As diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts have continued to make tremendous progress in recent years, one of the areas receiving the most attention is the use of data to drive measurable and sustainable improvements in DEI. Data represents to DEI what an instrumental panel represents to a plane. Long before there were instrument panels, people were able to fly planes. It was significantly harder without the instrument panel. Instrument panels have made the journey more efficient and effective at every step along the way. Similarly, improving DEI can be achieved without data, but it is significantly harder. Data makes the DEI journey more efficient and effective at every step along the way.

The following are five simple steps to implement a data-driven approach to DEI for you and in your organization:

Step 0: DEI Incentives – The journey begins when everyone in the organization gets honest about what motivates their personal and/or organizational DEI journey. This requires self-reflection and introspection to identify intrinsic factors driving your pursuit of DEI, such as personal and organizational values, or extrinsic factors such as bonus incentives or consumer expectations.

People must ask themselves the deeper questions such as ,“Why do I even care?” or “Why should my organization dedicate resources to improving DEI?” You will only need to revisit Step 0 if your incentives change. The next five steps represent a never-ending, continuous cycle as you grow in your DEI journey.

Step 1: DEI Inventory – For people undertaking a DEI journey, you will conduct a personal DEI assessment of your preferences, using tools such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT) or the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®), and an assessment of your competences, using tools such as the Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®) or the Intrinsic Inclusion Inventory™ (i3™).

For organizations undertaking a DEI journey, you will conduct an organizational DEI assessment comprised of “The 4 P’s”:

  1. People, that is, how employees experience your culture and climate, using assessments such as the DEI Workforce and Workplace Assessment™;
  2. Policies; and 3. Practices, by performing a DEI human resources (HR) policies and practices evaluation to identify opportunities for improvement and generate recommendations; and
  3. Performance, by benchmarking against best practices using tools such as the global diversity, equity and inclusion benchmarks (GDEIBs).

Step 2: DEI Imperatives – OGSM is an acronym that stands for objectives, goals, strategies and measures. It is a method that can guide people and organizations through a DEI strategic planning process:

    • Objectives represent broad and overarching aims.
    • Goals are the specific, quantifiable, and qualifiable metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for each objective.
    • Strategies represent the initiatives, activities and actions that will be taken to fulfill the objectives and achieve the goals.
    • Measures are the specific, quantifiable and qualifiable measures to gauge progress against each strategy.

During this step, you will establish clearly defined DEI objectives. They may vary dramatically from “appreciate differences personally” to “creating a culture of inclusion and belonging organizationally” and far beyond. As a training leader, you and your team will then determine associated and measurable DEI goals for each objective.

Step 3: DEI Insights – During this step, you will identify what works for other people and organizations — based on research, science and the experience of expert practitioners — to avoid reinventing the wheel and to optimize your journey.

Examples of “what works” models include the Through My Eyes™ virtual reality (VR) immersions that foster human understanding and empathy, and The Inclusion Habit®, an incentive-based solution that helps individuals change behaviors and habits to be more inclusive via “microcommitments” (small daily actions, to which users commit), social accountability and community building.

Examples of “what works” models for organizations include Equitable Analytics™, which uses machine learning (ML) to more precisely identify what types of DEI interventions are most likely to work and for whom, and the Rali Change Experience (CX) platform, which drives group-based behavior change that shapes culture and results in organizational impact at large scale, among others.

Step 4: DEI Initiatives – You will now determine which DEI strategies are best for you and/or your organization to undertake.

Examples for individuals include training courses, books, articles, blogs and team-building activities or events.

Examples for organizations include employee resource groups (ERGs), inclusive hiring, courageous conversations, and employee coaching and professional development.

You will also determine the quantifiable DEI measures to gauge progress against each strategy.

Step 5: DEI Impact – It’s time to evaluate your results including outputs to gauge progress against your DEI strategies and outcomes to measure impact relative to your DEI objectives.

You will then rinse and repeat from Step 5 back to Step 1 by re-administering your DEI assessment to identify exactly where and with whom you have achieved results and areas for improvement.

You will continuously traverse the five-step cycle because DEI is journey and not a destination.

Data is not the end-all and be-all to DEI, nor do I intend to frame it in this way. Data is not the entire DEI puzzle, but it is a very important piece of the puzzle. W. Edwards Deming is frequently and incorrectly quoted with the famous phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Ironically, Deming’s full quote is, “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

According to the W. Edwards Deming Institute, “Dr. Deming did very much believe in the value of using data to help improve the management of the organization. But he also knew that just measuring things and looking at data wasn’t close to enough. There are many things that cannot be measured and still must be managed.” Fortunately, DEI is not one of those things, as it can be measured and managed, but only with a data-driven approach to DEI.