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Research Questions

  1. What should the key requirements for the position of a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) diversity leader be?
  2. What attributes and experiences may be needed to perform those requirements?
  3. What would DoD need to do to develop its future diversity leaders?

This study identifies the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics (KSAOs) needed in individuals who will be responsible for implementing strategic diversity plans in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The authors interviewed more than 60 diversity leaders in industry, the public sector (including DoD), and academia and reviewed relevant scientific literature, education programs, and advertised job requirements. The study found that primary roles and responsibilities for diversity leaders include strategic leadership, stakeholder engagement, tracking diversity trends, and human resources–related activities. To carry out these responsibilities, diversity leaders would ideally have the following KSAOs: interpersonal skills; business expertise; leadership skills; equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, and diversity knowledge and skills; a driven personality and commitment to diversity; analytical abilities and skills; critical thinking and problem-solving skills; and multicultural competence. Certain KSAOs are harder to develop than others (e.g., personality attributes and motivation) and should form the basis of selection of diversity leaders. Other KSAOs, such as problem-solving, communication, and technical skills, are easier to develop and may be enhanced through training and education. The study recommends a three-step plan for DoD to help determine how to train and educate future DoD diversity leaders: (1) determine whether there should be a separate professional development track for diversity and inclusion personnel, (2) determine training and education requirements by focusing on those KSAOs more amenable to development, and (3) determine the best means for fulfilling those requirements (e.g., whether to outsource the training).

Key Findings

Certain Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other Personal Characteristics (KSAOs) Are Required or Preferred for Diversity Leaders

  • Key roles and responsibilities for diversity leaders include strategic leadership (including leading diversity programs/initiatives), stakeholder engagement, tracking diversity trends, and human resources–related activities.
  • To carry out responsibilities within those categories, diversity leaders would ideally have the following KSAOs: interpersonal skills; business expertise; leadership skills; equal employment opportunity (EEO) and military equal opportunity, affirmative action, and diversity knowledge and skills; a driven personality and commitment to diversity; analytical abilities and skills; critical thinking and problem-solving skills; and multicultural competence.

Some KSAOs Can Be Improved Through Training and Education

  • The scientific literature suggests that certain KSAOs identified as important for effective diversity leaders, such as personality and motivation, are very difficult to develop; interpersonal skills and leadership skills are somewhat difficult to develop; and problem-solving, communication, and technical skills (e.g., business procedures) are the easiest to develop. Those KSAOs less amenable to development should form the basis of selection of diversity leaders, while those KSAOs more amenable to development should be targeted for improvement as part of training and education.

Recommendations

The study recommends three key steps for DoD's efforts to develop its future diversity leaders through education and training.

  • Step 1: Determine whether there should be a separate professional development track for diversity and inclusion (D&I) personnel.
  • Step 2: Once the decision about a professional development track has been made and professional track(s) defined, determine relevant training and education requirements. Development should focus on knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics that are malleable and/or developable, such as equal employment opportunity and military equal opportunity knowledge. DoD must also calculate how many personnel need to be trained and educated and what types of training and education experiences they need at each career stage.
  • Step 3: Determine the means for fulfilling training and education requirements by weighing several key factors (e.g., financial costs, quality of instruction, flexibility). Insourcing would require DoD to provide instruction, whereas outsourcing would involve non-DoD (external) providers, such as non-DoD governmental organizations, D&I experts from academia, and for-profit training vendors.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Roles and Responsibilities for Diversity Leaders

  • Chapter Three

    KSAOs for Diversity Leaders

  • Chapter Four

    Selection and Development of KSAOs for Diversity Leaders

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Methodology

  • Appendix B

    Job Posting and Interview Coding and Results

  • Appendix C

    Diversity Education Programs

This research was sponsored by the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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