Metrics matter! Without measurements, there is simply no way to know if diversity and inclusion efforts are succeeding.
— By Joseph Warren
The value of diversity and inclusion (D&I) is measurable. Year-over-year tracking and measurement of key talent initiatives is needed to initiate change and continue making progress. Without metrics, there is really no way to know if Canada's diverse employees continue to be excluded from delivering their highest performance level (or any performance level).
Metrics also help organizations avoid stalling or slipping backwards as they strive to develop truly inclusive organizations. Finally, measuring results of initiatives provides the proof or business case for D&I, something traditional leaders need to support the initiatives.
Searching for the Whole Story
Metrics serve a lot of purposes, if they are carefully developed for meaningfulness. Common diversity metrics include turnover rates, hiring statistics, promotion rates, retention rates and pay. These are some of the most obvious metrics, but they only tell part of the story.
The quantitative metrics measure results based on people's visible diversity traits. Counting new hires and turnover rates that are based on race or ethnicity, or disability or age, are common and important measures of the status of diversity initiatives.
Yet, people are multi-dimensional, so only relying on metrics that measure based on visible traits leaves an enormous gap in identifying whether true inclusion is occurring. An organization can hire visible minorities, Aboriginals, and women, but the numbers only indicate a recruitment and hiring strategy is working.
High turnover rates indicate there is a problem within the organization, but the numbers do not inform leaders about the causes. Traditional metrics are valuable but do not provide information about the diverse employees' participation in the organization's systems and processes. This is likely why some companies are puzzled by the fact they have developed policies and procedures that bring diverse people in but cannot explain high turnover rates or low employee engagement of diverse employees. Policies are needed, of course, but without actions bringing change, barriers to inclusion are not likely to be removed.
Adding more information through quantitative measures of inclusion means drilling down to what is really going on. For example, the per centage of new hires who are women may be phenomenal, but are they concentrated in a couple of areas, like Human Resources, marketing or customer services? Representation metrics can inform as to whether diverse hires are hired into positions across the organizational units. At the management level, diversity in senior-level and board positions should also exist. If all marketing executives are women and all financial executives are men, there is likely a promotion barrier in the finance unit.
Diversity measures of inclusion should include quantitative and qualitative metrics, and they need to be tied to organizational goals.
Another important consideration is the analytics linkages. For example, does the unit consistently hiring non-Aboriginals have a high rate of labour relations issues concerning women or Asians? The linked quantitative metrics begin to tell the true story which could be the unit leaders have not embraced diversity, despite significant training.
What are You Thinking and Feeling?
Qualitative metrics, combined with quantitative measures, are closer to measuring real inclusion. They measure traits that are largely invisible. This set of traits includes factors like diversity of thought, creativity, attitudes, and satisfaction with the job and the organizational culture. Engagement surveys produce qualitative measures.
Data from exit interviews can indicate the reasons an employee is leaving the job, but lack of informative data also provides information. This seems like a contradiction, but it is not. For example, people who give generic reasons (i.e. more pay) for leaving, but are unwilling to share feelings about the department's work culture, may fear being transparent. The question is: Why?
Diversity measures of inclusion should include quantitative and qualitative metrics, and they need to be tied to organizational goals. A company that wants to expand its market share by serving Asian communities in Canada should develop diversity metrics that specifically measure participation and attitudes of Asians in the workforce. If Asians feel as if they do not fit in, then how will a company appeal to an Asian market?
In another example, a company initiative focused on increasing the retention of working mothers will need to track the parental status of employees and measure their attitudes about the workplace culture and management's success or failure in meeting their needs.
Going Deeper into the Analysis
For metrics to be meaningful, they need to be conducted on segmented employee groups. Organization-wide measures are useful, but they come up short when it comes to identifying biases related to a particular group of people.
For example, representation of blacks in the organization meet goals. However, while breaking the data down, managers learn that white males are in the higher-paying jobs and in leadership positions, while black men and women are mostly in low-paid jobs, like maintenance or janitorial positions.
Measuring inclusion requires a deeper analysis than measuring diversity. Tracking the number of women who are promoted measures the success of a diversity promotion initiative. However, does it indicate if there are women who are interested in career planning and development but are overlooked because they fear approaching managers on the topic? The statistics on the number of women promoted also does not tell managers whether women are promoted at the same rate of men. If not, then why?
A truly inclusive organization leverages diversity to drive business results and value. All employees feel valued, have a sense of belonging, and feel free to be authentic.
There are many Canadian companies that have exceptional inclusion programs, and they hold managers accountable. Proctor & Gamble linked executive compensation to achieving D&I goals. BMO Financial Group measures the impact of D&I initiatives on employee perceptions of inclusion. LinkedIn developed a customized Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Index to track the success of D&I initiatives.
Each organization should develop the unique metrics that reflect business goals. There is no single set of quantitative and qualitative metrics that is right for every business. Counting diversity based on the number of people in particular groups is only the beginning, not the end, of identifying the success of D&I initiatives. Inclusion is just as important as diversity.