Note: Read part 1 of this article series here.

Your organization has made the decision to improve its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), particularly when it comes to mitigating the racial inequity recent events have brought to the fore. What’s the next step?

It’s not issuing statements that may or may not resonate with your employees, however well-intended. It’s also not purchasing the first off-the-shelf course on unconscious bias you can find. As with any learning and development (L&D) initiative, the first step in making your organization a more equitable place to work is to determine how diverse and inclusive it already is — and how far you have to go. To that end, several organizations have recently launched products and initiatives aimed at helping organizations and individuals assess and benchmark DEI behaviors and programs.

What to Measure

Looking at metrics like the diversity of your talent pool and pay equity is important. However, “it’s also crucial to listen directly to employees from underrepresented backgrounds about their individual experiences at work and to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement,” says Dr. Jarik Conrad, senior director of human insights and human capital management (HCM) evangelization at Ultimate Software, which recently launched the Equity at Work Council (EWC) “to understand and develop the science underpinning diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”

You might find that white and non-white employees with similar roles earn similar salaries, for example, but how do white and non-white employees’ perceptions of opportunities for advancement compare? Do they receive equitable access to senior leaders, to stretch assignments or to special projects? Do they feel safe expressing their opinions? Answering these questions is also important in evaluating the state of racial diversity, equity and inclusion at your organization, agrees Dr. Robin Rosenberg, founder and chief executive officer of Live In Their World.

Finally, ensure that DEI metrics align with your overall business performance metrics. For instance, Equimetrics, a new assessment developed by Orgametrics and researchers from the University of Minnesota, includes a “post-assessment process” that correlates performance metrics with assessment results, according to Joe Byrd, vice president of operations at Orgametrics. “When leaders know the impact of their actions, it becomes much clearer where to focus resources and where they can begin to predict outcomes.”

Assessing Leader Knowledge

In addition to understanding DEI at an organizational level, it’s important to understand how individuals, particularly leaders, understand and implement DEI principles. To that end, Byrd notes, Equimetrics includes “individual-based items as well” as items that focus on the organizational and team perspectives.

In June, Drs. Claretha Hughes and Xinya Liang, researchers at the University of Arkansas, published the Hughes and Liang Diversity Intelligence Scale to help organizations understand whether their leaders understand how to protect underrepresented employees from discrimination in the workplace.

“It would be impossible for leaders to value each individual employee in the workplace if they did not even see them or if the employee was being marginalized,” which is why Hughes developed the idea of diversity intelligence, they say. The assessment involves a three-part scale: knowledge, training and education, and behavior.

Hughes and Liang’s hope is that organizations will use it to evaluate the inclusiveness of their leaders and to coach their leaders toward improvement. Of course, like any assessment tool, it can be misused, and they caution that “this scale is not designed to be a weapon; it is a tool to enhance organizations’ efforts in leadership development.”

Benchmarking DEI

Often, context is key to understanding and evaluating an organization. To that end, the EWC is working on an “Equity at Work Index” (E@W Index) “to establish and benchmark both the quantitative and qualitative drivers of workplace equity,” says Conrad. Beginning in 2021, the EWC will conduct an “annual research study to explore the multidimensional aspects of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging” and provide resources to help organizations create “work experiences free of inequities.”

Similarly, the new Gender and Diversity KPI Alliance (GDKA), made up of 56 organizations that include such names as Accenture, Bank of America, Chevron, Deloitte, EY, Google, KPMG LLP, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, PwC, Uber, and Visa, developed and agreed to adopt a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure DEI in the workplace:

    • Representation on the board of directors.
    • Representation by employee category.
    • Pay equity (measured by the ratio of compensation by employee category).

The GDKA is meant to help organizations benchmark themselves against themselves, co-chair Subha Barry, president of Working Mother Media, said in the press release: “This effort helps organizations gauge their progress over time, which is a critical step toward achieving true corporate diversity.”

Orgametrics, meanwhile, is working to create a database from corporations, law enforcement agencies, and education and government institutions to enable users to benchmark their assessment results. “These benchmarks can be even more impactful as they bring data and performance into a space that was previously nebulous,” says Byrd.

As DEI continues to be an important strategic initiative at organizations across industries, the market will continue to expand its offerings to support them. These assessment tools and strategies are just the beginning.