How to Measure the Success of DE&I Efforts

In 2020, as the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd brought social inequities into sharp focus, almost every public-facing company made grand promises to become more diverse, equal, and inclusive. Now, lots of people are asking the fundamental measurement question: How many have delivered on those promises and how are you measuring progress?  

We get it. Changing the makeup of a board of directors does not happen overnight, nor does hiring a more diverse workforce. Modifying internal policies and procedures can certainly happen with more alacrity. But those changes typically fly under the radar, since most organizations don’t want it known just how bad their policies might have been in the past.

That’s not to say that progress isn’t being made. The Diversity Action Alliance (DAA) is a coalition of PR and communications leaders that have joined forces to, “accelerate progress in the achievement of meaningful and tangible results in diversity, equity and inclusion across our profession.” Since its founding last year, hundreds of individuals and dozens of corporations have pledged to take action to improve diversity. Even more importantly, the DAA has a reporting tool that can be used to establish benchmarks and chart improvements over time. The issue at hand, is that consumers, investors and employees want to see progress, and their are very few signs of success that people can point to today. So lets provide a few indicators: 

Diversity = talent, profit, and customers

Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, DE&I is no longer just a nice page to have on your website to boost your ESG rankings. There is increasing evidence that DE&I is a requirement if you want to survive in business today. Without it, you will likely lack one, if not more, of the essential ingredients for success:

More diversity means better hires

First of all, if you need to hire the best and the brightest talent, bear in mind that, according to Glasssdoor research, 76% of job seekers and employees say that diversity is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Nearly a third would not apply to a company that lacks diversity in its workforce. So, you can kiss that talented recruit goodbye if they look at your Glassdoor site or your website and see a sea of white faces and no evidence of a commitment to change.

More diversity means more profit

A 2020 McKinsey report found that the greater the representation of different gender and ethnic groups, the higher the profit. What a concept — more diverse ideas lead to more innovative and successful companies. Compared to their respective national industry medians, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely (and those in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely) to have higher financial returns. Bigger than that, those companies in the bottom quartile for gender, ethnicity, and race aren’t just not leading, they are proven to be lagging in financial returns.

More diversity means more customers

According to the latest Gartner Consumer Behaviors and Attitudes Survey, equality, as defined by agreeing with the statement, “I strongly believe that all people should have equal opportunity and equal access in all areas of life,” is now the value with which the highest number of U.S. consumers identify. As consumers increasingly make purchase decisions based on social issues like quality and climate change, companies with poor reputations for equality and diversity will lose out.

Given these benefits, it is clear that organizations need to be effectively managing and measuring both their actual performance, as well as their reputations around DE&I.

But how?

How to measure diversity efforts                      

As we wrote last year, measuring DE&I efforts and the communications around them is far more complex than just counting the color of faces in your board room and website. Don’t get me wrong, counting the percentage of photos on your website that convey diversity is important, and probably the first and easiest step you can take, since it represents the “face” of your organization.

But the reality is that no matter what gender or ethnic diversities you champion in your communications, what really matters is how your employees feel when they’re at work, and how customers, investors, and potential employees perceive you. So, like any good measurement program, you will need several different sorts of metrics to get a true and valid picture.


Let’s assume that the objectives are one or more of the following:

  1. Improve recruitment
  2. Improve employee engagement and loyalty
  3. Reduce turnover
  4. Increase ESG score

All are numbers that are relatively easy to get. HR knows the cost and success rates of your recruitment efforts, as well as turnover rates. If you do any standard employee survey, chances are there’s a question on it that is essentially an employee version of an NPR (Net Promoter Score). Something like “To what extent would you be likely to recommend this organization as a good place to work to your friends or family?” And your ESG score is probably on Yahoo Finance.

But if you want to measure your communications effectiveness you need slightly different metrics. including:

  • Awareness — Ideally all your employees and other key stakeholder groups will be aware of not just your policies, but also of the policy changes and results of your efforts. Conduct pulse surveys and knowledge quizzes to test that level of awareness. 
  • Understanding — As with any marketing campaign, awareness alone isn’t enough. Your audience has to believe that you are doing what you say you’ve done, and they need to understand the benefits of the policy and buy into it enough to help implement it. Don’t leave it to the one-time orientation to explain it. Reinforce the message in everything you do and then conduct regular knowledge quizzes to gauge their level of understanding.
  • Consideration and preference — This isn’t just key to getting and retaining customers, it’s just as important in hiring. Good D&I program communications should leave your potential recruits and customers more likely to come to you rather than the competition. A simple pre/post survey around your campaign will tell you if you’re successful here. 
  • Drive behavior or prevent bad behavior — If your communications are effective, your target audience will take the actions you want them to take. Good D&I communications should drive employees to be more inclusive in their actions and their hiring, be more engaged and supportive of D&I efforts, and, with luck, reduce the risk of employee-driven crises. The last thing you need right now is for an employee walk out over your policies. Define the specific metrics you will track.

3 types of DE&I metrics

  1. Content quality metrics
  • Percent of internal and external communications containing one or more desirable DE&I messages.
  • Decrease in percentage of communications containing biased content, e.g., team photos of all-white, all-male teams.
  • Increase in engagement rates with DE&I-related content.
  • Percentage Increase in participation and engagement with communications by BIPOC employees.
  • Number of media mentions of your D&I efforts vs. the competition or your peers.

2. Attitude or perception metrics

  • Increase in the percentage of employees that feel included and their voices heard.
  • Change in perception of your organization as an inclusive, diverse workplace. – via comments on Glassdoor or perception survey.
  • Reduction in perceptions of discrimination or exclusion. Typical questions you might want to pose to employees might be:

“To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements:

  • This organization treats people like me fairly and justly.
  • Whenever this organization makes an important decision, I know it will be concerned about people like me.
  • This organization can be relied on to keep its promises.
  • I believe that this organization takes the opinions of people like me into account when making decisions.
  • Sound principles seem to guide this organization’s behavior.
  • This organization does not mislead people like me.
  • I am very willing to let this organization make decisions for people like me.
  • I think it is important to watch this organization closely so that it does not take advantage of people like me.

3. Outcome metrics

  • Reduction in reports of racist or discriminatory behavior
  • Increase in likelihood to recommend by BIPOC employees
  • Increase in diversity of talent pool – reduction in time to fill open positions.

All these metrics have direct impact on your organization’s ability to succeed, and none are terribly hard to implement. So it should be straightforward for you to begin or improve your DE&I effort measurement.

If you become stuck, if you have special problems, or if you are especially interested in DE&I efforts, you will want to come to Paine Publishing’s 2021 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement. There you will learn from experts who can show you how they’ve done it, and meet people who are facing situations similar to yours. ∞

Image above based on a photo by chezbeate from Pixabay.

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