Leadership always starts at the top and trickles down through an organization’s culture, values, mission, and vision and is nurtured by an organization’s employees. A good CEO or senior leader will offer clear direction, advice and motivates a team, but a great leader is one who leads by example. When it comes to building an inclusive company culture – this too starts at the leadership level.

In many cases, CEOs or C-Level leaders have little experience when it comes to diversity and inclusion as it has not been a part of their professional or personal experiences until recently. They recognize the importance and value that diversity can bring to a company’s culture and bottom line, but this is just a starting point. CEOs know the inherent value in inclusive leadership, but often don’t know where to start when it comes to cultivating a company culture that is truly inclusive.

Separate Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives From Traditional HR

The first assumption that leaders make is that Diversity and Inclusion practices, policies, and frameworks should be owned and driven by traditional Human Resources teams. Traditional human resource management responsibilities revolve mostly around people management and people operations. It is their responsibility to enforce and support company policies and procedures. When it comes to creating a Diversity & Inclusion strategy this responsibility should be owned outside of the traditional HR function and report directly to C-Suite leadership. Look to external experts or industry voices to help create and develop a Diversity and Inclusion framework, pipeline and strategy that can be followed across all departments and the organization. To create a successfully inclusive workforce, HR, Senior Leadership and DEI need to be aligned on the “what and why” purpose behind their DEI efforts. For example, asking “Why is DEI important to the company and What does diversity for us look like?” The CEO’s role within DEI is to drive awareness and lead by example. By having the right people in place and a strong support system around the CEO, he/she/they will be able to confidently drive DEI programs across the organization.

HR For The CEO

Since the CEO or C-Level leadership is the voice of the organization, speaking about diversity and inclusion is one aspect of this responsibility. However, at the leadership level, it can be isolating, in order for Diversity and Inclusion to flourish the CEO will need a confidant or outlet to voice any confusion, apprehensions or concerns and ask questions privately. Since Diversity and Inclusion have not been a large part of existing leadership’s professional experiences, the CEO will have questions and anxieties around its positioning, statements and actions. Identify someone in the C-Suite that is closely linked to the CEO or an external expert so that the CEO has a safe space to have these conversations. Within this safe space, the CEO can be vulnerable and voice their true feelings of confusion, fear, and apprehension.

Allowing for the CEO to have this safe space will allow for a greater understanding of the What and Why behind a company’s DEI initiatives and programs and how to better support them and their company.

Create A Culture That Supports Inclusion.

One of the biggest challenges that companies face when hiring diverse candidates is retaining them after the first few months. Diversity can be impactful in terms of collaboration, performance and driving results, but hiring a diverse candidate must be met and supported with a team, manager and culture that is inclusive. A large number of diversity candidates that move on in their career after a short period of time largely site inclusion and workplace safety as the biggest issue. At the leadership level, the CEO must understand the value of inclusion and demonstrate this as a cultural value and part of the organizations vision and EVP. Create programs, events or groups that dive into what inclusion means, and how to make a diverse employee feel more included professionally and culturally. Set up support groups or safe spaces for people to have open conversations and dialogue with one another to pave the pathway for understanding and empathizing different lived experiences.

About The Author.

Jeff Raymond (jeff@raymondsearchgroup.com), President and Founder of Raymond Search Group (RaymondSearchGroup.com), is an industry-leading recruiter specializing in Construction and Real Estate, Engineering, Architecture, HVACR/R, Building Automation Systems, MEPF, and Manufacturing. Jeff is known for delivering the top 5% of industry talent to his clients with unrivaled efficiency and network. Clients and candidates alike rely on Jeff as a trusted advisor through his recruiting expertise and industry insight.

Jeff earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Management, and Operations from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is experienced in the construction industry and is Procore certified in multiple areas. He is an active member of the Urban Land Institute, ASHRAE, the Institute of Refrigeration (IOR), and The OSHA Education Center Association.