The Evolving Role of Healthcare Chief Diversity Officer

As we emerge from a year rife with uncertainty and social conflict, organizations are focused on fostering diversity, inclusion, and togerthness with greater sincerity and urgency than ever. 

It’s far past time for businesses to realize they must scrutinize their values and prioritize diversity. Even for those who have committed to diversity and inclusion initiatives in the past, thought is due to determine whether those initiatives are enough. 

Beyond just social and humanitarian concerns, the business case for diversity has already long been settled. Thus, it’s now integral to launch initiatives and strategize according to these sensibilities.

DEI initiatives, though, aren’t going to stir and drive themselves on their own. Nor will there be any success if it means piling on more responsibilities to an employee’s already dense workload.

Instead, many corporations have hired a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to spearhead these workplace movements. We’ll take a look at the importance of this role, how organization’s are utilizing it, and some of the major responsibilities and benefits below.

What’s the Big Picture for CDOs?

Simply put, a Chief Diversity officer is an organization’s executive level diversity and inclusion strategist.

While traditionally merely having DE&I initiatives, or announcing that you have DE&I initiatives, was enough, often implicit bias and lack of cohesive strategies prevented these initiatives from bearing sustainable results.

A CDO’s big-picture role is to break these biased shackles and roadblocks and ensure all organizational facets are rooted in strategic, sustainable diversity practices.

As such, the CDO should be involved in the following processes and procedures:

  • Recruiting
  • Promotion
  • Pay
  • Team behavior
  • Senior leadership
  • Everyday interactions

In fact, this is such a coveted, impactful role that the ideal CDO should possess 12 to 15 years in DEI.

Why is the CDO so Crucial for Healthcare?

By 2044 – according to the US Census Bureau – the country will be mostly minorities. 

However, the healthcare industry hasn’t kept up pace with the growing diversity in the US. 

Minorities make up 30-35% of patients, but only 14% of board members and 11% of executives.

It only makes sense that the top decision-makers in an organization should represent their target market. A more diverse leadership team means more insight into the various populations and demographics being served. Hiring a CDO is the first step to solving this problem. 

What Are Some of a CDO’s Primary Responsibilities?

Strategic Diversity Planning

First and foremost, a CDO must view diversity planning as one overarching, fluid strategy that connects all aspects of an organization. It can’t be a bunch of separate entities or systems—because this will cause confusion and lacking cohesion.

Recruiting Diverse Talent

Hiring diverse talent sits high atop the list of priorities for the CDO. 

Here’s an example that’s specific to healthcare:

Ronald Copeland is Kaiser Permanente’s CDO. His objective is centered around comprising a staff that better reflects the patient population.

More specifically, leaders within the corporation ensure that the candidate pool is diverse. Furthermore, it’s made clear to new employees that there’s room to grow within Kaiser. 

Culturally Competent Curriculum Development

The CDO must also focus on culturally competent curriculum development.

Back in the 1980s, diversity training was introduced. Unfortunately, this practice increases awareness and sensitivity, but it’s proven to not alter behavior.

Therefore, CDOs don’t “train” or teach classes. Instead, they must impact systemic changes, using tools and tactics such as work redesign, communications, training, metrics, and rewards.

Part of this education and curriculum means teaching some hard lessons. A zero-tolerance approach might be necessary for violations and bad behavior. On top of that, reporting systems that allow people to privately cite misconduct, abuse, or harassment must be put in place.

Taking real-life infractions and turning them into teaching moments shows people who might be unaware of a problem.

Lastly, part of this curriculum is continual reinforcement. A 5-minute daily meeting will keep people focused on acting in ways that support a diverse environment. Whereas a few diversity training lessons will fall by the wayside once the classes end.

Encouraging Diverse Treatments

The CDO at Bon Secours Health System, Gloria Goins, encourages staff to leverage their differences to improve patient care. 

There are employee resource groups that connect staff with similar interests or backgrounds. These individuals then brainstorm and strategize according to the unique healthcare needs of specific populations.

HealthCare Recruiters International (HCRI)

At HCRI, we’ve ensured that our hiring processes, regardless of specific search or practice area, strongly adhere to diversity & inclusion best practices. We’ve committed ourselves internally to identifying our potential unconscious biases as an organization and working diligently to ensure all barriers to access in our sourcing are dismantled. We work closely with our partners to clarify diversity and inclusion goals and strive as a cohesive unit to achieve them.

To learn more about how we can help support your diversity and inclusion efforts, get in touch with one of our team members today.