What gets measured gets done
Measuring the ROI of Diversity and Inclusion
By Juliet Bourke - Consulting, Partner.
What gets measured gets done. But what exactly do we measure to ensure things are done effectively? This question is relevant to many Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) practitioners who are focused on maintaining and progressing D&I initiatives within their organisation.
This exploratory research conducted by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion (“CIDI”) and written by Cathy Gallagher-Louisy (Director, CIDI, Community Partnerships and Knowledge Services) aimed to provide a cross-sector overview of what is currently being measured and highlighted promising practices among leading organisations. In particular, the research focused on the use of diversity and inclusion scorecards and highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of such measurement tools.
In essence, the researchers found there were a variety of measures being used across all industries. The most effective of these measures was directly aligned to strategic objectives and were understood, owned and used by organisational leaders rather than the D&I professionals.
The research aimed to explore how diversity and inclusion initiatives were being measured and what measures were considered to be most effective. The researchers also aimed to develop a toolkit for D&I practitioners to leverage their findings and implement (or improve) measures within their organisations.
This exploratory research consisted of three stages. First, the researchers conducted a literature review based on publicly available reports and websites. Next, they conducted an online survey. The survey sample consisted of fifty-six Canadian organisations that represented a cross-section of industries, sizes and locations of Canadians employers. Finally, the researchers conducted nineteen interviews. Of these, three of these interview participants were considered subject matter experts while the remainder were D&I leaders from a select group of employers across Canada.
Key findings from the survey indicated that D&I was considered a strategic priority for the majority (80%) of organisations, however, only 19% of organisations were measuring the effectiveness of D&I initiatives. Diversity scorecards were used even less frequently (12.5% of organisations), however, the researchers noted these scorecards raised the profile of D&I amongst leadership cohorts and often became part of strategic reporting for the organisations. Most importantly, the research stated that diversity scorecards need to provide evidence that D&I initiatives are positively influencing organisations to be more inclusive and demonstrate how they assist in achieving strategic goals.
D&I as a strategic priority: While D&I was considered a strategic priority by the majority of organisations, the majority did not measure the effectiveness of D&I initiatives. When a D&I scorecard was used, D&I measures were more likely to be understood, owned and used by leadership who also included these measures in strategic reports. Even with scorecards, there was a gap between what was currently measured and what D&I practitioners would like to measure, which was a result of constraints in available reporting mechanisms that currently exist within organisations.
Measures of inclusion: The researchers derived a list of measures that was divided into ‘standard’ measures and those from ‘leading’ organisations. Standard measures included representation of diverse demographic groups by job level, recruitment, promotion and turnover of these groups, employee complaints and participation in D&I initiatives. Leading organisations tended to measure relationships between diverse demographic groups and organisational metrics, such as; performance ratings, flexible work arrangements, and employee engagement data, amongst others. Across all organisations, the researchers noted there was a tendency to measure and report on D&I only at the senior levels rather than throughout the employee life cycle. This tendency fails to identify barriers to inclusion at the lower levels that may cause employees to disengage and potentially exit the organisation before reaching senior levels.
Implementing and improving D&I measurement: Outcomes of this exploratory research indicated that measuring effectiveness of D&I initiatives is paramount to demonstrating value and driving the business case for diversity in increasingly frugal organisational environments. As a result, the researchers derived some pragmatic steps to assist organisations with implementing or improving D&I measurement. Generally, these included developing a formal D&I strategy that outlines objectives, actions and corresponding measures of success. These objectives should align directly with organisational strategies and therefore be supported by leadership within organisations. To further create a case for investing in D&I measurement, the researchers suggested that any data collected may also be of benefit to other areas within the organisation. Lastly, they also suggested that diversity scorecards should align with existing goals and strategies, start ‘small’ with existing or readily available data and be regularly reviewed to ensure they continued to align with overall strategies. Leadership accountability for D&I is likely to result from this alignment to organisational strategies as these cascade into key performance indicators for senior leaders.
In the research, one interviewee discussed the legal barriers to collecting sensitive data around the diversity within the organisation. The paper suggested that while this can be a point of contention, if the data is collected in a transparent way, with the purpose being clearly articulated, once the organisation begins to see the way the data is reported and the resulting changes, then resistance tends to dissipate.
This research has numerous practical implications for D&I practitioners and professionals in similar fields. It identified various types of measures that are being used across Canada that others can leverage within their own organisations. Furthermore, the researchers outlined success measures for tools such as the diversity scorecard as well as provided advice regarding implementation of such measurement tools within organisations. The overall message was clear: if D&I practitioners want to continue achieving goals related to building more diverse and inclusive organisations, they must measure the effectiveness, impact and return on investment of D&I initiatives and demonstrate the value added to achieving overall organisational strategy and performance.
To read the full article, see Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion. “What gets measured gets done: Measuring the return on investment for diversity and inclusion.” April 2013.