Measuring Diversity and Inclusion Meaningfully

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

For more information about measuring the impact of DEI programs, moving on from initial benchmarking data, destigmatizing DEI data, and measuring some of the “squishier” parts of inclusion, listen to She+ Geeks Out Podcast Episode 103: The Wonderful World of DEI Metrics with Erika Powell.

For many, the beginning of a new year marks a time of reflection upon the past year and an opportunity to set meaningful goals for lasting change. It can be particularly daunting to set goals when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but the rewards your company can gain from doing so can be immense if done properly. Once goals are defined, the metrics will flow naturally.

So let’s tackle goal-setting first.

When thinking about setting goals around diversity and inclusion, you should always start by asking why. Let’s look at a few examples of goals and what they’re trying to achieve:

  • Increase the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of your company, particularly in teams that have disproportionate representation. Why is this important to your company? For one, think about who your end-users and/or customers are. It may be that you are a company that sells primarily to women and people from different racial backgrounds, but you’ve found that your product and engineering teams are dominated by white men. We’ve already seen this as problematic with several companies. This article from TechCrunch does a great job of breaking down how lack of diversity in product and design can have literally life-threatening consequences. It could be that you’re a services-based company and you primarily serve (or would like to serve) people that are different from you. It could be that you are aware of the McKinsey Report on diversity and understand that your business could profit more from a more diverse team. If you want to solve any of these problems, it might make sense to focus on diverse employees.
  • Improve retention rates for underrepresented people (race, age, gender, etc.). If you’ve noticed a trend that you’re losing employees who aren’t well represented at your company, paying attention to this goal could save your company a lot of money– not only in rehiring costs, but also from avoiding morale issues that the rest of the company could experience when employees leave.
  • Increase the number of underrepresented people in leadership roles. You may consider pairing either of the two previous goals to help bolster this one. This goal may be relevant for you because you’re getting feedback from employees that they don’t see themselves represented in leadership and therefore might not want to stay with your company.You may also recognize that diverse leadership can lead to greater outcomes (see bullet number one above).

Now that you’ve thought about the goals, what kinds of metrics do you want to set to get to and measure the impact of activities related to those goals? Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  • If you’re interested in increasing the number of underrepresented people at your company, you may want to start by looking at your recruiting and hiring practices. If your pipeline of diverse candidates is small, so will be your chances of hiring people from diverse backgrounds. Start to capture numbers and data related to the candidates throughout the pipeline lifecycle – how many applications, where are they coming from, how many are phone screened, how many are interviewed in person, how many are offered a position, where are the drop-offs along the way, etc. Note that demographic information should be carefully collected and be voluntary, and be stored securely for safety.
  • If you’re interested in improving retention rates, develop best practices around surveying employees on their feelings of inclusion, broken down by demographic information. Be cognizant of the fact that employees can experience ‘survey fatigue’; you may want to be careful of your survey cadence. Try sending out one or two larger, more in-depth surveys throughout the year, and smaller/shorter ‘pulse’ surveys on a more frequent basis. Sites such as OfficeVibe, TinyPulse, CultureAmp, and more can be a huge help so you don’t have to start from scratch. The surveys should be made up of a mix of qualitative and quantitative data to help you figure out what issues need to be tackled from your employees’ perspective.
  • If you’re interested in increasing the number of underrepresented employees in leadership roles, you may want to analyze your performance review metrics to see how people are getting promoted from within or if bias is creeping into the reviews, ultimately hurting opportunities for internal promotion. Harvard Business Review has written a few articles on this topic, looking at gender bias in performance reviews and how black women navigate race and gender at work. Metrics pulled from the above two bullet points may help you achieve this goal as well.

Once your goals and metrics are defined, you can begin to create strategies to get to those goals and measure their success. Each goal can be achieved through a variety of tested methods. While there’s no silver bullet for any of them, you can ultimately be more effective if you put a meaningful effort into planning and executing in this area just as you would any other part of your business.

For further information, please have a look at one of our favorite resources, Project Include.


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