Diana Palmerín Velasco
Are you measuring your Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion efforts?
A few days ago, the Globe and Mail published an article entitled “Two years after signing BlackNorth Initiative, majority of companies have failed to make substantial progress on diversity, survey shows”.
The BlackNorth Initiative is a Canadian non-profit created in July 2020 in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the racial reckoning that followed this tragic event. One of the first actions of this organization was the launch of the BlackNorth Pledge encouraging corporate Canada to formally commit to end anti-Black systemic racism and create opportunities for Black and other individuals from underrepresented groups.
In 2020, this pledge was met with an enthusiastic response reflected in its 481 signatories. However, two years later the Globe and Mail reports that:
“On three prominent metrics – the number of Black employees, Black executives and Black directors – only about 10 per cent of the 481 companies that signed on have reported an improvement in any of those categories over the past two years”.
If this percentage is hardly encouraging, even more disappointing is to read that:
“…70 per cent of companies that signed the pledge either did not respond to The Globe’s survey this spring about the racial composition of their workforce, or said they did not track that data.”
Not the lack of progress nor the lack of measurement are surprising. The issues that equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work address are complex and as such require complex solutions. Real and long-lasting change is unlikely to materialize in the short term or in two years since the signing of a pledge. However, if commitments are serious, the least they require is action and the will to measure and track progress. After all, many of us know that in companies and organizations, “what gets measured, gets done”.
If you are unsure about what is it that you need to measure to increase EDI in your company or organization, I suggest you start by developing a baseline that over time allows you to develop appropriate metrics and track progress of your efforts. Some relevant indicators companies and organizations truly invested in EDI should be systematically measuring and monitoring are:
Workforce demographics: If you want to increase diversity, you first need to know who is part of your workforce and who is not. Conducting an identity-based employee census that asks employees to self-identify along various identity categories (age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, etc.) is the most efficient way to do this. Best practice when collecting this type of data is to ensure self-identification is voluntary and privacy concerns are properly addressed.
Hiring: If you are committed to dismantling inequities and increasing diversity, you will want to ensure that opportunities at your company or organization reach all kinds of individuals and everyone has a fair chance in the hiring process. Incorporating voluntary identity-based questions to job applications will help you identify who is (or is not) applying to your available opportunities. Equally important is to track alongside identity categories who is (or is not) successful as a result of the hiring process.
Retention: As important as it is to track who applies and is hired, you will also need to regularly look at who’s staying and leaving your company or organization. Paying attention to employee attrition and segmenting it by identity categories is a measure that will help you identify areas for attention and improvement. Many organizations often focus their efforts on recruitment and hiring without taking into consideration the equally important need to have strong retention strategies.
Advancement: Another important area to measure and segment according to identity categories is the professional advancement of employees within a company or an organization. This includes not only promotions but also opportunities for learning and development. Ideally, the goal would be to have a diverse and representative workforce at all levels of the organization (including board, c-suite and managers).
Employee experience: Last but not least, it is crucial to regularly assess how employees feel about job satisfaction, engagement, inclusion and workplace culture. Many organizations already conduct employee engagement surveys, however, they often fail to segment the collected data by categories such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, disabilities, etc. We know not everyone experiences the workplace in the same way, why would we waste the opportunity to identify the ways in which employees’ identities are shaping their experiences of the workplace and use this knowledge for tailored interventions?
Increasing EDI is not different from any other business or organizational challenge where a data-driven approach is used to identify issues and areas for improvement. Over time, the goal should be to develop metrics that allow for reliable assessments of how business and organizational structures are changing to meet goals. Only then meaningful EDI progress will lie ahead.