External D&I Consultant or Permanent Hire? That is the question!

Many organisations seeking to improve their D&I efforts often struggle with the following questions:

Do we bring in external interim expertise in the form of a consultant, hire someone to work with us on a more permanent basis, or do both?  And how do we decide what the right result is for us?

There are many factors that influence the outcome of these questions.  But the most important part will be understanding where your organisation is on its Diversity journey.

The Diversity Journey Roadmap (SM)
I have set out the Voice At The Table model for the Diversity Journey below.  Each step represents a different level of awareness and therefore moving through each step will require a different type of expertise.

For purposes of this discussion, the most relevant stages are 3 and 4, which are discussed below.

Stage 3: Let’s Fix It!

Stage 2 is characterised by the need to address Diversity in order to appear to be doing the right thing.  The organisation has not yet fully comprehended the need for more Diversity and Inclusion and is at this point going through the motions of D&I.

At Stage 3, however, leadership has awakened to the fact that the lack of diversity in the organisation poses a genuine problem that needs fixing.  The need to become more diverse might be driven by a talent pool shortage, the need to meet client diversity requirements, being more representative of the customer base, or any other reason.  Leadership have identified whatever the problem is and they are keen to solve it.

This stage is characterised by identifying the various Diversity-related problems and by introducing initiatives to address them.  Examples of D&I solutions include Unconscious Bias training, setting Diversity targets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reviewing recruitment practices.  Initiatives tend to be disjointed and typically fail to deliver impactful change.

An organisation that finds itself at this stage would greatly benefit from external support – an expert consultant who can identify exactly where the organisation is and suggest the most impactful next steps.  The recommendations often include the hiring of an internal expert to streamline initiatives and develop a suitable strategy or plan to address Diversity and Inclusion.

Stage 4: Seeing Diversity as an Opportunity

At Stage 3, the company saw the problem that the lack of Diversity posed and was prepared to address it.  At Stage 4, Diversity is seen not as a problem but rather the solution.  This is when leadership finally recognises that there are commercial benefits to be gained from greater diversity.  This is also when leadership realises that addressing Diversity is not simply a project; it is not a problem that can be fixed by individual/separate interventions.  Rather, to benefit from Diversity fully, leadership realises that it is important to develop (i) a culture that appreciates Diversity and (ii) leaders who know how to leverage that Diversity.

This stage is generally a crossroads between external consultants and a permanent internal expert.  Whereas a consultant can help build a platform from which to grow and develop an inclusive team and leadership, that platform alone will not be enough to produce the required culture change.  Culture change is a process that will need to be nurtured, grown and monitored.  This is therefore the point at which it will be most impactful to take in the learnings from the expert consultant who has helped erect the foundation for inclusion and hand over to a permanent Diversity and Inclusion lead.  They – having received the proper tools and training – can ensure that the initial platform is used to embed Inclusion.

The stages that follow from here can mostly be implemented by an internal expert (or team of experts, depending on the size of the organisation), with occasional support from external coaches, trainers and consultants.  But once the foundation has been put in place, the dependence on external consultants becomes less onerous and a team of internal experts becomes a more natural and effective port of call.

Need help building your company’s inclusive foundation?  Talk to us about what we can do to support you.

Liked this article?  You might also enjoy reading Tackling the pain of the D&I Journey.