By: Judith Miller on March 1st, 2021

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How to Measure Your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Progress

Diversity & Inclusion

(This article was originally published in the February 2021 issue of The Voice of Technology Magazine.) 

Today, we know that diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace practices yield a plethora of benefits. Businesses that cultivate cultures where all employees have a sense of belonging are proven to have higher engagement, productivity, innovation and are ultimately more financially successful.

Committing to a robust diversity program because it is the right thing to do and not just because it is “good for the business” will help give your organization a competitive advantage. Top talent is becoming more and more intentional about seeking out places of employment that foster corporate responsibility and cultural awareness as part of their mission, vision, and values, and business strategy.

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What we have found over time, however, is that diversity initiatives often fail to also address equity and inclusion with the same, if not more, intensity and focus. So, if your organization is formalizing your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives and are wondering how to measure if you are on the right track, here are a few areas we recommend to our clients for tracking progress towards your goals.

The First 4 Steps to Making and Measuring Your DEI Progress This Year

1) Take Honest Inventory of Your Representation

Does your entire workforce reflect diversity? Often, organizations may statistically meet their diversity goals in entry- to mid-level positions, yet we see large disparities among people of color, women, and other minorities in senior leadership roles in general. Measuring diversity through the lens of upward mobility can highlight opportunities to provide greater access and growth opportunities.

Consider the employee lifecycle and what career progression may look like. Are you offering the same training and development opportunities to all your employees or are there initial challenges that may already limit access for some? Equality and equity are not to be confused in this scenario. While equality is typically defined as treating everyone the same and giving everyone the same opportunities; equity refers to the proportional representation in those opportunities and the access to them.

While you are looking at your representation, we encourage conducting an intentional review of partnerships and vendors and determining whether positive change can be made.

2) Review Your Compensation & Benefits

Review your compensation practices and annually benchmark your roles to ensure compensation and benefits are fair and equitable. While the United States has a gender pay equity gap of about 18.9% according to the US Census Bureau in 2020, it does not necessarily mean that there is a gap in your organization. Knowing whether a pay gap or if pay compression exists is important in working towards your future goals. During this process, some areas you could review include overtime eligibility and scheduling practices, your performance management and merit pay programs, and ensuring that your job descriptions reflect an accurate representation of the work being done.

Additionally, it is advisable to seek and encourage transparent feedback from your employees on your compensation and benefits practices through employee surveys, for example.

3) Check Your Talent Acquisition Blind Spots

Examine your current Talent Acquisition processes. Unintended bias can frequently stem from the beginning of a candidate’s experience. We recommend starting with job advertisements to see how they are written, what adjectives are used and the messaging your employer brand is sending to prospective candidates. You can also consider if some of your current job requirements are truly necessary such as preferred colleges or even a college degree. Look at where you post your jobs and source for candidates. Helios HR’s recruiting consultants are certified diversity recruiters and I have been amazed to learn some of the new tools and techniques they use to diversify candidate pools. Another area to think about is when the last time your recruiters and hiring managers had interview training and if your interview process needs to be standardized with scorecards.

Lastly, as you are reviewing your current talent acquisition process, I encourage you to consider diversity in a holistic manner. Think about if your business has made a conscious effort to source candidates from varying cultures, races, ethnicities, genders, religions, orientations, abilities, etc. For example, have you made strategic alliances with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), partnered with the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) to find qualified disabled applicants, connected with recent LGBTQ grads via Reaching Out MBA, or linked up with RecruitMilitary to discover veterans re-entering the workforce? These are just a few of the many resources available to explore as part of your talent acquisition strategy.

4) Consider the Employee Experience and Retention

Is your organization currently nurturing an inclusive environment and retaining a diverse employee population? The goal is to foster a true sense of belonging on your team where different voices and opinions matter and are welcomed. You could consider establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), a mentorship program, and/or an inclusion committee. With any program like this, you want to provide access to team members with shared affinities, backgrounds, goals, and interests. If you already have these programs in place and/or once you do, look at your participation and engagement as a result.

Measuring attrition among underrepresented groups and seeking to understand their sense of belonging are great indicators to quantify inclusiveness. Additionally, and not of lesser importance, is to spend time reviewing analytics of employee relations matters, such as harassment or discrimination claims. Audit your findings each time against your mission and vision and course-correct as needed. Sharing your efforts as transparently and often as possible with your workforce will build trust and buy-in.

Lastly, inclusive practices should be reaffirmed by seeking proactive feedback from your employee population. Stay interviews or as mentioned previously, employee surveys, are great tools to perform culture pulse checks. Compensation, career advancement, and lack of sense of belonging are commonly the drivers to seek employment elsewhere.

Related reading: Should HR Lead Your DEI Program?

While analytical metrics are great Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), please do not overlook the importance and impact of creating a safe space for courageous conversations to take place and for all voices to be heard. Harvard Business Review recently published an article featuring author, Dr. Robert Livingston who published his five-step plan on How to Promote Racial Equity in the Workplace. He suggests that the real challenge for organizations is not figuring out “what can we do?”, but rather, “are we willing to do it?”.

As I leave you with that thought, I want to be transparent that as you track your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) metrics, the data may surface some feelings of discomfort. Your organization’s initial findings may be less than ideal, and it may make it difficult to remain transparent with your team and perhaps even open-minded. I encourage you to stay vigilant and focused on why you began this journey and continue to champion this cause from the top down. All meaningful change requires you to start somewhere.

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