How to Measure Diversity and Inclusion

If You Are Not Measuring Diversity, You are Already Behind

In business, we measure what matters.  When organizations say that diversity, equity,  and inclusion are important to them, I ask “how are you measuring it?”  Of all the questions I ask, this one might be the toughest.  It is often met with a silent response.  “Well, we are working on it.”

The business case for diversity is not a secret.   Harvard Business Review and other well-known trusted resources have measured ROI on diversity for some time.  Here are some reasons why your organization should be measuring it:

We measure what matters to us.  To not measure diversity and inclusion is like not measuring profits and hoping business will get better.

Prioritize data that truly drives diversity and inclusion

You might be thinking, “I have no idea where to start measuring diversity.”  Just as with any data in business, start with what you have.  Your Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) likely has gender identification and racial identification data from the hiring process.  Perhaps you could ask your leadership team if they have data or could ask someone on their team to gather the data.

Meet your organization where it is at.  Start with what you have now.  Dig in a bit deeper and break out the data by the employee experience.  Consider all aspects of the experience from recruiting to hiring, to performance management to separations.  Then, layer in the dimensions of diversity most important to your organization – race and gender are just two pieces of the puzzle.  Consider layering in disabilities, veteran status, sexual orientation as you progress.

Here are some data points along the employee experience to capture based on diversity dimensions:

  • Overall headcount
  • Hires
  • Turnover
  • Promotions
  • High potential
  • Salary or compensation ratios
  • Separations

Additionally, think about activity levels and perceptions that can be measured over time that are often leading factors for diversity and inclusion:

  • Number of DEI events, programs, and/or training events
  • Pulse survey data attitudes and beliefs about inclusion
  • Community activiites in diversity and inclusion

Some sample questions to ask regularly can be found on our free diversity and inclusion assessment.  The intent is to gather subjective data that when measured could provide a barometer on perceptions about inclusion like – How inclusive are our meetings?  How often does my manager talk about inclusion?  How committed is our organization to diversity and inclusion?

Craft meaningful metrics that capture diversity and inclusion activities

The data is the just the beginning of the story.  The data is the “what,” the “so what?” matters much more.  Once you have the data captured, think about how to tell the story.  Consider facilitating a discussion with the leadership team asking:

  • What story is this data telling us?  
  • Where are the gaps?  
  • What dimensions of diversity are not improving or getting worse?
  • Where are we in comparison to the industry?
  • What areas can we improve realistically with our current resources?

Strong organizations committed to diversity and inclusion hold their leaders accountable for diversity.  They measure it consistently over time with the expectation that diverse representation will get better.  It is not an overnight flip the switch, yet over time, it should start to improve.  

Create a diversity and inclusion scoreboard for accountability

As with any measurement plan, there has to be a consistent process to capture and communicate information.  I like the word scorecard because it promotes playful competition, yet it can also create division in an organization.  Be careful to avoid a zero sum game mentality that pits diverse talent against the majority group.  That is the opposite effect you want to create.  Perhaps you use baseline industry data as the comparison or use the words dashboard or metics to keep it the competitive spirit alive and healthy.  

Common questions we are asked about scorecards:

  • How often should I measure the data?  We recommend starting with measuring data quarterly and dial in on the frequency that works for you. 
  • How do I communicate the data with all employees?  This communication is best coming from senior leadership to illustrate its importance and communicated online as well regularly shared in all employee meetings.
  • Who is involved in the process?  The senior leadership team has to be involved in this process.  We recommend an initial review of the data and metrics for buy-in and pulse check communications throughout the process of rolling it out.  Middle management needs to be abreast of the process so they can also explain it to their teams.

Remember, it’s more important what you are doing with the data than the data itself.  If you do not like your data, resist the urge to hide it or wait until it gets better.  It will not get better without intentional focus on it.  Measurement shows commitment.  It signals to everyone we care and we are taking this seriously.  Make it fun for people to get involved.  Your organization will be better for it.

Want to do better but not sure where to start?

Check out my latest interviews with diversity, equity, and inclusion experts on the Diversity Pivot podcasttake our free team diversity and inclusion assessment, and check out the Lead Like an Ally virtual self-paced training program, perfect for organizations struggling with accountability for diversity. You can also check out all of our other virtual and live program offerings.