We’re now going to explore some approaches to measuring DE&I; and evaluating impact. Get ready to learn more about how to think about and have awkward conversations, how to foster inclusion and belonging and how to view DE&I; as a journey, not a destination.
In the first article in this series, we devoted some much-needed thinking to how to best get started on an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion journey in your own company. As a quick recap, here are the four key takeaways and directives from our recent OPEN Series event that we delved into in that article:
- Dig out the root cause.
- Data will reveal where your company should begin – and recommend a path to progress.
- No two Equity, Diversity & Inclusion journeys are alike.
- Balance the moral case and the business case.
Now that you’ve started thinking about – or are continuing to think about – measuring the impact of these initiatives, I want to share three more great insights from that discussion with Salima Bhimani, PhD, Chief Equity + Inclusion Systems Strategist for the Other Bet companies at Alphabet, and Carissa Romero, PhD, Co-founder & Managing Director at Paradigm Strategy.
- Inclusion, belonging and performance.
- Have the awkward conversations.
- It’s not just about the destination.
5) Inclusion, belonging and performance.
It’s helpful to focus on the connections between inclusion, belonging and performance. When people aren’t certain that they belong, they tend to underperform. There’s research showing that memory capacity is lower when we don’t feel like we belong. It’s worthwhile to evaluate your employees’ sense of belonging – in an ideal state, we can encourage them to do the best work possible.
Salima pinpointed something many business leaders and People managers are thinking about. They care a lot about the culture that’s being developed in the workplace, and part of that is identifying who is affecting belonging within the company. Who are the people that most influence your employees’ sense of belonging?
Once you identify them, then it’s really a matter of working with those people on how to ensure that belonging is pervasive throughout every department and that it takes into account all potential areas of diversity and difference on an org-wide level.
One important way to measure the current state of, and identify gaps in, feelings of belonging in your workplace is through performance ratings by teams and groups. Evaluate performance ratings by segmenting the responses and looking at specific demographics – e.g. women in the engineering department or differently abled employees throughout the entire company – and look for patterns and potential red flags in the differences in performance ratings by group.
Look at how managers offer feedback is another good place to start. Are they giving feedback in a way that works well with the employee’s preferred communication style? Are they providing constructive and solution-oriented thought-starters to allow people to show up and do their best work?
6) Lean into the fear. Communicate failure. Have the awkward conversations.
We don’t talk enough about Equity, Diversity & Inclusion as a journey. It is. It’s an ongoing effort that requires company wide buy-in. It isn’t a once-a-year activity. It’s a long-term play, and there isn’t a “destination” to arrive at.
Sharing demographic data, addressing challenging issues, and these kinds of things will inevitably surface tough, sticky, uncomfortable conversations. Be open to having those awkward conversations and to fostering them throughout your organization.
How? Here are a few ideas for creating forums in your own company that will incite and nurture these discussions:
- Start hosting AMA sessions with the leadership team
- Execute inclusion and engagement surveys on a regular basis
- Encourage People managers and department heads to offer 1:1 meetings to discuss Equity, Diversity & Inclusion topics
- Host monthly office hours with the People team and/or culture committee.
7) It’s not just about the destination. Strive for progress and acknowledge the milestones along the road.
There’s nothing more frustrating in business, or in life, than a failure to start. Carissa reminds us that one of the most important ways to tackle this is to make sure you’re acknowledging proximal outcomes.
“Sometimes companies will try something out, and then wait two years down the road to see if the demographics of their company changes. That’s the equivalent of having a revenue goal for a certain product and not looking at any data until the end of the year, rather than looking at the pipeline quarter by quarter. It doesn’t make any sense.”
If you make a change to your onboarding process to set up new hires to be productive employees faster and integrate them into your culture more quickly, that’s an impactful change, even though it might not be the most publicly or drastically apparent. Or perhaps you’re seeing a lower rate of employee turnover, which is a welcome and positive step in the process of creating a more inclusive workplace.
Salima goes on to say that while measuring results and impact is absolutely important, measuring progress is just as important in this space. Some initiatives take longer to realize, and it’s helpful and encouraging for everyone in the company to see be able to see the incremental changes they’re making over time. We don’t think enough about impact vs progress. It helps people get comfortable with the notion that it is an ongoing effort. It takes time and it’s OK if things don’t magically change overnight. The truth is, they won’t.
Here are just a few examples of how to determine and suss out incremental progress on the road to a shift in company culture:
- Conduct a pre-assessment to see where managers are in terms of their thinking, comfort and knowledge base around Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. Do they think it’s a priority? Are their unconscious biases going unchecked? Are they potentially exacerbating any tensions in the company?
- Once you do some programming and implement process change, check to see if there are any notable changes from the pre-assessment that are moving in a positive direction through a post-assessment. How far have you moved the needle? This is also applicable to culture climate or pulse surveys.
- With any type of training, you can measure whether it is impacting people’s behaviors through this type of assessment process.
- Experience sharing is a missing opportunity in the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion conversation. Salima says, “We want to preserve the integrity of our organizations and our cultures, and for that reason we tend to stay in our lanes. There’s great experimental work being done with companies trying really innovative things. If we don’t share those experiences and learnings with each other, we can’t learn.
The Equity, Diversity & Inclusion road is long, yet the purpose of creating stronger businesses through more inclusive work environments is most certainly worth the effort and time.
If I can leave you with one single thought, it’s this: don’t forget to measure progress. Even the smallest step forward in your inclusion journey is worth celebrating.
We want our community to feel a sense of belonging to our events, whether or not you were able to attend in person. Watch the video to see the panel discussion from our OPEN Series event on Measuring D&I; Impact: Data-Driven Strategies for Measuring Inclusion.