Benchmarking highlights: Measuring inclusion
Traditionally, organisations have gauged the inclusiveness of the work environment by surveying employees—either asking directly whether employees perceive the organisational climate to be one in which diverse people can thrive; or breaking out responses to engagement questions according to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other demographic categories; or both. At the request of one of our members, we recently polled the diversity and inclusion Networks to learn whether there were any new or improved methods they might be using to measure inclusion and to act on those metrics.
We found that most continue to rely on surveys, especially engagement surveys. The working assumption is that inclusion and engagement are positively correlated, so high engagement scores for a demographic group can fairly be considered an indication of inclusiveness. Certain questions in the survey may be used to compile an inclusion index. These generally address issue such as whether the respondent feels he/she is treated respectfully, has opportunities to advance, and can get his/her ideas and concerns heard.
A number of companies supplement their survey results with other kinds of metrics. One told us that cultural anthropologists were hired to conduct a cultural audit. The anthropologists interviewed employees individually and ran focus groups to gather information that was “qualitative but comprehensive.” Other respondents infer inclusion from results of 360° evaluations or by analyzing retention statistics and performance ratings by demographic category. One uses growth of employee resource groups as an indicator.
The exact methodology for measuring inclusion seems to be less critical than what is done to address the findings. Several companies noted that their organisations provide managers with “lots of support” to interpret and act on survey results, such as:
- Training: Many provide inclusive leadership or unconscious bias training for managers or build inclusion into their regular leadership training.
- Coaching: The company that brought in cultural anthropologists to assess the organizational climate said they have been “getting traction” by having the anthropologists also provide ethnographic coaching to managers. In other organisations, the D&I or HR teams coach managers one-on-one on team building, training, and other strategies.
- Mentoring: Several respondents mentioned mentoring as an inclusion strategy—both to help the protégé and to give the mentor exposure to the experiences and views of diverse employees.
- Setting leadership expectations and accountability: Respondents told us it is important to articulate clear expectations of leaders and evaluate leaders against those standards. One noted that the units of the organization that are using Kaleel Jamieson’s 12 inclusive behaviours as their leadership principles “have seen improvements in their culture and scorecard results.”
An area of opportunity for many of the organisations that responded to the survey is helping business leaders see the connection between inclusion and business priorities. This is a subject that can and should be integrated in the strategies listed above. The links can be made in coaching sessions and training; it can be documented in leadership behaviours and reinforced in the way performance objectives are framed. Some companies also noted that frequent reporting of diversity and inclusion metrics in a business context also help to demonstrate the interdependence of business results and an inclusive work environment.
For more on measuring inclusion, see For Good Measure, a Mercer Diversity & Inclusion Best Practice Guide (free to members of Mercer’s equality, diversity and inclusion networks).