Meaningful metrics for inclusion

Meaningful metrics for inclusion

by Felicity Menzies

The management adage, “What gets measured, gets done” is particularly relevant for diversity and inclusion. Because the biases that perpetuate workplace inequality are largely unconscious and automatic, shifting an organisation’s talent management paradigm from ‘cultural fit’ to ‘diversity and inclusion’ takes more than well-intentioned policies and programs.

Without clear and robust measures to track diversity and inclusion efforts and outcomes, a tendency to revert to habitual and ingrained thinking and behavioural patterns limits the returns from an organisation’s investment. Metrics help employers committed to diversity and inclusion stay on track by encouraging the identification and management of bias blindspots—mindsets and practices that promote homogeneity but which are largely hidden.

Traditionally, diversity metrics have focused on representation, retention, and promotion rates by monitored group. These indicators, because they reflect an organisation’s success in attracting, retaining, and promoting diverse talent, are proxies for measuring inclusion. Some employers also use employee engagement to measure inclusion. For engagement scores to be a meaningful metric for inclusion, they must be tracked by monitored group. Engagement scores by diversity dimension are useful for identifying whether certain groups of employees are experiencing lower levels of satisfaction and engagement compared with others. A noticeable difference in engagement scores among different identity groups can be indicative of biased mindsets and practices that favour one group of employees over others.

Representation, retention and promotion rates, and engagement survey results (even when tracked by monitored group) are limited, however, because they do not specifically tap the four factors of inclusion: respect, belonging, empowerment, and progression. Unless inclusion metrics specifically target the factors that foster inclusion, employers will struggle to identify inclusion risks and opportunities. How does an employee seek to address high turnover and low engagement scores for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) staff, for example, without understanding the key concerns facing members of that group? Are CALD employees experiencing high levels of microaggressions or harassment in the workplace? Do they perceive an ethnic pay gap? Are they being shut out of informal and formal networks? Are language and cultural differences making it difficult for them to contribute to group processes? Do they feel safe to speak up? Can they practice religious observances? Do they believe they have been discriminated against in promotion decisions?

Inclusion surveys

Inclusion surveys that tap the lived experience of employees regarding the four factors of inclusion provide a rich source of data for employers seeking to diagnose risks to inclusion and strengthen their efforts. Sample survey items include:

Respect
  •      I feel valued and respected by my colleagues and manager
  •      I have confidence in the way my organisation resolves grievances
  •      My manager provides acknowledgment or other recognition for the work I do
  •      I am rewarded fairly according to my job performance and accomplishments
  •      I have experienced or witnessed harassment, bullying or discrimination in the past 12 months (reverse-scored)
Belonging
  •      I can voice ideas without fear of retribution or rejection
  •      I feel a strong personal attachment to my workgroup
  •      My colleagues are supportive and include me in informal social get-togethers
  •      I have influence in decisions taken by my workgroup regarding our tasks
  •      My manager/supervisor shares important information with me
Empowerment
  •      I am able to access and use flexible working arrangements
  •      I am provided with the support I need to do my best at work
  •      I am able to keep my work stress at an acceptable level
Progression 
  •      Personal background, gender, age, cultural identity, English as a second language, or disability do not represent barriers to success in my organisation
  •      I have a formal career and professional development plan
  •      I have received appropriate training and development to do my job well
  •      I feel that my performance is assessed fairly and objectively
  •      Some groups of people are more likely to get ahead in the organisation than others (reverse-scored)

Inclusion survey items can be added to an employee engagement survey or assessed in a separate inclusion survey. This metric should be used alongside other quantitative measures. The survey should be run annually and give employees an opportunity to voluntarily declare their identification with diversity groups monitored by the organisation (e.g. LGBTI+, English as a second language, Religion / Belief, Ethnicity).

Employee focus groups

Focus groups complement workforce analytics, providing additional information that cannot be acquired from quantitative analysis alone. For diversity dimensions that are not tracked by an organisation because of historical, practical or legal reasons, focus groups are a key tool for gathering information on the challenges facing members of those groups. For example, in focus groups that I have facilitated, exclusion has been expressed by contract workers and introverts.

Sample questions to ask a diversity and inclusion focus group include:

Respect
  •      Do you feel that you that your unique attributes, traits, characteristics, skills, experience, and background are valued at work?
  •      Do you feel comfortable being yourself at work?
  •      To what extent do feel that you can disclose your whole identity to your colleagues? Are there aspects of your social identity that you feel you need to keep separate from the workplace?
  •      Do you mask or downplay any aspect of your physical, cultural, spiritual or emotional self at work?
  •      Do you feel that you are compensated fairly for the work you do according to your accomplishments?
  •      Have you ever experienced harassment, prejudice or discrimination at work? Describe what happened.
  •      Have you ever raised a grievance at work? Why or why not? How effective are your employer’s grievance procedures?
Belonging
  •      Do you feel that you an accepted and essential part of your workgroup? Why or why not?
  •      Do you ever feel left out at work – either when engaging in work activities or socially?
  •      Do you feel emotionally and socially supported at work?
  •      How would you feel about leaving your workgroup?
  •      Do you interact informally or formally with colleagues across the organisation?
  •      Do you feel safe to speak up in group settings?
  •      Do your colleagues and manager seek your input and value your contributions?
  •      Is your manager approachable?
Empowerment
  •      Have you faced any obstacles to your ability to participate fully in work processes? Describe those obstacles.
  •      Do you face unique challenges that make it difficult for you to get to work or access facilities on-the-job, work the hours expected of you, work at the times expected of you, or perform tasks expected of you?
  •      What could your employer do to better support you?
  •      Are you able to balance work-life?
Progression
  •      Can you identify people similar to yourself in leadership positions at your organisation?
  •      Do you feel that you have sufficient support to develop your skills and progress your career?
  •      What characteristics, traits, contributions, and behaviours are most valued and rewarded at your organisation?
  •      What/who do you need to do or know to get ahead at work?

Disenfranchised employees may not volunteer for focus groups. Concerns regarding confidentiality and low psychological safety may also limit attendance. To encourage participation, invitations should highlight that focus group discussion is confidential and that findings will be reported in thematic form with all identifying information removed. Because of the risk of non-completion by employees who are not-engaged, findings must be supplemented with exit-interviews.

Exit interviews

Exit interviews are interviews held with an employee about to leave an organisation, typically to discuss the employee’s reasons for leaving and their experience of working for the organisation. Exit interviews are potentially candid sources of information on the lived experiences of employees who are voluntarily leaving the organisation. The information may not have been disclosed before resignation due to a fear of recrimination or weak organisational justice. The weakness of exit interviews is that they are reactive—the horse has already bolted. Exit interviews are beneficial only if diversity data is tracked and there is a system in place for reporting on and responding to findings.

 

Felicity Menzies is CEO and Principal Consultant at Include-Empower.Com, a diversity and inclusion consultancy with expertise in inclusive leadership, unconscious bias, cultural intelligence and inclusion, gender equity, empowering diverse talent. Felicity is an accredited facilitator with the Cultural Intelligence Centre and the author of A World of Difference. Felicity has over 15 years of experience working with and managing diverse workforces in blue chip companies and is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand. Felicity also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.