Blog Post

What CDOs Are and Aren’t Prioritizing This Year

March 3, 2022

Lessons from Seramount’s 2022 Global CDO Top Priorities Survey

Corporations have increased their public commitments to make workplaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, yet most DEI executives report a frustratingly slow pace of change in their organization. To learn how DEI leaders across the globe are focusing their efforts and attention in the months ahead, Seramount conducted a global survey asking CDOs to rank their “up at night priorities” by both urgency and importance across a menu of 16 proposed DEI challenges. More than 50 Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) from around the world participated in the survey to share their perspectives.  

Below are several key findings from the 2022 CDO survey.

Finding 1: Nearly all CDOsregardless of organizational size—shared the same three priorities with the underlying theme of embedding DEI change across all business lines

The CDOs who participated in the survey represented organizations of varying sizes and industries, yet their priorities for the year appeared remarkably similar. The findings revealed that nearly all CDOs across industries and size aimed to address the following priorities:

  • Defining Metrics and Industry Benchmarks to Assess DEI Impact on Business Performance
  • How to Systemically and Sustainably Mitigate Bias and Inequities Across the Talent Lifecycle
  • How Organizations Create DEI Advocates and Amplify Inclusive Behaviors Among Mid-level Managers

Tenured CDO’s report that despite widespread leadership commitment to DEI, “change in outcomes is frustratingly slow—we celebrate if we move a metric half a percent a year.” It is evident that CDOs are deeply interested in how they can influence DEI behavior change at scale—whether by metrics and accountability, amplifying awareness and initiating practices that minimize biases, or recruiting a team of DEI advocates to help advance goals in business units. At the end of the day, changing corporate systems to advance DEI ultimately means changing behavior. Now, nearly every DEI executive is turning their attention to unlocking the answers behind what it takes to rewire organizational processes and embed DEI.  

Top 3 CDO Priorities: Percentage of CDOs ranking the following topics as urgent and important
Top 2022 Priorities for CDOsTotal AverageOrgs with <50k employeesOrgs with 50k+ employeesOrgs with <7 DEI team membersOrgs with 7+ DEI team members
Defining Metrics and Industry Benchmarks to Assess DEI Impact on Business Performance92%92%92%92%91%
How to Systematically and Sustainable Mitigate Bias and Inequities Across the Talent Lifecycle85%84%83%82%91%
How Organizations Create DEI Advocates and Amplify Inclusive Behaviors Among Mid-Level managers83%86%75%82%87%

Finding 2: CDOs across organizations expressed the least interest in improving typical, one-off DEI initiatives

CDOs across the globe not only share similar DEI priorities, but they also agree on the set of issues that they are deprioritizing this year. Survey findings suggest that very few CDOs are interested in new ways to advance one-off DEI initiatives and programs that place DEI as a peripheral goal (e.g., leveraging ERGs to grow the talent pipeline, etc.). While nearly half of DEI literature and research continues to focus on these topics, CDOs across the board are turning their attention away from How do we improve DEI awareness and programming? to How do we ensure DEI is an automatic and active attribute of the organization? Furthermore, asking their DEI staff to do more of the same is not the answer. Results of the lowest-rated priorities further underscore that CDOs are much more interested in creating systemic change.

Lowest 3 CDO Priorities: Percentage of CDOs ranking the following topis as urgent and important
Lowest 2022 Priorities for CDOsTotal AverageOrgs with <50% employeesOrgs with 50k+ employeesOrgs with <7 DEI team membersOrgs with 7+ DEI team members
Empowering Employee Resource Groups: Contributing to Business Priorities and Decisions, Growing the Talent Pipeline, Representing Brand Value, and Responding to Key Societal Events and Inequities4%2%10%3%0%
New Pathways to Employment Through Creative Sourcing Solutions: Reimagining Internship, Co-op, Career Education Programming, and Networking Technologies0%0%0%0%0%
Best Practices for Leading a High-Performing Hybrid Workforce: Partnering with the C-Suite to Meet New Employee Expectations for Inclusive, Equitable and Flexible Work

Finding 3: Globalizing DEI efforts ranked lower than expected in terms of CDO priorities–suggesting that many DEI leaders still struggle with local change  

For multinational organizations, US-focused DEI corporate strategies will likely need to account for the nuances of local culture and norms to succeed abroad. Even though more global CDOs are looking to tackle this challenge, fewer than 10% of CDOs of international organizations ranked “Transcending Borders: Partnering with the Executive Team to Implement a Shared Vision for DEI Impact on Business Performance” as their primary priority this year. Given that most CDOs are still seeking better ways to build DEI accountability and minimize bias across the organization, many DEI leaders are still looking to refine local DEI corporate efforts that merit scaling across global business lines.

However, Seramount DEI experts anticipate that globalizing a DEI strategy will become a growing imperative soon. According to Seramount Executive Advisor and Managing Director Katie Mooney, “Our 2021 Seramount Inclusion Index revealed that of those 185 organizations who earned placement on the index, 93% have a global presence. Our work is not country or region-specific. Additionally, we see evidence of leading organizations focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to support their global business strategies. They are building key support from country leaders who also are accountable for results.” Our global return to office increasingly supports a borderless and virtual workplace. Country and regional leads are critical for establishing trust with employees and upholding their company principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their local regions.

To access the full summary of findings from this survey, please download our CDO Collaborative 2022 Survey Results Handout.

This survey was conducted in conjunction with the ongoing research of the CDO Collaborative. To learn more about the Collaborative, please contact [email protected]