DEI: Why it’s bigger than HR

Many people see DEI as executable metrics housed in HR or a non-executive committee. This doesn’t work. Effective DEI is a systemic transformation driven by leaders in line functions through influential leadership.

DEI is often housed in a company in the HR department, but the wisdom of that idea has shifted. The idea behind housing DEI in Human Resources (HR) is that HR is usually the department that manages compliance and the company’s overall adherence to employment law. Since DEI began as a set of compliance rules, it made sense to put DEI in HR. Even when DEI evolved to include a focus on interpersonal sensitivity and company culture, it seemed to make sense to keep it in HR because that’s the department that manages training budgets and employment benefits, hiring, and onboarding policies.

DEI is often thought of as a combination of training and policies, but as we’ve discovered over the last few decades, DEI has to be more than training and policies to work. When DEI is treated as training and policy-making alone, it is an unsustainable, expensive initiative that never reaches the spirit of the endeavor even when it sufficiently meets its own metric-defined goals.

DEI must be the responsibility of the executives in the organization. Executives at the top of the org chart (CEOs, Presidents, and VPs) must own it because it’s too easy for anyone else in the organization to be ignored, discredited, or placated with superficial actions that achieve metrics without fulfilling the spirit of the DEI agenda. See “Business has been working on DEI for years. Why isn’t this fixed?” for more information on why leadership must own DEI.