Measuring the success of D&I (the What and the How)

How should companies measure the success of their D&I work – and which types of success should be defined in the first place? International experts met in Brussels to learn and discuss the different paradigms for measuring success and how they fit into effective D&I frameworks and communication.

Success for some means increasing representation numbers while for others it is defined as increasing open-mindedness in their corporate culture or the inclusiveness of their processes. In financial terms, D&I success can also refer to the return on investment which is generated by D&I programmes or initiatives. The global D&I engineer, Michael Stuber, designed and delivered a learning session for corporate experts covering each relevant aspect of D&I success measurement.

First things to know about D&I success measurements

As a foundation to discuss success measurement, the participants explored the value chain of D&I in more depth. The Propelling Performance Principle illustrates research evidence that shows that difference can only be turned into an advantage when both open-mindedness (in people, teams and the organisational culture) and inclusiveness (in processes, collaboration and leadership) exist. For success measurement, the value-chain shows that quantitative targets alone are not appropriate as they suggest that diversity can be a means to an end while it is the starting point of the process. Instead, a comprehensive approach to success measurement must include at least two additional components:

  • Measuring open-mindedness through perceived belonging, respect and being valued. Practically, this is often done through employee surveys and in many cases, existing formats can be adjusted to cover the required elements.
  • Measuring inclusiveness through observable behaviours or by monitoring process outcomes. Practically, this is often done by 360 feedback, elements of engagement surveys and proportional process evaluations.

Here is an article that talks more about how to measure corporate culture and inclusiveness

Also in the communication of D&I, this holistic understanding is key to avoid the perception of simplistic quota or reversed discrimination and hence additional resistance.

Measuring progress, the success of D&I organisation development

One important and effective form of D&I success measurement focuses on evaluation of organizational development using the following approaches.

  • Action-based success measurement includes accountability schemes (for action) and the evaluation of implementation activities (checks and impact assessments). Practically, this is done by score card elements and tailored evaluation of, e.g., training, events or communication.
  • Process-based success measurement includes D&I audits or assessments and the monitoring of process results through a D&I lens. Practically, this is done through gap analysis and the closure of these gaps.

The presentation and discussions showed that many companies are already doing a number of robust and relevant activities that can become part of a holistic D&I success measurement. In many cases, the focus on only a few KPIs, however, create unfortunate perceptions and can even get in the way to enlist support from key stakeholders or to engage them in a wider change agenda (beyond recruitment and development).

This article provides another analysis of the paradigms of D&I success measurement 

Measuring ROI, the benefits of D&I management

From a business perspective, the financial aspect of D&I management adds another success measurement paradigm. The question is, which benefits, advantages or improvements the investment in D&I programmes and activities brings. On a higher level, companies can measure the customer or marketing benefits of D&I through the ROI of D&I marketing activities and customer feedback. On a more specific level, the benefits of, e.g., D&I communication can be measured through the value of media coverage.

Important evidence to support the ROI of D&I is provided by more than 200 empirical studies that are summarised in the IBCR (International Business Case Report) published bi-annually by European Diversity Research & Consulting.

Here is a more thorough analysis of how to make the business case for D&I

The importance of targets and why addressing leaks should come first

Discussing current practices with participants revealed that the need for targets is widely assumed. However, a strong or exclusive focus on targets seems to create backlash and might even result in undermining the entire D&I agenda. Broadening the target-setting is one way to overcome the perception of reverse discrimination. Also, practices show that the increased influx or development of women often only increases numbers temporarily. This is particularly the case when the corporate culture was not analysed upfront and relevant unwritten rules or invisible norms were not addressed simultaneously (through cultural change initiatives).