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Measuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) aren’t merely HR buzzwords. They are vital to building an  engaging, thriving, and innovative workforce. According to a CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Happiness Index1, nearly 80% of respondents said they want to work for a company that values DEI. Other studies and research consistently highlight the business benefits of embracing DEI, including greater productivity and profitability to becoming an employer of choice that can attract and retain top talent. 

If you aspire to such heights, remember this trusty maxim: “What gets measured gets done.” This mentality will help you grow your company in a direction that encourages, creates, and supports a diverse working environment where employees feel valued and heard.

Simply put, diversity in the workplace happens when employees—on all levels of the corporate ladder—come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, genders, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs—and can share ideas and work together to achieve professional and company goals. 

Conversely, when most of the people working at an organization look the same and share similar perspectives you can often expect to see the same ideas and results. Over time, that lack of diversity can limit your company’s growth potential.  

Yet, creating a dynamic and engaged working environment doesn’t stop with diversity. Employers must build a culture in which all employees feel welcomed and valued, and see a career path for themselves. Companies with inclusive cultures provide a safe environment to ask questions and show curiosity at work. 

And although 83% of business executives polled for a Harvard Business Review study said they encourage curiosity at work, only 52% of employees agreed.

This difference in perception—along with not being able to easily identify inclusivity itself—make it essential to address inclusion in your organization by making it a company-wide conversation. SurveyMonkey’s belonging and inclusion survey template helps guide you to have these conversations in your workplace by asking the right questions to your employees so you get their most honest and candid responses.

Making a conscious effort to diversify teams and management brings fresh and innovative ideas to the table and drive greater profitability. In fact, companies within the top quartile for diversity are 21% more likely to have good financial performance than companies in the bottom quartile, according to research conducted by McKinsey.

Additionally, working in diverse and inclusive environments is increasingly valued by job seekers. Fostering diversity and encouraging inclusion can give you a competitive edge over less progressive organizations.

For the most part, diversity is easily identified. The simple exercise of looking at your hiring pool and comparing it to your current workforce offers a quick snapshot of how diverse your company really is. This helps you readily identify the areas where you are doing well—such as hiring a diverse number of candidates. But it can also reveal areas for improvement—such as having a management and executive team that severely lacks diversity. That scenario runs the risk of sending a message to employees that only people who look and think like XYZ can make it to the senior level.

On the other hand, inclusivity is largely invisible, making it more challenging to identify or measure. With inclusivity relying on the different experiences of your employees, you often have to do a bit more digging to get to the bottom line.

Different metrics focused on DEI are used for different purposes, but all are valuable and can be used to identify risk areas, prioritize initiatives, set targets and other program goals, assign accountability, and measure the impact of initiatives.

Metrics for diagnosis are used to help companies identify potential damaging bias. The list below explains the different metrics to use to measure DEI in your workplace.

Representation is helpful when trying to identify underrepresented groups within your company and can be measured by the percentage of employees from monitored groups compared with company and industry benchmarks.

Retention is used to identify the average tenure for employees compared to the tenure of other employees across the workforce. This can also be helpful to pinpoint those employees who are not satisfied with their workplace and are more likely to resign or be terminated from the company.

Recruitment identifies any barriers of entry for different groups, pipeline issues, and biased recruitment efforts.

Selection tracks appointments of individuals and identifies any biases in the assessment and selection process.

Promotion tracks promotions awarded to employees, and identifies any bias during assessment and selection. It may be useful to track the amount of time it takes for your employees to progress and compare it to other groups. The results could reveal any performance or potential bias.

Pay metric is used to identify bias in compensation and can be identified by comparing financial rewards earned by individuals.

Development tracks lateral moves—in other words, tracks job responsibilities and compares them to other jobs, making sure that the position provides room for professional development. This can be useful when identifying bias in development.

Employee engagement identifies which groups of your employees are more engaged compared to others. A significant difference in engagement scores could indicate biased mindsets. If you see this trend within your organization you can ask survey questions that target DEI concerns to gain a deeper understanding of what might be hampering engagement.

All of these varied metrics will help you identify any potential risks your company faces and prioritize initiatives accordingly. And once the right initiatives are put into effect, you can use these same metrics to track progress. Through consistent tracking, you will know if you are making progress toward your goal of creating, maintaining, or improving DEI. 

Measuring ROI ultimately depends on your company’s goals and DEI efforts. The idea is to link whatever goal you have—albeit financial or non-financial—to DEI. For example, if your company’s goal is to increase innovation and productivity, you may want to compare the number of patents before and after the implementation of your DEI strategy.

Because diversity is based on an individual’s traits and characteristics, it’s often easier to identify and measure by attaching a number to it. For instance, if you wanted to compare how many persons with disabilities were hired in 2021 compared to those hired in 2019, that number would definitively show you that difference.

However, because there are various layers to diversity it’s essential to employ different metrics to get a robust view into where your company stands. The different types of diversity metrics include:

  • Primary includes basic characteristics like age, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
  • Secondary includes education, marital status, parental status, and religious beliefs.
  • Workplace includes an individual’s job level, work shift, and number of years with the company.
  • Style includes work habits, leadership style, and communication style.

Measuring inclusion is a bit more challenging and requires a different approach to get to the bottom line. However, there are some common metrics that help clarify your performance when it comes to inclusion.

When trying to determine whether your employees are satisfied or not, you can use surveys to measure subject areas within job satisfaction to help you better understand if employees feel welcomed at their jobs. SurveyMonkey offers free employee satisfaction survey templates so that you can gain insight on how satisfied your employees are.

If you have high employee turnover, this might be a sign that employees are unhappy or unfulfilled in their positions. It could also indicate they are leaving because they don’t feel included.

Conducting stay interviews not only shows your employees that they are valuable assets to your company, but also lets them know that what they have to say and what they need to be happy and successful in your company, matters.

Beyond that, conducting stay interviews saves your company costly and time-consuming turnover and also allows you and your management team to stay connected with employees and keep up with the social climate of the company.

Now that we’ve discussed the “what and why” of DEI, let’s take a look at some of the specific ways you can measure it.

If you notice that your teams lack diversity, you may want to consider taking a look at your applicant pool. In addition to telling you who is applying, it also shows you who you’ve hired. If your applicant pool is diverse, but your teams are not, this could indicate a bias in the hiring and selection process.

Moving forward, you can monitor if there is an increase in diversity by tracking the number of people you hire.

When you look at diversity across all of your leadership levels, what do you see? Do you notice that your entry-level team is highly diverse, while the senior-level team isn’t?

In a perfect world, all levels of leadership within your company should reflect a diverse team. If not, then you may want to consider implementing or improving diversity initiatives that focus both on advancing diverse individuals within your organization and attracting diverse outside talent.

While it can be a challenge to accurately measure job satisfaction and inclusion, you can still measure specific subject areas within job satisfaction that provide useful perspective into whether employees feel valued and that they belong.

Surveys are a good tool to use to gain deeper insights on how your employees feel. Some example questions that you can ask your employees are:

  • How meaningful is your work?
  • How challenging is your job?
  • In a typical week, how often do you feel stressed at work?
  • How well are you paid for the work you do?
  • How much do your opinions about work matter to your coworkers?

You can then use a Likert scale—which is a 5-, 7-, or 9-point scale used to measure how respondents agree or disagree with your questions and statements. Examples of these responses can range from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

While job satisfaction and retention go hand-in-hand, measuring retention can be indicative of how your employees truly feel about working in your company. If you find that you have a diverse team, but they are leaving, then chances are pretty good that you have an inclusivity problem.

If this is the case, then you may want to consider revisiting areas such as job satisfaction, to help you better pinpoint the problem, so you can find a solution.

There is no one set of metrics to measure DEI. That’s because every company is different, and therefore should take a customized approach—one tailored to their own company goals—to decide which metrics they want to measure.

Metrics that you may want to consider are:

  • Company goals—what is it that you want to achieve?
  • Size of organization—hiring individuals one position at a time may not reflect the entire applicant pool. Hiring in larger groups makes it easier to identify diversity and implement initiatives at every round of hiring if needed.

Ultimately, you may want to consider the diversity dimensions you choose to track and how they can help push your company forward.

To gain more robust data and insights, choose parameters that go further than the typical dimensions—like age, race, and gender. Depending on your business goals, you may want to extend your metrics to measure professional expertise, tenure, disability and health status, sexual orientation, family status, and immigrations.

An example of this would be a financial institution extending its diversity metrics to include immigration status, as a way to build trust through its corporate social responsibility efforts.

Routinely reviewing your data policies helps affirm that you are properly storing and securing sensitive information received from your employees. Organizations must also review their data policies to ensure that any information voluntarily disclosed is stored in a way that obscures identifying data.

Additionally, make sure that you have (or don’t require) consent to gather an individual’s sensitive information.

Your company’s DEI metrics should serve 3 purposes:

  1. Diagnose risks and opportunities: These metrics will help prevent bias blind spots. Examples include representation, development, employee engagement, exit interviews, and employer brand.
  2. Track progress of initiatives: Once you have chosen your metrics and have implemented them, you must track—and continuously track—the progress of your initiatives.
  3. Calculate ROI: Your return on investment relies heavily on your company goals regarding DEI.

Comparing notes from the past and present will help you to establish a baseline for tracking your company’s DEI efforts. It is impossible to track progress without having a baseline measurement.

Ultimately, it is important to create an action plan that reflects the data collected from your company’s DEI efforts. This allows you to assess what has been working in your company and what areas could use improvement.

Indeed, what gets measured gets done. Understanding the importance of DEI—and how to measure it—will help your company to thrive and grow. More importantly, it will create a working environment in which all of your employees are engaged and invested in their work, and feel like they have a voice that is heard.

SurveyMonkey is part of Momentive, maker of AI-driven insights and experience management solutions built for the pace of modern business. Learn how to shape a stronger, more equitable workplace at momentive.ai.

1This SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted April 8-18, 2021 among a national sample of 8,233 adults. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data were weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States.

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