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OPM Issues Guidance on Agency Hiring of Chief Diversity Officers

The memo builds off President Biden’s executive order aimed at improving the diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility of federal agencies.

The Office of Personnel Management last week issued guidance to agencies seeking to implement the portion of a 2021 executive order encouraging improved diversity and inclusion efforts across the federal government.

Last year, President Biden issued an executive order seeking to revamp the federal government’s approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, particularly when it comes to recruitment, retention and professional development. The order requires the creation of a governmentwide plan to address workplace harassment. It also encourages agencies to establish chief diversity officer positions within their organizations.

Last week, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja sent a memo to agency heads outlining guidance on how agencies “should elevate” diversity and inclusion within their organizations, including by establishing the chief diversity officer or diversity and inclusion officer within their agency.

“In implementing [the executive order], agencies are reminded to adhere to merit system principles and established staffing processes,” Ahuja wrote. “At the same time, agencies should seek to establish a [chief diversity officer] or [diversity and inclusion officer] who has the expertise and authority to effectively work with the head of the agency and influence senior officials across the whole of government. Agencies may prescribe titling for newly established ... positions using organization or unofficial titling.”

Ahuja wrote that an official in a chief diversity or diversity and inclusion officer position can advance the administration’s diversity goals at individual agencies through improving program effectiveness, driving accountability for diversity goals, and by establishing measurable goals on a quarterly basis.

“Agencies should align expertise and resources to sustain progress over time,” she wrote. “Agencies must provide resources and opportunities to strengthen [diversity and inclusion]. CDO or DIO positions should be established as soon as practicable, in adherence with personnel policies and regulations, budget realignment processes, and internal governance processes. Agencies should utilize staffing flexibilities to ensure that incumbents have immediate and adequate resources available and should phase in long-term budget and staffing processes to ensure sustainability of these critical leadership roles.”

OPM will host a webinar for agency officials on how agencies should establish the chief diversity officer role Tuesday, and Ahuja wrote that OPM will conduct a review regarding whether it would be necessary to create formal position classification for chief diversity officers or diversity and inclusion officers “in the future.”

Agencies’ diversity, equity, inclusion and accountability plans will be due to OPM by March 23.