DE&I: 7 Steps to Reveal Your Organization’s True Position

DE&I: 7 Steps to Reveal Your Organization’s True Position

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Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is a hot topic these days. But progress in this realm is not so hot.

Understand your DE&I make-up and what you’re dealing with

Consider a traditionally male-dominated industry like waste collection. One of the largest waste management companies in North America reported a dramatic 27.2% turnover rate in 2018, an increase of 2.4% over the previous year. Not great, right? Of its 16,356 Canadian employees at that time, just 16% were women. At its U.S. headquarters two of 19 executives are women, and among its eight board members, with the exception of one visible minority, all are white and two are women. It’s a good thing this company, which describes its industry as “highly competitive” began tracking diversity statistics on the last day of 2018, because as research indicates:

  • Gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their peers and companies, while ethnically-diverse executive teams are 35% more likely to do the same.
  • Workplace discrimination cost employers $398 million as a result of litigation and voluntary resolution in 2017, never mind the annual estimated cost of losing and replacing workers who leave their jobs due to unfairness and discrimination, which was estimated at whopping $64 billion back in 2012.

Karen Blackett, who was appointed the race equality business champion by former UK Prime Minister Theresa May and serves as the UK manager of multinational advertising agency WPP and UK CEO of media investment firm GroupM, is a vocal proponent of the importance of DE&I data, and not just lumping it together to get an average.

“If you had a business issue you would absolutely drill down and you would look at where you can improve and where you have targets and how you set them. You break it down and you address it and you focus on it and you have a strategy for it…. We do that with any other business metric, and [DE&I] should be exactly the same,” Blackett says.

It’s a matter of understanding. Understanding the differences between African, Caribbean, and North American blacks, and other ethnic or visible minority geographic and cultural nuances. Understanding the difference between diversity (inherent characteristics such as race, age, gender, sexual orientation and disability) and inclusion (how each employee experiences their day-to-day work world), and taking actions that place a premium on the value of every person and what they have to offer.

Simple, easily accessible DE&I surveys are a springboard to better understanding the sentiment of your employees and achieving the kind of diverse thinking required to take your organization to the next level.

7 Tips on how to gather DE&I insights

  1. Whether using smartphones, laptops, notebooks, audio/video formats, portable kiosks or paper, confidentiality is a must because it establishes trust. And trust is an imperative for honesty and candor.
  2. Look for a DE&I survey approach developed by experts (like WorkTango). One that addresses the different languages and accessibility needs in your organization. One that helps you visualize your position by looking at the demographic makeup of your workforce. Ask existing or customized survey questions that invite employees to share their unique knowledge and experiences. Solicit information that looks at diversity, equity and inclusion from various angles and contrasts workplace experiences, such as:

I feel I can bring my whole self to work including all parts of my background (e.g. gender, race, religion, disability, age, Indigenous identity, sexual orientation)

I believe my company will take appropriate action in response to incidents of harassment or discrimination

  1. Take a deeper look at how these findings correlate with other data. What’s the alignment with employee engagement data points? Corporate culture? Other business and employee-centric KPIs? What does a layering of this data reveal about recruitment, retention, development, career progression, and turnover?
  2. Get to know what your people really want to say by building room for comments into your surveys and by using Natural Language Processing tools that decipher common words and overarching themes in a simple, real-time way.
  3. If a comment is concerning, or unclear, delve even deeper with optional anonymous conversation tools that protect confidentiality yet facilitate a two-way exchange. You can use this same tool to acknowledge thoughtful comments and suggestions (a clear indication the employee voice is being heard).
  4. Turn those insights into actions by tapping into best-practice recommendations. Some of those recommendations might involve unconscious bias training or coaching development.
  5. Share your findings and actions with your workforce. Catch up regularly through pulse surveys, one-on-one Sync-Up conversations and other methods of inclusionary exchange to find out what’s working, what’s not, and what can be done to improve your organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion. As Maren Fox writes in the article What Leaders Can Do to Inspire Diversity and Inclusion That Transforms Organizations: “review your stated values to see if they address DE&I and how well they’re being followed. Develop metrics and a plan that involves everyone. And keep the momentum alive by cultivating a positive growth mindset that recognizes diversity and inclusion are an ongoing practice of listening, discussing, and building trust.”

After all, if your organization is going to call itself an Equal Employment Opportunity / Affirmative Action employer like the North American waste management company does, don’t just say it. Be it. Own the vision and words.