Measuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is crucially important to the way modern business is done. Creating an environment in which everyone has equality of opportunity, irrespective of their identity or characteristics, helps build efficient organisations that are better able to get the best out of their people. Being inclusive leads to higher retention levels, increased levels of workforce engagement, stronger innovation and decision-making, as well as the ability to attract top young talent – all of which leads to a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
This reality is increasingly being recognised in the corporate world, so that most businesses are now keen to understand how they can make themselves more inclusive. The first step for any organisation is to take stock of how it is performing, including the identification of any blind spots. But this needs to be followed up with the development of a robust programme that strives for continuous improvement, measured against targets and goals.
For a business to determine how diverse it really is, performance assessments need to go well beyond simple measurements such as the percentage of staff represented by various groups. Diversity, equity and inclusion is an area in which it is easy to get sucked into box-ticking, so while it is important to collect the facts and figures of employee representation, it is even more essential to go beyond the statistics to analyse more holistically how inclusivity is embedded within your organisation. The figures will show you where your diversity gaps are, but you need to know the root causes behind those gaps. This is where the idea of a gap analysis has great value.
Using a gap analysis to understand diversity and inclusion
A DEI gap analysis explores how an organisation embeds diversity, equity and inclusion into its operations, identifying priority areas for improvement and highlighting any misalignment between current practices and desired outcomes.
Any such analysis will not just benchmark performance against best practice, but show where policies, procedures and resources are lacking. It will also identify systemic issues that might need addressing, for instance by showing that a certain group of employees feels overlooked or unheard. Underlying the analysis will be a combination of quantitative and qualitative data collected either by an in-house team or by a firm of independent experts.
Benefits of a DEI gap analysis
The main advantage of a gap analysis is that it will identify areas in which an organisation is underperforming in relation to its goals and expectations. By providing a better understanding of where resources can be deployed to tackle areas of need, it will help inform decision-making on strategies and programmes.
In addition, the process of conducting a gap analysis simultaneously improves engagement with employees and increases accountability. It shows that the organisation values feedback in its efforts to create change and is giving a genuine voice to staff members.
Key steps to conducting a diversity gap analysis
Whether done in-house or through outside experts, a gap analysis needs to be carefully planned and implemented. Here are the six key steps that need to be taken:
- Define the scope: make sure you determine the teams, activities, operational sites and business partners that will be reviewed. Identify which stakeholders to interview, taking into account the need to obtain a diverse representation of views. Also decide whether there will be any specific areas of focus for your analysis, for example if there are any groups of employees with protected characteristics that are particularly important to consider, or whether there are systemic issues in terms of inclusivity that have already been identified and need further examination.
- Carry out a document review and quantitative data analysis: It’s important to review all existing policies, procedures and processes. However, think beyond human resources to examine documents in other areas, such as procurement and hiring, that may also impinge on inclusivity. Then analyse data related to employee demographics, such as representation across various levels and retention level statistics.
- Gather qualitative data: Collect qualitative data through surveys, focus groups and interviews to gain a deeper understanding of employee perceptions and experiences. Make sure all these information gathering exercises are confidential and, where needed, anonymous. Consider hiring a third party to allow interviewees to open up fully to questions.
- Benchmark and compare: Analyse the data holistically, comparing it against best practices, industry standards and your organisation’s goals. Once this has been done, identify gaps and disparities. At GoodCorporation we help companies do this by using our own DEI Framework, a set of responsible management practices that demonstrate a results-driven approach to DEI, based on emerging best practice and our 20 years of experience in dealing with business ethics issues.
- Develop a draft action plan: Determine pragmatic and achievable corrective actions for each gap that has been identified, along with levels of priority for each action. Efficient corrective actions can only be devised with a good understanding of the root causes behind gaps, so make sure you understand these.
- Finalise and present the action plan: Once finalised, present the action plan to various stakeholder groups through workshop sessions. This will build engagement and allow you to sense-check the plan with those who will be most affected by it. Assign clear ownership and timelines for each action point in the plan.
An action plan for an effective DEI strategy
To reap the full benefits of a gap analysis, particular attention needs to be paid to implementing an action plan that focuses on delivering continuous improvement. Implementation needs to take account of the following points:
- Ensure buy-in from the top: No action plan can be properly introduced without the full support of senior managers and the board. Make sure everyone within the leadership group fully understands the plan and is committed to setting the necessary tone for its implementation.
- Bottom-up feedback is vital: Employees must feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns about the action plan, so encourage them to give their views. This creates a spirit of co-construction, but also makes it easier to identify systemic issues that might need addressing. There are various effective ways of gathering feedback from employees, including through working groups, surveys and suggestion boxes.
- Monitor and evaluate the plan: Responsibility for oversight of the action plan’s implementation needs to be assigned to one or more people who have the time and resources to follow it through. The only way to make sure the plan brings about sustainable, long-term change is to monitor it over a long period of time. The plan can then be updated periodically in light of any feedback received.
- Cultivate transparency and clear communication: Aim to communicate openly with employees about your plan, as well as your more general diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. If employees have a good idea of what progress is being made, then they will almost certainly demonstrate greater commitment to the plan. Some DEI topics are perceived as taboo and sensitive, so talking more openly about them helps break down barriers and misunderstandings.
How GoodCorporation can help
Aside from creating and implementing gap analyses and action plans, GoodCorporation can help maintain a focus on developing a sustainable inclusivity strategy. Many businesses fail to follow up on initial good intentions: having us on board helps keep the longer-term goals front of mind.
Our multicultural team and DEI specialists have an understanding of industry best practices and solutions. We work closely with clients to support them in the development of an effective DEI strategy, defining the scope, formulating appropriate KPIs to monitor progress and ensuring that your gap analysis is put to good use.
Using the GoodCorporation framework, we can provide an impartial third-party perspective on your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and a neutral presence that will allow employees to feel more comfortable when taking part in interviews and other forms of qualitative analysis.
In addition, we can provide a window on cultural sensitivities through consultants who operate in many countries around the world, and who understand local and national sympathies.
Our experts can help to build internal capacity by training your employees to develop gap analyses and action plans in future years, allowing your organisation to proceed with a minimal or reduced need for external support.
Measuring diversity within an organisation is not easy, but carrying out a gap analysis is the most efficient way to start the process.
Any analysis needs to rely on qualitative as well as quantitative research, and any organisation wishing to develop a meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion programme needs to base its plans on a holistic evaluation of its current efforts and objectives.
A gap analysis is a powerful tool to answer the crucial question: ‘How diverse are you, really?’ Once carried out – and provided it is allied to a sound action plan – it will put you well on the way to achieving meaningful progress in this area.