Close the Gap Between DEI Promises and Results

Diversity, equity and inclusion is undeniably top of mind for nearly every leader today. However, following a year when many organizations made many public diversity commitments, few have been able to show measurable progress.

Part of the challenge has centered on the inability of organizations to define what they are aiming for and where to start. In addition, many corporations do not have a baseline of where they are in terms of DEI and don’t measure their progress. According to a recent study by Josh Bersin, 76% of organizations still don’t set diversity and inclusion goals. We can only imagine what this means for the limited number that are tracking progress against their goals.

As the age-old saying goes, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. The same goes for our DEI efforts – the path to taking measurable action on diversity relies on a thoughtful approach for organizations to take their DEI pulse on a continuous basis. Here are five areas where we recommend organizations take an intentional approach to reimagine their approach to DEI measurement

1. Assess the Equity of Organizational Policies

Many organizations believe that diversity analytics pertain only to their diversity representation numbers. In reality DEI analytics must begin with an evaluation of existing HR policies and practices. Through our work at Mathison we developed an Equal Hiring Index that enables organizations to assess their full hiring and talent practices to identify bias and opportunities to increase accessibility and develop more inclusive policies.

According to our 2021 Diversity Hiring Report, 62% of underrepresented jobs seekers observe bias in the hiring process. We found more than 24 stages of the talent lifecycle that can hinder an underrepresented candidate from advancing, spanning from an inclusive and accessible talent brand, writing inclusive job descriptions and ensuring structured interviews, feedback to candidates to support for new hires in onboarding Each step in the process requires taking the right actions to ensure the elimination of bias and even of requirements that may not be essential for effective performance in the job.

2. Take the Pulse from Employees on Inclusion

One of the most critical factors in advancing DEI is gaining realtime prospective team members at all levels to ascertain their current state, feeling of belonging and attitudes toward existing and future policies and practices. Knowing what they think about them can identify areas where adjustments or corrective actions are necessary. Before launching a new policy it is crucial to get feedback from employees. While organizations have commonly led employee engagement surveys, we recommend deliberately including digital inclusion measures — either comprehensive or a sampling at various levels — to identify perceptions of policies and practices at each step in the process.

Our experience has demonstrated that taking the pulse of your employees on a continuous basis is much more effective than gathering their opinions once or twice a year. The outcomes allow managers to flag actions that are working well and those that need improvement. They will provide guideposts for adjustments to be incorporated into new, bias-free, and diversity-enhancing approaches. DEI Pulse, developed by Latin Insights, is one of the many tools that an organization can use to be in touch with their employees.

3. Create Systems for Continuous Measurement

It’s common for organizations to look back to a survey they’ve completed years ago mistakenly believing it accurately represents a current state. A “one off,” as the saying goes, will not ensure successful development and execution of a DEI strategy. Assuming that a company evaluates its policies, takes the pulse of its employees and management, revises policies and procedures and implements them, all these are but first steps in a sustained process to achieve DEI objectives. Basically, it is the difference between guessing and knowing.

As stated above, it is essential to set up ongoing systems for measurement to assess policies on a continuous basis. Having the right communications and measurement tools has proved to be very effective not only in the development of new policies, but also in avoiding crises and managing difficult times. These ongoing measurements also enable organizations to establish benchmarks and track progress over time. Rather than take a pulse with no context, organizations will then be able to measure progress in various areas, from changes in attitudes, changes in processes, behavioral changes, loyalty, productivity, increasing numbers and integrating new hires into the organization.

4. Build Mechanisms for Widespread Accountability

Imagine a football team in a huddle before a play and two or three players are off to the side, not understanding what the team will do — as a team — to advance the ball. Now imagine what that would look like in the workplace. If some players/workers are not in on the strategy, clearly, they will not contribute fully to the effort and the “team” will not move the ball forward.

For organizations to make great strides in their DEI efforts it depends on it becoming the responsibility of everyone in the organization and everyone feeling accountable for achieving them. Decision-makers must be held accountable and DEI goals must be tied to everyone’s goals in the organization. We recommend tying leaders’ financial incentives to diversity outcomes. DEI goals should be included in performance standards and that DEI goals should be given the same priority as other business objectives. We must remind our organizations that this work is not just the job of HR and DEI leaders but instead the mandate for everyone.

5. Hardwire DEI Into Everything the Organization Does

There are two vastly different ways organizations can approach their DEI work — as a “bolt-on” external addition that is treated as a separate body of work, or rather by ingraining DEI and ensuring that it is pervasive in everything the organization does and measures. Simply put, as a bolt-on external addition the DEI function will not be sustainable.

Leaders in the organization must take steps to do more than pay “lip service” to DEI. They must convey to employees that DEI is not merely something that is good to do or simply best for society, but an essential part of organization strategy.

Managers must practice what the policies preach. They must include DEI in team meetings, periodic discussion of needs and reviews of performance, and not just at the end of the rating period but throughout it.

Diversity measures and outcomes should be treated with the same level of scrutiny and priority as every other strategic business priority.

Finally, with every new product considered, new audience served or new talent strategy explored, the organization should ask, “how can we approach this inclusively, in way that is equitable and serves everyone?” This is the new vital lens for viewing every decision organizations must make. We always tell our clients: DEI is not about emotional arguments, it is about the bottom line of your organization. Simply put, if you don’t embrace and promote DEI your bottom line will suffer.

Marcela Miguel Berland
+ posts

Marcela Miguel Berland is the President of Latin Insights. Over the past years, she has focused on diversity and inclusion, on advancing women and on multicultural issues. She is on the board of the Women Economic Forum Caribbean, and is a 2021 Fortune Next 1000 honoree.

Arthur Woods
+ posts

Arthur Woods is the coauthor of Hiring for Diversity, the first dedicated book for leaders to navigate growing diversity in their organizations by shifting their hiring and talent practices. Arthur is an LGBTQ+ leader and cofounder of diversity hiring technology company, Mathison.

Frank Gómez
+ posts

Frank Gómez is a former senior Foreign Service Officer and corporate and nonprofit executive. He is a veteran Hispanic activist, and a longtime partner in Latin Insights and a DEI champion for four decades.

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