AltoPartners Guide to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: How to use diversity metrics to create an inclusive workplace

April 06, 2023 Share this article:

DE&I diversity metrics

It is no longer up for debate that companies need to move towards diversifying their workforces. Over a decade of empirical research shows that more diverse companies outperform less diverse companies – and increasingly stronger demands for social justice are hard to ignore.

That means that more and more companies are focusing on recruiting and promoting a workforce composed of people from differing backgrounds, experiences, and identities. And it doesn’t stop with the composition of staff: the diversity of a company’s board and management team is increasingly under scrutiny by investors.

What that means is that many organisations are undertaking a wide range of initiatives towards transformation. And they’ll know that they need to be tracking their results in order to measure the success (and return on investment) of the work they are doing. As McKinsey & Company point out, employing people from underrepresented minorities and tracking the demographic data is relatively simple. But measuring meaningful inclusion is another ballgame altogether. If inclusion is defined as “the degree to which employees are embraced and enabled to make meaningful contributions”, measuring it is going to involve keeping track of feelings and experiences.

That said, getting to grips with the things that can be measured more easily is a good place to start, if only because the act of keeping track will prevent a tendency to revert to old ways of doing things.

The metrics to think about

The Coach Diversity Institute suggests a range of possible DE&I metrics to track:

Recruitment and selection figures. This might include tracking how many people from different groups apply for positions – and then which people, from which groups, are selected for hire. These figures can help to determine how biased or broad recruitment efforts are – and can highlight areas where recruitment strategies might need adaptation.

Promotion figures. Are individuals from certain groups more likely to get promoted than people from under-represented groups? These statistics can help to determine if more effort needs to go into developing and supporting employees so that they are able to grow and flourish professionally.

Pay and benefit comparisons. How do salaries and benefits of different employees compare? Are some groups of people making less than others? What about other benefits, like health care?

Representation figures. Companies will need to look at the entire organisation. How diverse it is compared to the surrounding community and to other companies in the industry? Are there groups of people who are under-represented?

Retention figures. Recruiting and hiring a diverse pool of talent is a good start – but do those employees stay, or do they leave relatively quickly? These figures can help uncover management or workplace culture issues that may hinder growth and diversity.

Customer diversity figures. How diverse is the customer or client base? Are there certain sectors or groups that are not being served?

Supplier diversity figures. How diverse is the supplier pool? Are there ways to broaden your partnerships?

Exit interviews. Exit interviews conducted with employees who are voluntarily leaving the organisation can provide first-hand data about their experiences. These experiences, combined with retention figures, can help uncover institutional bias or a culture that could be improved.

All these metrics are critical to understanding the nuts and bolts of a company’s DE&I initiatives, especially if they are fed back into an action plan – but they also need to feed into a wider look at the ultimate test: do employees feel that they belong?

Thinking about inclusion

Harvard Business Review says organiszations must measure employee sentiment against a considered definition of inclusion. The definition will differ from company to company, but a general statement might look like this: A culture of inclusion means that a mix of people can come to work and feel comfortable and confident to be themselves. They can work in a way that suits them and which delivers business or service needs. Inclusion ensures that everyone feels valued and, importantly, that they add value.

Any attempt to measure employee feelings – whether through focus groups or surveys and questionnaires – must be followed by feedback on findings, and by action, in order to build ongoing trust. If a survey taken in January reveals that Muslim employees felt excluded and disrespected at the boozy Christmas bash, that needs to be visibly acted on before the next religious celebration rolls around.

Working on this level is not a short-term project. Accenture says companies that provide a truly inclusive workplace understand that “enduring commitment and effort are required. Inclusive behaviour is a daily activity, not a quarterly or annual initiative. Diverse voices need to be heard through frequent and open feedback. This cadence allows learnings to be translated into real-time actions, and; continual adjustments must be made to help ensure an inclusive culture is maintained.”

It’s also important for leadership to recognise that they might not be the best people to be taking the inclusion temperature in their organisations. Black employees might not be comfortable expressing their feelings to a white manager, no matter how well-intentioned the conversation is. And people will not open up until they trust completely that their honest feedback will be respected and acted on. If the diversity metrics gathered show that there might be workplace culture issues to be addressed, it might be worth considering bringing in an outside consultant to run the process.

Possible inclusion indicators

Gartner, a technological research and consulting firm, surveyed nearly 10,000 employees around the world and came up with the Gartner Inclusion Index, which presents employees with the following statements:

  • Fair treatment: Employees at my organisation who help the organiszation achieve its strategic objectives are rewarded and recognized fairly.

  • Integrating differences: Employees at my organisation respect and value each other’s opinions. Decision making: Members of my team fairly consider ideas and suggestions offered by other team members.

  • Psychological safety: I feel welcome to express my true feelings at work.

  • Trust: Communication we receive from the organisation is honest and open.

  • Belonging: People in my organisation care about me.

  • Diversity: Managers at my organisation are as diverse as the broader workforce.

Gartner says that the greater the degree to which employees agree with these statements, the more inclusive the organisation.

Writing in Forbes, entrepreneur and author Glenn Llopis says that inclusion means looking at five simple things. It involves:

  • who you let in
  • how you see them
  • who you let them be
  • what you let them do
  • how you let them do it.

He is unequivocal about the importance of this work. “The topic of inclusion is at the core of every challenge we’re facing. We can’t lead effective hybrid teams if we’re excluding people, and we can’t prepare ourselves and our organiszations for an uncertain future if we’re not elevating and activating all people at their fullest capacities.” Ultimately, it’s an ongoing journey. Organisations still at the starting line can get some useful tips on where to begin here.

Recommended reading: Meaningful Metrics For Diversity And Inclusion