In the spirit of this year’s “Press for Progress” International Women’s Day on March 8, we’ll focus on doing what we do best: helping companies plot their next move towards building a better, more equal future, today. We’ll reflect on the innovative and successful ways that organizations have advanced diversity, offering insight into actionable behavioral change tactics that you can implement in your own organization.
In parts one and two of the series, we looked at the case for behavioral change and actionable strategies to make progress in combatting inequality. With International Women’s Day taking place over the past week, we’ll now keep the spirit of the day alive by focusing on how to make the change last.
Not every initiative will move the needle when it comes to establishing workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I). Organizations that can identify successful changes, while ‘failing fast’ on the rest, will have an advantage against competitors when it comes to business performance: it has been found that for every 1 percent increase in gender diversity, there is a 3 percent increase in sales revenues.
In approaching measurement, we recommend the following sequence:
- Determine outcomes – Although it may be tempting to set softer targets that are easier to attain, there should be a balance of ‘quick wins’, such as rolling out unconscious bias training for managers, and bolder long-term objectives, for example equal representation of genders at all levels.
- Identify data points – Choose a variety of quantitative and qualitative measures that will highlight progress. If you’re committed to seeing improvement, then expanding and investing in your data will pay dividends.
- Collect baseline data – Begin by building a thorough understanding of the current state.
- Determine leading indicators – With this ‘as is’ view, next identify the measurable, quickly identifiable changes that will suggest you’re on the right course.
- Integrate process – Determine the cadence of reviews, the audience, and the response to the data.
- Measure and take corrective action – Measure and adjust your course where needed.
- Review and refine the process – To keep the approach relevant and useful, continue reviewing its effectiveness. Adjust where needed.
Aetna, an American managed healthcare company, took this approach when launching its “ICE” diversity strategy (integration, communication and education). By continually measuring the business impact of diversity initiatives, they sustained an effective diversity and inclusion strategy.
What should you measure?
With D&I programs, the temptation is to focus on representation of minorities, but influence is generally a better measure of success; the gender split of an organization’s leadership team is less relevant if key decision makers continue to be a homogenous group. In fact, a common reason for diversity programs failing is through this lack of understanding of how to demonstrate effectiveness.
Valuable diversity metrics include:
- Representation of genders and minority groups in leadership positions
- Advanced demographics per level (including disability, orientation, and socio-economic attributes)
- Rate of promotions by group
- Gender pay gap and average pay, by gender, per grade
There are also several additional quantitative practices that can help to ensure diversity. For example, the “Rooney rule,” originally introduced by the National Football League, has been adapted as a diversity metric for a business context: some adopt a “presentation” rule, whereby a target is set for the number of diverse candidates that are put forward for a new hire or promotion. This keeps the funnel of candidates varied for as many stages as possible, improving the chances of success for diverse applications. In external recruiting, identifying the sources that provide the most diverse range of candidates is a valuable approach, as this similarly ensures the pipeline remains as balanced as possible.
These diversity metrics mean nothing in isolation, however. It is important to consider the whole employee life cycle to understand how well-integrated and included all employees feel; that is, understanding retention and engagement as much as attraction. Although inclusion benefits are often dismissed as being “intangible,” they too have an impact on business performance through improved team behaviors and productivity.
Valuable inclusion metrics include:
- Employee satisfaction
- Decision-making influence
- Progress against targets or goals by team
- Performance feedback themes per group
Successful organizations look at retention as much as recruitment, understanding the reasons that employees leave and what they do next, identifying common themes that the business could address to reduce regretted attrition. Employee surveys and focus groups are the best way to regularly and tangibly measure satisfaction between these two points, and common data points are how included colleagues feel in their teams, how well supported they are, and whether they see opportunities to progress.
We know that inclusive and varied teams are better equipped to solve complex problems so, by taking actionable steps to advance equality and measure its success, you’ll not only improve the employee value proposition, but sustain a competitive edge.