By Michael Stuber, the European D&I Engineer
How could companies measure the success of their D&I work, and which types of success would have to be defined in the first place? Over the years, different paradigms have emerged and each has its implication on D&I implementation and communication.
For some, success in D&I means increasing representation numbers, while for others, it is defined as increasing open-mindedness in their corporate culture or in the inclusiveness of their processes. In financial terms, D&I success refers to the return on investment which is generated by D&I programs or the change D&I creates.
Elements of the D&I value chain as metrics
In a business environment, D&I could and probably should be seen as a value creation process. The so-called Propelling Performance Principle consolidates research evidence to illustrate that differences can only be turned into advantages when both open-mindedness (in people, teams, and the organizational culture) and inclusiveness (in processes, collaboration, and leadership) exist as additional elements.
Combined, these elements generate benefits and add value to the business. Hence, they are also natural success measurement elements or paradigms. The model also shows quite clearly that representation targets for diversity are not appropriate, as they form the starting point of the value-creation process. This means they are a key prerequisite and that they are not the ultimate goal. Therefore, advanced success measurement covers at least two more areas:
- Measuring open-mindedness through perceived belonging, respect, and being valued. Practically, this is often done through employee surveys; in many cases, existing formats can be adjusted to cover the required elements.
- Measuring inclusiveness through observable behaviors and/or by monitoring process outcomes. Practically, this is often done by 360-degree feedback, elements of engagement surveys, and proportional process evaluations.
Here is an article that talks more about how to measure corporate culture and inclusiveness: http://en.diversitymine.eu/metrics-for-inclusion-employee-engagement-surveys-provide-baseline-data/
As an important side effect, this holistic understanding of D&I success is key to avoid the perception of simplistic quotas or reverse discrimination in the communication of D&I. Hence, it helps to mitigate resistance.
Measuring progress: the success of D&I organization development
Another important and effective form of D&I success measurement focuses on the evaluation of organizational development and uses the following approaches:
- Action-based success measurement includes accountability schemes (for action) and the evaluation of implementation activities (checks and impact assessments). Practically, this is done by scorecard elements and tailored evaluation of activities such as training, events, or communication.
- Process-based success measurement includes D&I audits or assessments and the monitoring of process results through a D&I lens. Practically, this is done through gap analysis and the closure of these gaps.
Measuring ROI: the benefits of D&I management
From a business perspective, the financial aspect of D&I management adds another success measurement paradigm. From that perspective, we ask which benefits, advantages, or improvements the investment in D&I programs and activities creates. On a higher level, companies can measure the marketing benefit of D&I by comparing the ROI of D&I marketing activities and customer feedback with that of mainstream marketing. On a more specific level, the benefits of D&I communication can be measured through the value of media coverage.
Important evidence about the ROI of D&I is provided by more than 250 empirical studies summarized in the IBCR (International Business Case Report) published bi-annually by European Diversity Research & Consulting.
This article provides a more thorough analysis of how to make the business case for D&I: http://en.diversitymine.eu/if-you-think-your-business-case-for-diversity-is-robust-think-again/
The importance of targets and why addressing leaks should come first
The widespread, partly politically-led, and often exclusive focus on numeric representation targets has contributed to the increasing backlash in D&I many have experienced over the past five years. Broadening success measurement is one way to overcome the perception of reverse discrimination or unfair advantage. In addition, a number of analyses have shown that increasing the representation of previously disadvantaged groups can be a quite temporary success. This is true particularly when the corporate culture was not analyzed upfront and relevant unwritten rules or invisible norms were not addressed. The following article talks more about the critical need for “right” mindset.
Michael Stuber’s company hosts a D&I knowledge blog called DiversityMine, which contains more than 1,900 articles. He contributed an article on the future of D&I to the fall 2017 issue of PDJ and wrote about diversity and group think for the magazine’s fall 2018 issue.