Shifting from defence to offence: Measuring DEI results
While many organisations are working to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in their workforces, it is sometimes difficult to recognize progress. And though change takes time, we do sometimes wonder if diversity efforts are more of a “Defensive” move to avoid public or employee backlash. Some have argued that management mindsets are a reflection of societal values, which can take a generation to change. Too often we see organizations create grand statements of commitment, appoint a diversity officer, require diversity awareness training, and yet take very little tangible action or and fail to achieve meaningful results. We call this compliance-oriented approach a “Defensive” approach to diversity.
How do organisations shift from a defence to offence when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion? To consider a shift in manager behavior, we need only witness how organisations respond to financial results with publicly traded firms. CEOs and their teams work tirelessly to meet the expectations of shareholders and are measured in common terms of earnings and financial return. What if a portion of this energy and focus was expended towards making an impact with what many managers might say is “Our most important asset” -people. Shifting from defence to offence requires the ability to keep score – hence the need for measuring results related to DEI.
Taking a data-driven approach
Shifting to offence requires commitment across the organization. Afterall, when first publishing a scorecard related to diversity, the numbers may not look so great. This can create a challenge for organizations that may wish to “wait until the numbers look better” before sharing specific data. However, this line of thinking does not help propel the organization into a position of offence. Taking a data-driven approach is a significant commitment – especially in the early days of reporting some results that may not be so positive. Data empowers teams and leaders to make decisions, develop strategies, and change course when necessary. Measuring and reporting DEI efforts is no different and helps organizations foster trust with transparency and achieve results through accountability. By taking this big first step, a strong signal is sent to the organization and progress can begin in earnest.
Deciding what to measure
In deciding what to measure, organizations should begin with questions and clear goals. It begins with determining what diversity means in your organization, industry, the customers you serve and what you want your organization to look like. How diverse are your teams, your leadership, and what can you do to change the composition? Are you paying employees equitably? How and from where are you recruiting? What are your retention metrics—are your efforts having an impact? Examples of key demographic metrics include:
- Hiring – attraction, selection, and acceptances of diverse talent
- Retention—who stays and what development tactics have an impact
- Advancement – promotions, raises, project assignments, etc.
- Leadership – representation by level, by area, etc.
- Pay equity review – by department, job classification, etc.
Diversity metrics are one part of the equation, organizations must also measure inclusion, belonging, and engagement. This qualitative feedback is more difficult to capture but can include:
- Surveys –annual and quarterly pulse checks
- Tracking participation in ERGs
- Tracking mentorship
- Accessibility review/audit (bathrooms, parental leave, screens, close caption)
- Regular exit interviews to uncover common themes or potential issues.
- Conducting meeting audits to review who speaks, who gets interrupted, etc.
Dashboards and scorecards provide businesses with an overview of goals and progress. Quick access and transparency to data and goal progression, helps organizations run more efficiently while increasing engagement and accountability. Seeing roadblocks and successes in real time leads to timely problem solving, course correction, and opportunities for recognition and celebration. In the US, several businesses starting using scorecards/dashboards including the likes of Salesforce, Sodexo, Cigna, and Intuit. The findings from a recent Harvard Business Review Analytics Services found that higher-performing organizations work hard to monitor how equitable they really are and measure DEI progress across a wider range of metrics.
Creating Action Plans
With a scorecard in place, managers are more attune and accountable for DEI results. However, many may not be equipped to address the challenges surfaced with the data-rich scorecards. After reviewing the dashboards and process across a number of firms, there are a few key actions that many organizations can take to get started:
- Start Small – Focus on a few key areas to get started.
- Ensure Strong Sponsorship – The CEO or equivalent should serve as the sponsor
- Ready the Management Support – Once the metrics are published, managers will likely need some level of support to help with the action planning
- Drive Accountability - To ensure companies achieve their DEI objectives; they must measure what matters and hold themselves accountable.
- Expand the Measures – Once progress is noted and new norms are established, it is likely time to expand the metrics and perhaps create a dashboard
In summary, companies around the globe have talked the talk around diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) for years but recent societal events have propelled more companies to make DEI a top priority. As leaders and organizations reflected, there was an awakening and reckoning that past efforts to recruit diverse talent and conduct a myriad of trainings, failed to make the desired impact. The renewed and reimagined efforts are at the fore of company goals and employee expectations with much of the efforts rightly focused on inclusion and belonging. As more organizations shift from a defensive, compliance perspective to one of taking DEI as an offensive strategic priority, we expect to see more DEI dashboards and scorecards to drive results.