The Diversity Pipeline
Diversity executives are doing a mediocre job of preparing the next generation of diversity leaders.
Over the past several months, I have received a dozen or so calls from search firms looking for candidates for senior-level diversity executive roles. I often refer these opportunities to my network of diversity executive friends who may be looking for a new opportunity.
However, I realized there is a growing trend for well-known organizations, such as Campbell Soup Co., Sears Holdings Corp., BP and W.W. Grainger, to fill top diversity executive roles with external candidates.
I wonder if diversity leaders are developing their own successors.
Relying on search firms is a legitimate option for some organizations, but it may not always be the best course of action. In today’s market, the demand for senior-level diversity executives is exceeding the supply. I spoke with someone from an executive search organization recently, and she said that diversity roles are some of the hardest to fill because the pool of qualified talent is so small.
This should be of great concern to us in the diversity profession. A lack of planning and a shortage of top diversity talent within a firm diminish performance in the diversity function and can serve as a threat to an organization’s ability to execute its business strategy.
Our profession should do a better job of planning for our future talent needs by developing professionals internally. As the function becomes more sophisticated, we should explore formal development programs for future diversity executives, programs that define the competencies and stretch assignments needed to prepare the chief diversity executives of tomorrow.
Because senior diversity officers often work closely with the C-suite, the diversity leaders of tomorrow should gain experiences that will help them garner executive support. We need a deeper bench at or near the top to ensure the internal talent pool of diversity practitioners rises.
Without formal development plans, more organizations will be caught by surprise and realize they don’t know who is ready now, or will be ready in one to three years, for a diversity executive position.
I talk with diversity executives almost every day, and few view diversity roles as development assignments and not as work that needs to be done.