Diversity & Inclusion, Learning & Development

How to Measure the Success of Your DEI Initiatives 

When businesses begin implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, they may have a lot of ideas about what those initiatives will look like but not how to measure their success. DEI measurements identify areas of risk of exclusion, prioritize initiatives, set targets and program goals, assign accountability, and measure the ultimate impact of the initiatives. 

A robust DEI approach can’t be based only on ideas or a hunch. It needs to use data to determine the right interventions and initiatives required and then to measure the success—or failure—of those initiatives.

When to Measure DEI

There’s never a wrong time to begin measuring DEI metrics, no matter how far along your organization may be in your progress toward becoming a more inclusive environment. Regardless of when you decide to start your metric measurement, consider the first time you measure as the baseline measurement of the current state of inclusion in your organization.

Once a baseline is established, you can then use collected data to identify potential gaps or issues and then better determine and prioritize planned initiatives to address those gaps. And after your DEI initiatives are put into action, you can track your organization’s progress and measure the outcomes of the initiatives.

Purpose and Benefits of Measuring DEI

There are many reasons for organizations to measure the success of their DEI initiatives and many benefits that can come from the data collected. If you collect the right data, you can  measure not only diversity or belonging but also the financial, human capital, and legislative return on investment from diversity and inclusion programs. That data can then be used to engage stakeholders, strengthen leadership commitment, secure additional resources, and advocate for further change.

Measurements also strengthen the relationship between employees and leadership, which is especially important in this time of rolling labor shortages and the Great Resignation. Organizations that wish to retain good employees should illustrate that they’re genuine about implementing strong, actionable DEI initiatives and that the ones they put in place have succeeded. In a recent survey from GoodHire, approximately 81% of workers said they would leave their positions if their employers didn’t have a commitment to strong DEI initiatives. 

DEI efforts, measuring the results of that work, and reporting outcomes transparently can support employers in combating the effects of the labor shortage. HR can use its DEI data to enhance the employee experience where most needed, thereby creating a better environment for top talent to be attracted to and thrive in the organization.

The metrics derived from DEI measurement have many other benefits, as well. For one, an organization’s board of directors or C-suite can use the data to set strategic objectives for the organization. Additionally, the organization’s customer service experience can be enhanced when the data is used in product development or service-related functions. And operational and functional leaders can use the data to innovate and improve performance and procedures to bolster the overall inclusive operations of their organization.

Indeed, there are many benefits of gathering and tracking metrics on DEI initiatives, and one’s purpose and benefits should be outlined from the outset of the implementation of the DEI plan. With an eye on the purpose of the initiatives and the benefits one hopes to achieve, it will drive the initiatives forward (or help you know when to pivot if something isn’t working).

How to Measure DEI

Now that you’re aware of why you should measure your DEI objectives and initiatives, the next step is finding ways to collect and act upon those metrics. The overarching consideration when setting meaningful DEI metrics is that they must map progress toward the achievement of your inclusion initiatives and overall inclusion goals for your organization.

Metrics and data will vary between organizations. Because every organization faces unique DEI challenges in the context of its markets and business strategy, it’s unlikely that two organizations will use the exact same metrics. 

There are different ways to select the right measures for your organization and use those measures to support your inclusion efforts. Measurements organizations can focus on include:

  • Organizational indicators of inclusion
  • Inclusive leadership
  • Employee life cycle and experience
  • Customer experience and financial performance
  • Human capital indicators of inclusion
  • Leading and lagging indicators of inclusion

In order to select measurements, organizations should look at their strategic objectives—what are their critical success factors? How does DEI affect those success factors? Organizations should look at their current inclusion behaviors and how those may need to change to better reach their overall goals.

In order to source useful data for measurements, organizations should employ a number of tactics, such as gathering feedback directly from employees and leadership about employee engagement and their views on inclusion. Organizations can also gather information from customers, sales, human capital, and financial reports for hard numbers; measure adoption and utilization of new inclusive ways of working; and observe physical, in-person evidence of initiatives in play.

Continuing to Improve 

With all DEI initiatives, organizations should set goals of continuously improving and working toward more DEI. There will likely never be a single “end” goal with regard to DEI but rather a collection of milestones and achievements of leading indicators of inclusion your organization will continue to strive toward and achieve. 

Liz Wilson, PhD, is a behavioral scientist, an organizational transformation expert, and founder of Include Inc. Originally from Australia and now based in the United States, Wilson is well known for her authentic, honest, and pragmatic approach to everything she does. This includes her simple yet powerful Include Change Method, which has achieved amazing results for her clients over the span of her 25+-year career. She’s also the host of the inclusion podcast Include with Dr. Liz.

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