Lately, those working in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) arena have been receiving far too much bad news. Companies are slashing DEI budgets and roles, company leadership have de-prioritized diversity and inclusion work, and DEI practitioners are experiencing a high level of burn out (a phenomenon known as diversity fatigue, which we’ve discussed on this blog and on our LinkedIn page).
With all this bad news, you’d think that DEI programs are failing miserably, but that’s simply not true. Walmart, for example, has significantly improved its retention rate among frontline workers (many of whom identify as Black or Latino) through retention-focused DEI initiatives. And Randstad, an HR consulting firm, worked with 1,000 at-risk women to assess the barriers preventing them from securing a job. They found that childcare services and professional clothing were two of the greatest needs, and after supporting those areas, they were able to help 95% of participants land a job. In my own experience, I’ve witnessed countless DEI successes in organizations—from improved retention rates to higher worker satisfaction.
It's possible DEI initiatives are working in your company too, but how can you tell? What metrics or observations can you point to that prove DEI-focused work is making an impact? We’ll answer those questions, but first we need to establish two key points:
- Examining what is, indeed, working—and presenting your findings to company leadership—is critical for securing the future of DEI-centered programs.
- To establish what’s working, it is essential to measure progress (or lack thereof) and analyze the data.
That said, here are 5 indications your company’s DEI initiatives are working:
Retention Has Improved
Retention is an obvious, easy-to-measure starting point to consider. Has the company improved retention of traditionally marginalized or underrepresented employees? Have both newly-hired and long-time employees from these groups shown a higher rate of staying with the company? Increased retention can be a sign that DEI initiatives are creating a more inclusive and supportive environment where employees feel valued and included.
Greater Diversity in Leadership
Another indicator of successful DEI initiatives is the presence of diverse representation in leadership positions. Are individuals from underrepresented groups being promoted to leadership roles? Having diverse leaders not only brings different perspectives and experiences to decision-making processes but also serves as a role model for employees from marginalized backgrounds.
Employee Satisfaction and Engagement
Positive changes in employee satisfaction and engagement can be a result of effective DEI initiatives. Conducting surveys, focus groups, or regular check-ins with employees can provide valuable insights into their level of satisfaction, sense of belonging, and overall engagement with the company. And don’t forget to provide ways to submit anonymous feedback. According to a recent survey, 71% of employees would be willing to share thoughts and experiences about DEI if they could do so anonymously.
Fewer Instances of Bias and Discrimination
One of the main goals of DEI initiatives is to reduce instances of bias and discrimination in the workplace. Are there fewer reported incidents of bias, discrimination, or microaggressions? Are employees feeling safer and more respected? A decrease in such instances can signal that DEI initiatives are effectively addressing and mitigating these issues.
DEI-Centered Programs Have Been Well Received
While this category is a bit harder to measure, it is just as important as the others. Take a look at your DEI programs, and consider how successful they have been. Look at Employee Resource Groups, mentorship programs, DEI trainings, etc., and examine factors such as employee participation/engagement, impact on workplace culture, and feedback from participants. If DEI-centered programs have been well received by employees and have had a positive influence on the organization, it's a strong indication those initiatives are working.
You won’t know what’s working, and what isn’t, until you take the time to measure your work. Evaluate all aspects of your DEI initiatives, making sure to take into account employee feedback. Hopefully you’ll find that you’ve made progress in certain areas—findings that can lead to the prolonged (and, hopefully, better funded!) success of your company’s DEI-focused work.