place for D&I responsibilities to reside in order to have the desired impact. So ask yourself – what does that mean for us?


Interested in talking about these ideas further? Email or call 416-944-1946 x 415.