Measuring Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: Why It’s Important and How to Do It

Learn the importance of measuring diversity and inclusion — and the best practices for improving your D&I initiatives.


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Measuring Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

When it comes to creating an inclusive workplace, most companies have a long way to go. A recent study from the Harvard Business Review Analytics Service shows that more than 2/3 of organizations are “only somewhat successful” at creating a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are front and center for most businesses, though. Sixty-five percent of business leaders say DEI efforts are a high strategic priority. More than 2,000 CEOs have also signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge.

The difference between diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are often used together in business circles, but they are 2 different concepts with important distinctions.

  • Diversity means the makeup of a group includes people of many races, genders, ages, sexual orientations, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and more. True diversity also includes differences in thought, perspectives, and characteristics.
  • Inclusion is about a mindset and culture. It means fostering a sense of empowerment and value for all employees by creating a workplace environment where all workers can succeed.

Whether you are trying to improve your diversity in the workforce or grow an inclusive workplace, your efforts must be intentional. It takes actionable steps, ongoing support, and accountability

The importance of measuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Besides being the right thing to do, there are tangible benefits to building a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Organizations thrive when they foster higher levels of representation, a diversity of thought, and an inclusive workplace. The “Gartner 2021 Leadership Progression and Diversity Survey” reports that companies making a serious effort to improve diversity and inclusion are more likely to reach goals faster. Even though it may take years to achieve gender and racial parity, proactive companies are making the most significant gains.

Inclusive and diverse teams outperform less inclusive teams by as much as 50%.

7 diversity and inclusion metrics every workplace should use

Eighty-five percent of D&I leaders said that organizational inclusion was the most important outcome. Yet, only 57% of companies are actively tracking it. One of the first steps toward solving any problem is to recognize it and measure it.

Here are some of the D&I metrics every workplace should use.

1. Employee feedback

Gauging employee attitudes about D&I in the workplace is a good place to start. Surveying how employees feel your organization is performing can help create a baseline for future measurements. Gartner recommends surveying employees in 7 key areas:

  • Fair treatment: Employees who help achieve strategic objectives receive fair rewards and recognition.
  • Integrating differences: Employees respect and value their colleagues’ opinions.
  • Decision making: Management considers Ideas and suggestions that employees offer.
  • Psychological safety: Employees don’t fear sharing their true feelings in the workplace.
  • Trust: The company is open and honest in communicating with employees.
  • Belonging: The people in my organization care about workers.
  • Diversity: Managers are as diverse as the broader workforce.

Besides measuring employee sentiment, this can also help leadership to know where to focus its efforts.

2. Workforce representation

Organizations should measure diversity within the workforce and leadership ranks, especially compared to industry benchmarks. This can help create targets for improvement and measure progress against goals.

Workforce representation helps identify and monitor underrepresented groups that may be victims of discrimination or unconscious bias. From this larger metric, organizations can also crosstab information such as leadership roles, promotions, and pay to ensure equity.

3. Recruitment

Comparing applicants against monitored groups can help identify whether your recruitment efforts are optimized for diversity and inclusion. It’s also worth reviewing your job ads, applications, recruitment strategies, and other outreach for signs of unintentional bias.

4. Hiring

From applicant pools, you should measure who gets hired and whether monitored groups are fairly represented. This can help identify assessment bias in the processes for reviewing applications and conducting interviews.

5. Employee promotion

It is also a useful D&I metric to keep track of who gets promoted. If you want to improve diversity and inclusion in leadership, you need to invest in training. Be proactive to create opportunities for diverse employee groups.

6. Employee turnover

Often, companies that fail to provide a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace see higher turnover among certain groups of employees. One way to capture this is to analyze employee turnover and retention. Exit interviews can also help recognize trends or patterns and delve deeper into D&I concerns.

7. Leadership

Diversity and inclusion must also extend into the leadership group. Your leadership team doesn’t only drive the organization. They are often the most visible employees outside your company walls. Studies also show that the most diverse leadership teams are the most innovative.

Measuring diversity and inclusiveness in your leadership ranks, reporting your results, and taking proactive measures to foster D&I initiatives across all levels of your organization are crucial.

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Putting your D&I metrics into action

Some organizations are uncomfortable talking about or measuring D&I because they are afraid it will show shortfalls.  Improving D&I, however, requires you to do exactly that. Recognize the shortfalls and put initiatives in place for improvement.

Measuring regularly is part of the key to assessing progress and holding team members accountable. Forty-seven percent of companies surveyed by Harvard Business Review measure at least twice a year. Surveying and sharing results with team members helps reinforce the commitment of leadership to make positive changes.

To make a true difference in your organization, you need support from senior leadership. Without this support, diversity and inclusion metrics alone won’t make a difference. Measuring inclusion is only a tool. If your goal is to create a more inclusive work environment, you must commit to making real change and not just trying to look better in reporting.

Interested in learning more about strategies to improve your diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Download our DEI checklist for HR managers.


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