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Successful DEI Strategy Needs the Right Data

The “business case” for diversity, equity, and inclusion has been demonstrated time and again – organizations that foster diversity are much more likely to be high-performing. Moreover, for companies that prioritize having both high diversity and high inclusion, nearly all KPIs (key performance indicators)- business performance, innovation, engagement, and customer service – are significantly higher (Deloitte, 2013). 

Many organizations understand the importance of DEI work, but struggle with getting started. In a 2020 HBR/SHRM study, most said that DEI was a strategic priority, yet two-thirds indicated that the efforts to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace were only somewhat successful. Small and large organizations alike can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways to approach these topics. 

One of the largest stumbling blocks on the DEI journey is the pervasiveness of unconscious and automatic biases that propagate workplace inequity. Shifting the mindset can only be accomplished with systematic application of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices that go beyond the well-intentioned policies and procedures. While DEI discussions are prevalent, the next step is transforming them into action at all levels of your organization.

Companies are very effective at establishing meaningful KPIs to track their progress in all areas of operations, but the old adage of “what gets measured, gets done” is just as applicable to DEI. Implementing DEI metrics to monitor the organization’s progress can help identify areas of opportunity, track DEI initiatives, and even calculate return on investment (ROI). DEI data  could also help the companies view DEI efforts in a rational and objective way – even the most emotionally charged and controversial topics.

Before plunging into DEI performance tracking, it is important to understand which metrics will provide the most meaningful insights for the organization. Selecting the right measurements depends on multiple factors and should begin with a thorough evaluation of the company’s current culture. It is tempting to skip over this (often uncomfortable) step – but it lays the foundation for the subsequent DEI work and illuminates the strategic opportunities on this journey. When discussing DEI initiatives, leaders are often much more comfortable talking about diversity, with inclusion remaining an afterthought. While diversity is a more obvious aspect of this work, the roadmap for creating an environment where employees (members, volunteers) can be their authentic selves can feel hazy – “instructions unclear.” Establishing a welcoming and inclusive environment starts with this uncomfortable step of assessing the current culture and continues through measuring and tracking specific inclusivity metrics.

Finally, do not lose sight of another important DEI aspect – transparency. Sharing your DEI tracking results (including the metrics where the organization is underperforming) fosters trust and establishes accountability. Being honest about the result and having a plan to rectify “missed targets” are crucial steps in the right direction on your DEI journey. 

If you want to have a deeper conversation about how DEI data can help advance and prove your DEI efforts, contact us at Check out Katia Delgado‘s full company profile to learn more about her and her 14+ years of experience in data analysis.

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