Diversity & Inclusion

How Inclusive Is Your Organization? Here’s How to Find Out

Over the past decade, organizations have invested considerable resources in workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. Pioneers in the field have even refined the way we understand these policies.

It was only in 2020 that the dialogue shifted to focus on how widespread and effective these D&I initiatives are. In fact, a study published in February 2021 found that 76% of companies don’t actually have goals for D&I. The actual numbers around workplace diversity backed this up.

Source: Eskemar / shutterstock

In 2021, Gartner found that BIPOC professionals only comprise 31% of the total frontline workforce. In leadership, the statistics were even more galling. Only 17% of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) workers are C-suite executives. Similarly, research by Catalyst found that women hold only 25% of senior executive positions in all publicly traded companies. Among S&P 500 companies, this shrinks to just 5%.

In spite of these numbers, workplace diversity has improved with D&I initiatives. What leaders still need to improve is the greater focus on the inclusion part of the equation. As Vernā Mayers, vice president of D&I at Netflix, once explained, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.

How to Measure Inclusion

Measuring diversity in the workplace is incredibly straightforward, as it’s quantitative in nature. Simply count how many BIPOC, female, and LGBTQ workers are in your company or organization, and compare it with the number of white, male, cisgender, or heterosexual hires. You can create even more relevant data by comparing how many historically underrepresented employees are in leadership vs. subordinate roles.

Inclusion, on the other hand, is more qualitative and much more challenging to judge because it’s based more on experiences, perceptions, and sometimes feelings—all difficult to objectively quantify. Still, the first step to creating a more inclusive workplace culture is to measure how inclusive it is.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create an Inclusion Questionnaire

The best way to gather data about employees’ experiences is to simply ask about them, and the best way to do this is through a survey or questionnaire. Solicit participation from BIPOC, female, and LGBTQ employees, but consider including all employees for the most well-rounded information. Just be sure to include questions about the anonymous participants’ race or ethnicity, gender or gender identity, and sexual orientation.

2. Track Exclusion

One of the best indicators of inclusivity is the tally of instances of discrimination or exclusion. Because it may be challenging for participants to list their experiences with discrimination in the workplace off the top of their head, carefully craft questions to solicit responses about specific types of discrimination.

For example, ask questions about whether participants have ever encountered microaggressions, unwelcome comments about their bodies or physical appearance, racially offensive and insensitive language, and more. Include multiple-choice options for the number of times each type of incident has occurred.

Draft similar questions about discrimination centered on racial, ethnic, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Go deep, and think outside the box. Keep in mind that discrimination is unlikely to be overt in today’s workplace, but many BIPOC and LGBTQ employees may feel compelled to “code switch,” or modify the way they normally speak to feel more accepted in the office.

3. Ask About Job Satisfaction

Beyond instances of discrimination, ask questions about job satisfaction, breaking it down into different areas: workplace culture, opportunities for advancement, communication, and engagement. This information will be incredibly useful to have in general, but analyzing the data by demographic can reveal your organization’s larger inclusion story.

If all or most female participants respond negatively to questions about opportunities for advancement while male candidates generally affirm there are places for them to go at the company, that can point to a corporate culture that doesn’t promote women. Consider how the leadership makeup of your organization might impact this sentiment.

4. Track Job Retention by Demographic

Beyond information gleaned from the questionnaire, data from your HR department can help paint a clearer picture of your employees’ experiences. Consider looking at how long employees remain in each position before advancing or moving on to another company. Analyze this information by demographic, and look for trends that indicate a lack of inclusivity.

Compare how long BIPOC, female, or LGBTQ employees remain at the company or in the same role before promotion compared with white, straight, cisgender, or male workers. If it takes longer for diverse employees to get promoted, or they have a higher turnover rate, it could indicate your company culture is not being welcoming enough to your diverse workforce.

Building diverse and inclusive workplaces is an ongoing process every organization should continue to strive toward. Equity and diversity still have a long way to go, but with inclusivity, we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface as a culture. Leaders like you can start remedying that at your organization.

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