Measuring Progress in DEI
It is one thing for an organization to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. It is another thing for an organization’s DEI initiatives to be successful. As such, companies should make the effort to analyze the metrics of their DEI initiatives in order to ensure these initiatives are working. In other words, they must assess that their workplace environments are indeed becoming more diverse and feel more inclusive to those employed. While this may seem like an overwhelming task, tracking these metrics can be broken down into manageable steps. Let’s take them one at a time:
1. Consistency with DEI Training
To begin, we must start with the obvious. A company can only be successful with DEI initiatives if they actually implement the training. This step is easy to track, as companies should record each time they do DEI training and ensure all employees at all levels participate, from upper management and leadership positions to workers at lower levels. Furthermore, DEI initiatives are not a “one and done” scenario. These issues require review and in-depth understanding, and as such demand revisiting.
2. Measuring Diversity: Analyzing the Demographics
In this step, quantitative data becomes prominent, as there are several subsets of information that companies should keep track of to ensure they are successfully creating diverse work environments. The overarching theme of this step is simple: measure employees of underrepresented groups — people of color, women, people with disability, the queer community, etc. — overall in comparison to majority groups. If there are disproportionately fewer Black, Hispanic, Asian, and indigenous employees compared to white employees, or disproportionately fewer women to men, that is a sign the DEI initiatives in place are lackluster in their effectiveness. Companies can and should break down this data further:
- Diversity in new hires
- Diversity in leadership positions (organizations cannot claim to value true diversity if they are only willing to implement it at lower levels)
- Diversity in promotions (organizations must ensure they providing opportunities equally to all groups)
- Diversity in retention
The last point is particularly crucial, as DEI initiatives are only effective if they are maintained. Who is leaving the company? Are people of color, women, and queer individuals choosing to seek work elsewhere at disproportionately higher rates than people from majority groups? If so, that is a sign a company’s DEI initiatives are falling flat and require rethinking.
Overall, keeping track of diversity is a matter of recording and analyzing the demographics of minority groups versus majority groups within employment records. If the numbers steadily improve, then it is fair to conclude the DEI initiatives are effective and the organization at hand is creating a diverse environment.
3. Effectiveness: Equitable Pay
As of 2021, Black women only make $0.63 to non-Hispanic white men’s $1, and this is only one example of many wage gaps that persist across the United States. Women, people of color, queer individuals, disabled individuals, and especially people who fall within multiple groups are typically paid less than an able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual white man. While this gap is not always deliberate, organizations must pay attention to their wages and ensure they are fair. For example, a company might consider analyzing the average monthly paycheck for each minority group. After doing so, they can determine if any group is being paid substantially less or substantially more than others and make adjustments accordingly.
4. Measuring Inclusion: Data Behind a Feeling
Inclusion is the trickiest of DEI initiatives to evaluate, because how can a company really know if they are making their employees feel included in the workplace? Fortunately, there is a simple place to start: ask them, and ask them regularly.
Surveys are a fantastic tool for measuring the inclusivity of a workplace, but only when conducted repeatedly. By using the same questions, companies can compare the results of current surveys to previous ones and determine if their efforts at workplace inclusivity are improving. It is one thing to recognize the value of a survey measuring inclusion, however; it is another thing to make one.
Aleria offers 9 Categories of Inclusion that present an excellent basis for a survey on workplace inclusivity:
These same categories are explored further by Forbes. The Gartner Inclusion Index also has seven statements that form the basis of its assessment of inclusion, ranging from fair treatment to a sense of belonging. In other words, there are numerous tools available for companies to develop a survey that measures inclusivity. By doing so, companies can both assess on an individual basis and analyze as a whole who feels most included in their workplace and why. From there, specific areas can be pinpointed for improvement in future DEI initiatives. For example, an organization may be strong in ensuring trust between employees but struggle with making all employees feel equally heard by people in higher positions. By repeating these surveys on a regular basis, it is easy for a company to track if they are heading in the right direction.
While inclusion is largely based on qualitative information because it is about an individual’s feeling, there is also quantitative data involved. Looking back at step 3, an important subset was “diversity in retention.” Turnover rates are not only reflective of demographic diversity but also an environment’s inclusivity; if a workplace is not generating a sense of inclusion for minority groups, then people from those groups are more likely to leave and find different work. There are also new analytics tools and technologies that can help assess inclusion in a workplace; for example, organizational network analysis, or ONA. ONA uses company data to produce a visual map that demonstrates connections within an employee network, both the number of those connections and how strong they are. A workplace might use ONA and realize all the connections their Hispanic employees possess occur at lower levels, suggesting their company lacks Hispanic connections within higher positions. In other words, their company has not succeeded in creating an inclusive environment for people of color at all levels.
As with analyzing diversity demographics, the key to assessing inclusion is to do it over and over, continuously comparing current results with previous ones. Only then can true growth be recognized and specific areas targeted for improvement.
5. Transparency: Publishing Results
While this final step is arguably more optional, transparency in itself can go a long way in making a company more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. For one, publishing DEI results informs prospective applicants and current employees that efforts are being made towards improvement. It also demonstrates how effective those efforts are. Moreover, transparency suggests that an organization recognizes their own fallibility — humility is a virtue, after all. Most importantly, DEI initiatives are always evolving to meet new expectations. Because of this constant flux, a company being open about changes is an encouraging sign to individuals seeking to work in truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments.
As you can see, measuring DEI metrics is only overwhelming if we let it be. Breaking the process down allows for easier management of information as well as for more accurate collection and analysis of data. If organizations put in the work to ensure their DEI initiatives are successful, thus creating a work environment that is truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive, then it is only a matter of time before they — and their employees — reap the benefits of these efforts.
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company with a primary mission for advancing individuals in leadership. Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential. In addition, she provides guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within the organization.