Blog Post

Driving Inclusion: CHRO and CDO as Allies

By Subha Barry
March 28, 2024

In a world of constant volatility and where diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives face ongoing challenges, the imperative for strategic collaboration among key leaders has never been more vital in fostering a thriving workplace culture. We, as DEI leaders, are living in fear: DEI has been labeled as “woke politics,” Affirmative Action has been overturned, and there’s economic instability. The need for a new partnership has never been more critical, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power that arises when the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) come together to drive inclusion. The alliance of these two pivotal roles is not just beneficial but imperative in today’s rapidly evolving corporate landscape.

The workplace is changing. Employees expect to work at a place where they can be their full selves, where they feel like they belong. Did you know that only a mere 8 percent of Fortune Global 500 companies have managed to achieve a representation of at least 30 percent in race and gender diversity within their leadership positions? According to the Brookings Institute, the United States will be minority-majority by 2045. It’s a stark reality, especially when you consider that our country is heading toward a future where nearly half the population will be non-White. As talent and DEI leaders, this glaring gap between the current state and the ongoing demographic shift demands our immediate attention.

As I often stress, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” This simple truth speaks volumes about the significance of inclusion, not just in senior leadership but across every level of employee. The need for talent and DEI to become more interconnected has never been greater. This demographic shift will force us to ask: How do I recruit talent that is reflective of what our country and society looks like?

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

Subha Barry, President, Seramount

Organizations must ensure that processes in the talent lifecycle, whether it’s onboarding and supporting new hires or focusing on the inclusion of your underrepresented talent, are robust. This includes conducting regular audits for fairness in your performance management system and ensuring that talent identification reflects a diverse pipeline. As an inclusive leader, tune your equity radar to constantly scan your organization. Never stop asking the following questions: Am I attracting my fair share of underrepresented talent? Do any hidden biases tilt the playing field unfairly?

Accountability and compliance must be ongoing, especially when considering talent development and decision-making. Looking for diversity in the ranks of your leadership and among your influencers becomes critical. Remember, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Succession planning and promotions must be equally accessible, with fairness, equity, and equal opportunity for all. Each step becomes an opportunity for growth, and now is a key moment for aligning talent and DEI principles.

But this is no easy task! Especially amidst the backdrop of increasing workforce instability, investments in DEI and talent are facing heightened scrutiny. Notably, roles are converging across functions in response to these unfolding developments: CHROs are being tasked with leading DEI teams, CDOs are transitioning into crucial people leadership roles, and business executives are taking on DEI and talent responsibilities. In a recent Seramount poll of DEI and talent leaders, 23 percent shared that HR/DEI partnerships are top of mind, above political backlash. Shedding light on the influx of new leaders navigating their new role, recent research indicates that 70 percent of CDOs are embarking on a fresh journey in leading a DEI function. However, the resulting high turnover and burnout rates pose ongoing challenges, as reflected in the average CDO tenure of 30 months in the S&P 500.

Data from Seramount underscores a strong link between employee engagement, satisfaction, and DEI priorities, with an alarming 46 percent of employee turnover attributed to an unhealthy company culture. To counteract the “disengagement tax” during turbulent times, DEI and talent leaders are joining forces to cultivate an inclusive talent lifecycle and workplace.

Our latest research identifies three key areas where leading organizations were successful in their outcomes when CDOs and CHROS join forces: Attitudes, Alliances, and Advances.


To reach their goals, top-tier DEI and talent programs blend seemingly conflicting notions of inclusion across individuals, teams, and organizations. They harness the productive tensions between global and intersectional perspectives to foster a sense of belonging at every level.


More and more, CDOs and CHROs are developing strategic alliances. Our surveys indicate that they’re forming new partnerships in various industries, working together across different functions, and aligning with Employee Resource Groups to reshape how they conduct research, develop products, manage talent, deploy crisis communications, and seize market opportunities.

Think about it. If something happens in society that impacts a particular community in the marketplace, an ERG within your organization that represents that particular community could be best equipped to advise stakeholders how to contend with it.


DEI competitions and awards, such as Seramount’s Best Companies lists, are becoming indispensable tools for high-impact DEI and talent teams. What gets measured gets done! Award-winning organizations are also seeking out objective assessments from external parties that provide actionable roadmaps and visibility into diversity bottlenecks and associated solutions.

These initiatives not only contribute to improved recruitment and retention but also help combat disengagement during turbulent times. When DEI and Talent are aligned, taking a thoughtful, global, and intersectional approach, CDO, CHROs, and their internal champions can make such a compelling case for a seat at the table. This is how, like never before, they are ensuring that the keys to unlocking DEI, talent, and business success are one and the same. I look forward to seeing how far they can go.

If you’re interested to learn more about how Seramount can help develop your inclusive talent strategies, contact us here.

About the Author

Subha V. Barry
Subha Barry