“What gets measured gets done.” So why is the measurement of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives often neglected beyond tracking compliance requirements (e.g., affirmative action, representation goals)? DE&I initiatives are implemented to meet a variety of organizational objectives – think competitive advantage, improved work environment, greater creativity, enhanced social agenda. They often include a host of interventions and each of the components may require different resources and methods of intervening. Consequently, measurement can seem daunting. In light of these challenges, our clients increasingly ask for guidance in quantifying the value of their DE&I efforts. To effectively measure your initiatives, you must first ask three questions:
- What do I expect DE&I intervention success to look like?
- What data will tell us if changes (e.g., behavior) are happening?
- Where do we currently stand?
Diversifying your workforce is a great start but alone will not lead to engaged and productive employees. When evaluating your initiatives, diversity is important but it does not imply equity and inclusion. Research generally points to three broad categories of inclusionary behavior (e.g., Ferdman, Avigdor, Braun, Konkin, & Kuzmycz, 2010):
- Commitment from top leadership to foster equity and inclusion.
- Encouragement of equal opportunity to information exchange and influence in decision making.
- Establishment of and adherence to fair and equitable policies.
These behaviors are displayed through formal practices and programs (e.g., policies and handbooks, job postings, communications, mentorships), influence of DE&I in strategy development, and daily interactions. While we can’t cover all of the possible ways to measure your interventions in this post, we have recommendations for how to use employee survey data to evaluate these behaviors and their impact on your organization.
In inclusive environments, individual differences are viewed as assets and diversity is leveraged so that everyone feels supported and can do their best work (Pless & Maak, 2004). The experience of inclusion is comprised of various components such as (Ferdman et al., 2010):
- Feeling welcomed and valued
- Sensing that diversity is celebrated and cultivated as a strength
- Being involved and engaged in the work group
- Being able to authentically bring the whole self to work
- Being able to influence decisions
- Feeling safe to be oneself without retaliation or isolation
To measure employee perceptions of DE&I organizations, Newmeasures takes two broad approaches:
- Comparing engagement levels and drivers by demographic groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, generation) and exploring between-group differences in the employee experience (e.g., communication, collaboration, growth and development opportunities). Significant between-group differences on survey items such as, “I feel valued as an employee of this organization” and “I feel a sense of community and belonging at work” can indicate DE&I concerns.
- Asking employees direct questions about DE&I behaviors. Survey questions might include, “Organizational policies and programs promote inclusion in the workplace” or “I can openly be myself without fear of judgment or isolation from others.”
Surveys also help capture perceived benefits of programs that compliance and many qualitative metrics may miss. Employee input regarding the effectiveness of specific initiatives (e.g., affinity groups) can provide valuable insight into which programs are most critical to staff.
If you aren’t sure how to measure your DE&I initiative beyond representation; start with perceptions, establish a baseline, use the data to impart accountability, and track progress to drive behavioral change.
What does your organization do to measure your DE&I efforts?