“Building an inclusive organisation is not just about the balanced scorecard data we track to measure progress…it is as much about our attitude and behaviours and having a sense of empathy for different experiences.” – Gwen Houston, Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Microsoft
This question is often asked alongside the following questions: “What is the business case for diversity”? “How does it directly impact the bottom-line?” The business case for diversity has now been well established and there is so much evidence out there in terms of case studies, research papers, and published data on organisational metrics, so much so that when I am confronted with this question, an alternative question instinctively pops up in my mind which itself questions the very presuppositions of the question being asked: “Where is the ‘will’ or ‘readiness’ in your organisation to get the run started?”, I hear the voice in my head ask.
By ‘organisational will’ or ‘readiness’, I refer to the desire of an organisation to actually want to maximise the best of ‘people differences’ as part of a talent strategy linked to key business outcomes. This baseline understanding only arises out of an internalised appreciation of the ‘business case’ viewed from a broader context of creating a competitive advantage. It suggests a mental shift from seeing diversity as a ‘positive action’ and/or equality driven initiative aimed primarily at balancing workforce databases, to be actually about organisational performance driven directly by the effective and inclusive management of people.
Effective people management cuts across all organisational levels. Understanding how diversity can be measured therefore, must first and foremost begin with understanding the ‘complexity’ of ‘what’ is to be measured?? Measuring diversity is not simply about taking a look at observable ‘workforce representation’ datasets – that is a pretty basic measurement. It is rather, as Ed Hubbard, an OD Consultant suggests, about developing strategic tools for effectively measuring the following 4 key inter-connected layers – in tandem:
- Behavioural diversity: Refers to differences in working styles, thinking styles, values and belief systems, emotional intelligence levels, etc
- Structural diversity: Refers to working teams, inter-departmental synergies and differences, alliances and networks across organisational levels, as well as the dynamics of hierarchical structures and the ability to navigate these to good effect
- Workforce diversity: Refers to skills, experiences, health, gender, education, ethnicity, class, age, social status, disability, language, dietary requirements, belief systems, economic viability, sexuality, dialect, geographical location, marital status, etc
- Business diversity: Refers to customer’s diverse product needs, customer satisfaction, customer community make-up, as well as supplier diversity
All the above areas present unique challenges in terms of how they can be effectively measured. Below are some tips to get you started?
To measure the impact of diversity on your business begin by re-visiting the organisation’s mission, vision, values, norms and ethos and map these across to core diversity principles and best practices linked to the overall people function. Put clear and identifiable measures in place, monitor and assign corresponding actions and responsibilities. Always ensure to feedback to the wider group.
- Be creative and adventurous!
Measuring diversity is no different from any other process. You’ve got the expertise, so be creative and adventurous with designing the appropriate measurements ensuring it captures key outcomes! Why not use existing best practice business tools such as Prince II, Lean Six Sigma when project managing a diversity initiative to deliver real outcomes?? This will ensure that not only is the initiative delivered in a timely and cost-effective fashion, but that the right resources are allocated in accord with the scope of the project. Ensure to communicate and celebrate successes achieved from creatively utilising recognised systems.
- People surveys, audits, 360’s, just talk!
Measuring diversity is all about taking account of the culture within the organisation. What kind of culture does your organisation have? A positive or negative one? Are your people ‘happy’ in the workplace? Do they feel their talents and skills are engaged and supported? Regular use of surveys, audits and 360 feedback are a great and effective means of measuring the responses to these questions21. Don’t forget, if your people are not ‘happy‘, it will have a direct impact on the buoyancy of the bottom-line! Where all else fails, sit down, have a talk – its always the best medicine! Remember to take note of ensuing actions agreed and follow them through accordingly.
- Focus Groups and Mystery Shopping Exercises:
To measure ‘the heartbeat’ of the organisation, hold focus groups and take note of issues raised. Ensure actions to address identified issues are met and mainstreamed into organisational processes to ensure real and sustained change. Conduct ad hoc mystery shopping exercises to find out ‘what is happening on the ground’, and to monitor the depth of how the changes have been mainstreamed and internalised.
- Performance Management Systems:
Performance management systems can focus on the performance of an organisation, a department, an employee or any other area of an organisation. The yardstick or measures for gauging performance must link to the mission, vision and values of the organisation, otherwise called its culture, which has diversity as its ‘DNA‘. Ensure to adapt practical performance measurement tools – balanced score card, process re-mapping systems, etc – to measure the impact of diversity on the overall business, doing so regularly so as to consistently aware of outcomes and take note of lessons learnt as ou go along.
- Impact Assessments:
Assessing the impact of organisational processes, procedures, policies and people (otherwise what I call ‘the 4 P’s) is a key means of ‘getting underneath the skin’ to establish steps needed for continued development across all organisational angles. Indeed, as an effective measure, impact assessments ought not to be carried out when issues arise, rather they ought to be performed as part of BAU (Business as Usual) to ensure sustained outcomes. Communicate results across board. This creates a deep sense of employee engagement – a ‘soft’ measure that more often than not tends to be taken for granted.
- Revenue Pipeline:
There is a very strong link between diversity strategy, creativity and growth of the bottom-line that is now widely accepted. Off the back of diversity initiatives implemented, it is important not to shy away from monitoring the balance-sheet. In order to assist understand the monetary advantage, develop viable and variable monitoring and tracking systems linked to the sales, marketing, business development, HR and talent management functions where diversity initiatives have been deployed as standard. So for example, in a professional services firm where diversity has had a specific input in the contract/ bidding process, monitor and measure successes in terms of actual selection to tender and/or actual contract wins.
This an important point. How is value itself to be ‘measured’? People have often referred to diversity as a ‘value-add’, and by that they simply mean that it is that which is looked at only after the real business ‘nuts n’ bolts’ have been attended to! How wrong, I say. For diversity seen as a ‘value-add’ actually refers to the drive, commitment, connection and passion that employees put to good use aligned to the mission of an organisation – and toward which their skills, experiences, talents are directed. It’s that psychological contract and ‘buy-in’ which your committed staff has, which once broken, can be extremely difficult to mend!…and which has a direct impact on the balance sheet.
Not all value is measurable by simply and narrowly looking at the balance sheet. Talent management and diversity strategies can take up to between 2-3 years before they embed – prior to a measuring process being viable. Therefore, a broad context of understanding is required. For value is also measured in the positive culture, employee commitment and customer satisfaction that an organisations enjoys when it puts measures in place to ensure the effective and inclusive management of it’s people.
How is diversity strategy measured in your organisation??? Indeed, is there the ‘will’ or ‘readiness’ to actually get the process started???
Jude-Martin is Director of Diversity is…a consultancy focused on providing a fresh and innovative approach to diversity through the provision of HR services covering Strategy, Assessment, and Development for ensuring effective people management in the 21st century global business context.