How to Hire a DEI Consultant

By RealHR Solutions

The racial unrest that has come to the forefront of American life has prompted frank and critical conversations about racial equity in the workplace. Over the last several months we have had extensive and ongoing discussions with our clients and colleagues about their desire to openly, honestly, and productively address diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplace, with many seeking to hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”) consultant.

If your organization is about to undertake a DEI initiative, here are several recommendations that will help you assess which DEI consultant is the best fit for your organization.

Examine Your DEI Goals

Before you hire a DEI consultant, do the preliminary internal work necessary to determine what DEI means to your organization and your stakeholders, and what you are trying to accomplish. The business leaders we spoke with took into account their personal understanding of the needs of their organization, along with a deeply felt commitment to make changes by looking at the challenges they are facing, and the problems that need to be addressed.

  • Define your goals. Consider what you are trying to accomplish with your DEI initiative, your desired outcomes, how you will integrate them into your business objectives, and the impact to your culture.
  • Bring others into the process. Involve other senior leaders, managers, human resources, and Board members. Invite staff participation as well, by creating a task force of a cross-section of employees to be part of the selection process.
  • Gather information. Listen to your employees to understand their concerns, and provide the space for them to share their input, experiences, and expectations. Consider that some may not see a problem or a need for change.
  • Clarify your level of commitment. Is the intent to create a short-term program or the beginning of transformational culture change? How and if DEI will be part of your strategic plan? If you’re a non-profit, will your Board members be involved?
  • Establish financial parameters. Determine your current budget for DEI work and plan for subsequent years.


Vet Several DEI Consultants

Begin your search by designating a point person or setting up a DEI hiring team to conduct the search. Develop a clear RFP process with deliverables, timelines, and other terms, and send it out to several DEI consultants.

  • Start with referrals. Reach out to experts in the field, and to colleagues who may have already started down this path. Remember that diversity initiatives are not new. Many organizations, both large and small, have been focusing on diversity for some time.
  • Assess the consultant’s training, expertise, and approach. DEI consultants have various educational backgrounds and professional training. Consider where they received training, whether they have a certification, who their mentors have been, how well versed they are in current DEI trends and practices, and whether it’s important that they have experience in your industry or similar businesses.
  • Focus on the consultant’s accomplishments. Request references from their current and former clients to understand how each consultant helped their clients reach their DEI objectives, the metrics they used to measure success, and how progress was perceived by employees and stakeholders.
  • Find the right solution for your organization. Many DEI consultants have specific areas of expertise—Board leadership and strategy planning, workshop facilitation, conducting cultural audits—and some will take a more systemic approach that often will require a one, two, or five-year retained commitment. Others may take on smaller initiatives on a project-by-project basis. Decide what you need now, and accept the possibility you may need a different consultant at a later point in your process.
  • Think broadly and keep an open mind. Consider diversity, equity, and inclusion in its broadest terms: how DEI practices can impact hiring, training, employee development, engagement, and retention, as well as marketing and sales strategies, and client and vendor selection.
  • DEI consultants are your partner. In addition to their expertise in racial equity and DEI, the best consultants will approach this as a true partnership, taking the time to understand your culture, and the organization’s readiness for and resistance to change,


Making Your Decision

Choosing the right consultant for your organization will come down to their qualifications and experience, areas of expertise, approach to the partnership, responsiveness to your ideas and opinions, communication style, success with clients, and cost.

Ultimately, the hiring of a DEI consultant signals your commitment to create a more equitable workplace. We invite you to contact us for referrals from our network of DEI consultants, and to talk further about how to identify and hire the DEI consultant who will deliver the most effective results and sustainable outcomes for your organization.

This blog should not be construed as legal advice.