Four Ways to Meaningfully Measure Your DEI Efforts

Make sure your initiatives to build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace are generating real change by measuring more than just demographics. A comprehensive look at inclusion, retention, and employee advancement will offer a better yardstick for DEI success.

Your association has probably been focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in recent years—but has your work produced real, positive change on your staff team? Success can be difficult to measure, but one thing is certain: Your organization needs to go beyond filling quotas.

“There is definitely room for improvement, especially in the association world,” says Heba Mahmoud, senior manager of diversity initiatives at the Consumer Technology Association. “What I see is associations looking at the demographics of who they’re hiring and just leaving it at that.”

Use these strategies to perform a deeper analysis of your organization’s workforce DEI initiatives.

Define Goals Using Benchmarking Data

Your association may have hit what your leaders consider an ideal level of representation across the organization, but is it enough? Get a sense for where you stand in your recruitment efforts by looking at demographics benchmarks across your industry and beyond. Organizations such as Culture Amp create reports [PDF] on diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality that offer insights into representation in the workforce, based on data from more than 100 organizations.

Mahmoud says some organizations try to have their staff demographic composition mirror the composition of their community, the customers they serve, or their country. For added context, look at your own organization’s year-over-year data to see if you’re making consistent progress.

Measure Outcomes, Not Just Output

Hiring diverse candidates is only the first step. Go further by measuring how well these employees are succeeding in your organization and determining whether they have a clear path of advancement.

“We need to start moving past that first stage of recruitment,” Mahmoud says. “Ensure that you’re creating spaces that allow for the journey to continue.”

You can do that by measuring representation at all levels of your organization. What percentage of leadership positions are filled by people in underrepresented groups? Has that percentage increased year over year? Are employees moving up through your organization? If minority groups are underrepresented at the leadership level, your organization may have barriers to career development that need to be removed.

Focus on Retention

You’ve hired diverse workers, but will they stick around? A revolving door of talent doesn’t serve your organization or your employees—in fact, high turnover could have several negative effects. Go beyond recruitment by measuring your employee retention rate. The average employee retention rate in the United States in 2019 was 90 percent; meanwhile, Black employees are 30 percent more likely [PDF] to say they have an eye on the exit than white employees are.

If minority employees are leaving more often than other groups, it could be a sign that your DEI efforts aren’t working beyond the hiring stage.

Use Surveys to Measure Inclusion

A diverse organization is not necessarily an inclusive one. Your DEI efforts need to ensure that all employees feel a sense of belonging and all voices are heard and respected. Inclusion is about making sure your employees’ experiences in your organization are not negatively affected because of their identities.

“One of the key ways that I think we can measure inclusion is engagement surveys,” Mahmoud says. “Ask people how they feel about their inclusion within your organization.”

In your survey, don’t just ask “How do you feel?” Ask specific questions, Mahmoud advises. For example:

  • “Do you feel like you have a safe space to speak up in meetings, to your boss, and to your colleagues?”
  • “Do you feel like you’re able, as a [demographic] person, to provide input to our organization?”
  • “Do you feel like there is a work-life balance here?”

When you analyze your survey responses, you’ll see where your DEI efforts need improvement. For example, if a number of employees express concerns about approaching higher-ups, you can create a leadership inclusiveness training initiative. And if your retention rate is low, these answers could help explain why.

(JLGutierrez/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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