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How to measure & communicate DEI Progress

As with most DEI endeavors, measurement is not a one-size-fits-all approach or a check-the-box activity. The plan will likely iterate over time and so will the measurement methods. Organizations committed to DEI focus on progress over perfection and realize that measuring and communicating DEI metrics externally and internally helps organizations demonstrate transparency, accountability, and progress in their DEI initiatives.

Most of us have heard the old adage “What gets measured gets done.” For organizations that are serious about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), measurement is key. When outcomes are measured over time, initiatives are properly resourced and leadership is more likely to stay engaged (not just when DEI is in the news cycle).

In addition to leadership engagement and resourcing, younger employees and consumers are demanding transparency on pay as employees and in the brands they shop with as customers. The most transparent companies realize they still have a long way to go, yet are committed to the DEI journey long-term. Yet, organizations that share their DEI metrics externally and internally demonstrate greater transparency, accountability, and progress in their DEI initiatives. 

What to Measure

  1. Diversity Reports: Companies often publish annual or periodic diversity reports that provide an overview of their workforce demographics, highlighting representation by gender, race, ethnicity, and other relevant categories. These reports may include comparisons to industry benchmarks or previous years’ data to show progress or areas of improvement.
  2. Public Statements and Commitments: Organizations may release public statements or commitments that outline their DEI goals, strategies, and progress. These statements often include specific metrics or targets they aim to achieve, demonstrating their commitment to transparency and accountability.
  3. Websites and Corporate Communications: Companies may share their DEI metrics on their websites, typically in a dedicated diversity or inclusion section. They may provide data on workforce demographics, pay equity, diversity initiatives, employee resource groups, and other relevant information. Corporate communications, such as press releases or blog posts, can also be used to highlight specific milestones or initiatives related to DEI.
  4. ESG and Sustainability Reports: Many organizations include DEI metrics as part of their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) or sustainability reports. Think of DEI as the “S” in ESG. These reports provide comprehensive information about the company’s social impact, including its diversity and inclusion efforts, alongside environmental and governance metrics. ESG reports are often shared with investors, stakeholders, and the general public. The primary ESG metrics are pay equity and gender diversity representation.
  5. Industry Benchmarks and Rankings: Some organizations participate in industry surveys, benchmarks, or rankings related to diversity and inclusion. They may voluntarily disclose their DEI metrics to be evaluated and compared against other companies. Sharing rankings or benchmarking results can showcase an organization’s relative performance and commitment to DEI.
  6. Inclusion Indexes: Organizations many types of indices to track their inclusion numbers. This data can be found in existing employee engagement surveys or pulse surveys. I partner with an organization Spectra Diversity to analyze 31 scientifically vetted metrics known to drive DEI in organizations.
  7. Partnerships and Collaborations: Organizations may share their DEI metrics as part of partnerships or collaborations with external organizations, such as nonprofits, advocacy groups, or industry alliances focused on diversity and inclusion. By sharing metrics, they can demonstrate their alignment with shared goals and collaborate on addressing DEI challenges.

It’s important for organizations to ensure they comply with relevant privacy regulations and protect individual confidentiality when sharing DEI metrics externally. They should also provide context, explain the limitations of metrics, and be transparent about ongoing efforts and areas for improvement. CultureAmp also recommends these nine metrics when reporting to different stakeholders.

Case Study
A company had lost two top-performing employees due to their lack of diversity and inclusion. They cited that as the reason for leaving in their exit interview. While it is rare for employees to admit this, it is an all too common reason for people to seek out a new employer. We made a few simple assumptions on how much that turnover cost this organization and came up with a $200,000 loss on the intellectual capital, performance loss and onboarding cost for new employees that are not performing at the same level. Consider turnover cost assumptions when measuring DEI outcomes. For leaders, this number is likely higher given the talent shortages and onboarding time needed to perform at the same elevated level.

Often, inclusion data is far more compelling than representation metrics. Representation numbers are sticky and change slowly, and can feel like forced quotas that alienate the majority group. Inclusion drives diversity and therefore should be the primary focus as the leading vs. lagging indicator. 

How to Communicate Measurements
Measurement is rarely enough alone. Communicating how you’re measuring the outcomes of DEI is pivotal to long-term success. These communications vary based on your culture and your audience, whether it is internal or external. 

External communications need to be high-level and visually compelling. I like the fundraising barometer example for DEI metrics externally. Having clear goals or one big goal with milestones to get there with green, yellow or red to indicate progress. Increasingly investors are asking for DEI metrics before making their investment decisions. They know that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams and are holding leadership teams accountable. 

Internal communications are likely more detailed and complex. Some of our clients have DEI brochures or flipbooks with details about the work they’re doing and how they’re measuring it over time. Employees generally care about pay equity, leadership representation, inclusiveness in the employee experience and hiring and recruiting numbers. Those detailed reports aren’t always as relevant externally. I remember in my corporate days managing the facility safety program, we had a sign displaying the number of days without an injury at the front of the warehouse. It served as a visual reminder of the work we were doing and needed to do. Consider visual reminders of DEI that you can place on the company intranet, office spaces and virtual meeting locations. 

As with most DEI endeavors, measurement is not a one-size-fits-all approach or a check-the-box activity. The plan will likely iterate over time and so will the measurement methods. Organizations committed to DEI focus on progress over perfection and realize that measuring and communicating DEI metrics externally and internally helps organizations demonstrate transparency, accountability, and progress in their DEI initiatives.

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