As associations prioritize efforts to improve DEI within their organizations and industries, it’s important that they track the effectiveness of these programs. Doing this well requires collecting the right data.
Cie Armstead, MPA, DBA, diversity, equity, and inclusion director at the American College of Surgeons, said when considering what metrics to collect, the first place to start is with your goals.
“One of the first considerations is connecting the metrics to the large, strategic goals and objectives, so that whatever is being measured—either quantitatively or qualitatively—connects back to the strategy,” Armstead said. “Ideally, when the strategy is being developed, the metrics are considered.”
In addition to strategy, consider what you want people to know about your organization. “Think about the story you want to tell about your work,” Armstead said. “Then look for those measures that will help you tell your story.”
If an association, for example, has a goal to increase the number of diverse board members, simple numbers can track data like how many diverse applicants were considered and how many were approved for the board.
However, for items like inclusion, which is a feeling, associations need to go beyond basic numbers, said Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP, chief knowledge officer at the Society for Human Resource Management.
“What organizations often don’t track is what the culture does to include people or help them feel like they are part of the organization,” Alonso said. “One of the things we espouse is the use of a metric we created called the ‘empathy index.’ They should look at how well they retain talent and make them feel as though they belong. Look at how well they make them feel as though the culture is empathetic and inclusive, as well as making them feel the culture does not use any exclusive or discriminatory practices.”
Feelings of inclusion can be captured through qualitative data, like open-ended surveys, where people express how they feel, or share stories about their experiences with the organization.
“There is significant value in giving people a voice,” Armstead said. “You saw that a lot in the summer of 2020 and the aftermath. There were safe spaces to talk about what was going on as people were processing so many layers of what was happening in society at that time. So, in talking to our members, it provided a way for them to have a voice.”
Qualitative data can also help organizations figure out what quantitative data they might want to collect.