Diversity & Inclusion

A Seat at the Table: Define diversity as “mission critical”

When Corbette Doyle took on the role of chief diversity officer at Aon Corp. two years ago, she did so at the request of the CEO.

“Without his support and commitment, I wouldn’t have considered making this leap,” says Doyle, who was previously a line executive at the Chicago-based company. “Our senior leaders ‘get’ the business case for diversity. That said, it is a constant issue to convince key leaders to rank diversity and inclusion higher than other critical initiatives.”

What’s worked best for her? “I always focus on the business case and the core strategic advantages that accrue from a more diverse workforce,” she says.

“The key to influencing behavior is a clear cut strategic imperative and accountability,” she explains. “[For instance], is it mission-critical because of the diversity of your customer base or because of impending talent shortages? Then you must establish clear accountability: Who is responsible for doing what, and what are the risks and rewards for failing to do so?”

Doyle believes that the pending battle for talent will help diversity programs gain traction across the country. One early result has been the emergence at some organizations of the chief talent officer, who has responsibility for both HR and diversity and inclusion.

“One of the aspects of this trend that I find so appealing is that it moves the discussion off the highly charged ‘diversity’ debate to the mission critical discussion of the most effective ways to grow and retain a high performing workforce,” she says.

Aon is already taking that discussion seriously.

“At a time when we are focused on driving costs and headcount out of staff positions, we are making significant investments in D&I,” Doyle says. “There is no greater measure of corporate commitment than putting your money where your mouth is.”