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How to Measure the ROI of Diversity Programs

One of the most challenging aspects of diversity and inclusion (D&I) is being able to quantify the value of a program or training that has been implemented in the workplace. When seeking leadership buy-in for your diversity program, it is imperative to figure out how to measure the value that your program can provide to the organization. How do you gauge D&I goal attainment? How can you quantify the impact of D&I measures? What strategies can be utilized to assess D&I practices?

When assessing D&I practices, it is important to first understand where the organization is at, from the starting point. D&I is extremely vast, so narrowing down which areas your organization should focus on will help when implementing or improving D&I practices. Conduct an initial survey of the diversity climate within the organization. This could include an employee engagement survey, with questions focused specifically on company culture and inclusion. You could also assess customer feedback through customer surveys, social media comments and Glassdoor ratings. It’s imperative to assess demographics within the organization to ensure that fair hiring practices are taking place. Evaluate turnover rates, promotion and salary, as well as the candidate pipeline as indicators of whether the organization is on the right track. Some sample metrics that can be used to assess D&I practices include: velocity of movement (length of time it takes to hire, promote and move up within the organization), succession plans for diverse employees, percentage of diverse employees with sponsors and mentors, results of sponsorship/mentorship (do they convert into career progression/lateral moves?), impact and ROI of ERGs, engagement and D&I scores, and employee engagement scores by race or gender.

After a detailed investigation of D&I culture has been conducted, you must then figure out where improvements can be made. If, for example, feedback from an engagement survey reveals that several employees feel that the company treats women unfairly, the next steps would be to figure out how to improve this area. To understand how to improve these gaps, it is critical to review the current and past literature on the topic(s). D&I is an area that is growing vastly, and reviewing the research in this domain can help organizations put solutions into practice. Some great resources for D&I information can be found on websites like Harvard Business Review, the Society for Human Resource Management, DiversityInc, and Diversity Best Practices. Reviewing Google Scholar for current research on D&I can also produce a wealth of valuable information.

After you have identified all of the areas of improvement, there must be a consensus regarding how to quantify and measure incremental changes. Will you use retention and attrition rates of different groups as an indication of D&I success in a particular area? How will you measure the effectiveness of a D&I training? It’s always a good idea to gauge where employees are at the beginning to establish a baseline before any sort of intervention is implemented so you can measure their progress throughout the process.

After D&I strategies have been implemented, how will you measure changes along the way? The end destination and goal attainment are central but there should also be a way to evaluate progress at each step along the process. What this does is it allows the organization to assess whether the training is actually working and figure out if modifications and pivots must be made. You must also determine how long a reasonable amount of time is for the intervention. If, for example, your goal is the shift the organizational culture, that can take a long time, maybe even years. Within those years, how will you measure progress and success? Determining how to quantify abstract concepts like a sense of belonging, inclusion and culture shift will allow you to assess incremental changes along the way.

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