How do your D&I metrics measure up?
By Jo Faragher on 31 March 2021
When d&i Leaders published the results of its global benchmarking survey earlier this year, there was a clear will among respondents to become more data-led and evidence-based in their approach to diversity and inclusion.
Just over four in 10 felt their approach to D&I was proactive, yet fewer than one in 10 felt their approach was based on evidence. And when it came to the methods organisations used to track diversity, they were hugely varied. Demographic data was one of the most common methods used, often reported as part of annual reports or engagement surveys. But either side of that were respondents who had no measures in place at all, and others who were fully integrating questions about belonging and engagement to track levels of inclusion.
The results were not surprising given that many D&I professionals feel like rabbits in the headlights when asked to measure the impact of what they’re doing. Stephen Frost, CEO and founder of inclusion consultancy Frost Included, says it’s possible to break measurement down into three components. “Firstly you can count people – this can be generated by your HR systems but won’t measure all protected characteristics, so you may want to go above and beyond that data,” he explains. “Secondly you can make predictions about diversity, and this is more bespoke. This is where having a team of data specialists might help, essentially looking at your recruitment and promotion trends and what the organisation might look like in three or five years’ time. Then finally you can measure inclusion. Some organisations do this already but in quite a passive way, such as ‘I am proud to work for this company’. Instead, you need to tailor your questions so you can see exactly what contributes to people’s sense of belonging or psychological safety.” Even managing to achieve the first level is creating a baseline, which can be useful.
Data is not just demographic
But while measuring representation (and predicting how it might look in the future) is a good start, this is only part of the story. Sheree Atcheson, a global diversity, equity and inclusion leader and author of Demanding More, says: “Diversity representation is not a singular marker of inclusion, and too many businesses define someone being in the room as a mark of inclusion. They should be looking at factors such as attrition and retention, breaking that down by protected characteristics and into something more nuanced such as women of colour. This will give you a real understanding of what inclusion really means, using people analytics to get a feel for people’s sense of belonging, the support they get from management and the like.” Atcheson’s last role was with engagement data company Peakon so the organisation was used to taking the ‘temperature’ of the organisation regularly, sharing data and being accountable for what it revealed. She adds: “There shouldn’t be any assumptions around what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t assume something that worked for you or for another organisation will work again.”
One approach taken by some organisations is to align themselves with external benchmarks. The Centre for Global Inclusion, for example, offers a free resource to help organisations determine their strategy and assess their progress known as the Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarks (GDEIB). Recruitment company Hays, meanwhile, was one of the first 20 organisations nationwide to achieve the National Equality Standard (NES), an initiative spearheaded by consulting firm EY. “To achieve this and measure our progress on diversity, equality and inclusion – we identified clear ED&I priorities and launched a Diversity Steering Committee to influence and help drive our ED&I agenda,” says Yvonne Smyth, global head of ED&I at Hays. “In line with this we launched a more robust diversity monitoring process for both our staff and our candidates so we could get a better picture as to who made up our business. Our improved anonymous candidate diversity monitoring was launched to ensure we are capturing data consistently across the entire recruitment process to understand if any barriers to entry exist in the pre-employment stages.” Within the business itself, there is an annual survey around engagement that asks specific questions related to ED&I and employees’ sense of belonging. Smyth adds: “This year, we extended this further and conducted a separate piece of ED&I research amongst our staff with an external partner, so we could find out what our staff think of our business through an ED&I lens, where the barriers lie, who is affected by them and what the impact is on employees and our performance.”
Matt Davies, HR director at software company Target Group, has set up employee systems in such a way that workers can amend their own HR records to reflect any aspects of their own diversity as they change. “We allow people to update this whenever they want, rather than when they first start work, so if for example they come out, transition, or become disabled, they can update their own HR record. Not all companies do this but I think they should,” he says. Target also analyses data for its top quartile of roles to ensure that the mix of senior executives reflects the diversity of the workforce as a whole. “If not, that’s what helps to shape our plans,” he adds. Atcheson argues that organisations can go a step further and tie measurement targets to senior leadership goals. “This could be tasks they must do in a quarter that are tied to OKRs (objectives and key results) – so your big goal might be 30% female representation but it helps to pull out the smaller goals along the way,” she says.
One challenge for D&I professionals is that C-suite executives may be used to a certain type of language around return on investment and metrics. Frost adds: “Leaders want to see perceived business value, but they don’t necessarily know what they want or need, and this can be a real challenge if you do D&I to show what the goal is and what that looks like. We have a bias towards tests and concrete things, so D&I professionals need to make the nebulous tangible.” Quantifying inclusion can be tough, but it’s not impossible.
d&i Leaders is a global community of senior diversity, inclusion and HR focused professionals, looking to collaborate, network and accelerate their workplace inclusion strategy.