A Sense of Belonging and the Challenge of Measuring it

27 June 2017

What personifies the Diversity Inc top 50 companies? We have Fortune, Forbes, Great Place to Work, the Sunday Times Top 100 employers, but as someone who’s passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace I would love for an index with a D&I focus to be the significant indicator of results and growth.

The Diversity Inc listing “tracks human capital outcomes and connects them with best practices” taking into account talent pipelines, talent development, leadership accountability and supplier diversity. All a great foundation for diversity metrics. But what are they actually measuring and how?

Data collection includes counting women in senior leadership, the number of “black, Latino, Asian, women among those promoted into management”, again all of which can be included in gauging the impact of practical diversity initiatives.

When we meet clients for the first time, this strand-based tactical approach is common. It’s tempting to jump straight to a solution -  an often-heard assertion being ‘we need to hire women’. As a result, organisations will perhaps increase the focus on diverse recruitment by creating dedicated teams that focus exclusively on attracting women or they will work to develop partnerships with diverse suppliers that commit to attracting females.

Whilst practical gender-based activity can kick-start or re-invigorate D&I initiatives, I question whether it’s really the route to inclusion? Which takes us back to Diversity Inc.

Sense of belonging

“The true heart of an inclusive environment [is one] where no energy is spent wondering whether you belong. Our approach emphasises the mutual responsibility we each have, to value all we hold in common and our unique qualities.” said David Rodriguez, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer at Marriott in Diversity Inc’s 2017 interviews.

And: “To realize the business benefits of inclusion, all our people must feel a strong sense of belonging. Belonging is the key to ensuring that our people feel engaged, valued and free to be themselves.” says Karyn Twaronite, Global and Americas Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer at EY, also a member of the 2017 Diversity Inc top 10.

Now that’s more like it! The challenge being, how to measure this sense of belonging with the same accuracy and link to business outcomes as we measure the number of women in senior leadership roles!

Soft metrics

The dichotomy here between what Diversity Inc’s top organisations are measuring, and what inclusion means to people when asked by Diversity Inc, illustrates exactly what we see with clients.

When we talk about D&I with leaders they articulate the ‘feel-good factor’ but when you ask them what they’re measuring it will typically be hard measures of under-represented groups in the organisation, attrition and performance.  Which is when it becomes difficult and all too often D&I initiatives fall by the wayside.

If we want to create a true measure of inclusion in the workplace, we need to balance behavioural indicators in a structured way alongside the harder metrics:

  • The focus should be on both diversity and inclusion - use data to identify where inconsistency and blockages exist to help you come up with the right metrics.
  • As well as hard numbers consider how can you incorporate sentiment and perception into measurement.
  • Always test a hypothesis using hard and soft measures of success. Where are the blockages and why do they exist?
  • Measure hard and soft metrics over time to track progress towards a goal.

Finding a middle ground

Anything organisations do to make the culture and environment fairer is a huge positive for business. In the past, the focus was on tactical action and if employee engagement was improved after the D&I project it was considered a success. More recently, organisations have had the power to use more metrics but struggled to connect this to business outcomes and culture. There is a middle ground.

As for creating a new index for determining a great place to work? Using the latest analytics, we can connect a sense of belonging with hard measures of success and business outcomes. Diversity is celebrating difference, inclusivity is celebrating what we have in common and any index should assess the business value of both.

Author: Kirstie Kelly

Employee Insight Report 2016/17

Our Employee Insight Report allows employers to get an get an understanding of what their own employees may be thinking.

Download our report