“Collecting employee data to gain information about disparities in an organization is one of the highest-value DEI-related actions you can take as a leader.” Lily Zheng author of DEI Deconstructed.

Have you ever made a decision using half-baked intel or without testing whether your perception is reality? Sometimes it works, sometimes it can be disastrous and a big time-waster. Success is a crap-shoot.

The same is true with initiating DEI advancement for your organization. If you’re going to get people on board, invest time and resources, and disrupt the status quo with change, wouldn’t it be better to base your decisions on reality and not your perception of reality?

An effective DEI program must be grounded in accurate data. Collecting the perspectives of people in your organization establishes clear baselines for where leadership and employees are and where the organization is in relationship to understanding of key DEI concepts, DEI’s relevance & application to corporate mission, operations, strategic directions, challenges and opportunities.

Given the importance of data, assessment should be the first step in developing strategies to create a workplace where all employees feel valued and respected. Data, both quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (focus groups, interviews, encounter groups), provides powerful insights into what is really going on in an organization – what the workforce is experiencing. The analysis of this information identifies gaps, strengths, and issues occurring in the workplace as viewed by those living their work. Assessments give a clear picture of challenges facing an organization and directly impact the strategies and initiatives for addressing them. Such information can also identify barriers that prohibit employees from engaging and thriving at work. Understanding an organization’s strengths and shortfalls is essential to creating solutions and allocating resources.

Assessments also provide valuable data to identify specific management strategies, skills, and practices to increase diversity and inclusion in your workforce. The in-depth feedback allows an organization to improve decisions that prioritize where to focus company efforts regarding the advancement of DEI. There is no one-size-fits-all game plan for DEI. Assessment feedback identifies what discussions and reflection are needed in order to set strategic DEI priorities given the culture and environment of your organization. Using these findings, you are able to determine a range of initiatives focused on specific issues and goals. Acquiring sound information can reduce uncertainty and associated risks when making strategic decisions and increase the effectiveness and sustainability of DEI efforts.

But it doesn’t stop there; consider these compelling reasons for assessing your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  1. Assessments also benchmark the experiences and sentiments of a workforce, understanding of DEI principles, potential barriers to an engaged segment of the workforce, and provide a cultural snapshot of an organization. Establishing this baseline provides opportunities to create metrics to measure success – or failures – of DEI initiatives. Using data to benchmark new initiatives provides a basis to measure subsequent feedback about a programs’ ongoing health over time. Monitoring DEI initiatives can also identify opportunities for future exploration.
  2. Using their insights, strengths, and the unique vantage points of their diverse lived experiences professionally and personally of stakeholders in your organization, creates a deeper level of ownership and awareness of DEI challenges, solutions and opportunities. Giving voice to those who will be affected is an important step to buy-in.
  3. Additionally, data obtained through assessments can be used by leaders to explain the reasoning for DEI initiatives and practices they are creating and adopting. For example, if data shows that a certain identity group feels isolated and not engaged at work, sharing findings and the rationale for creating opportunities for such a group to connect would seem fair and understandable.

Stakeholder feedback through assessment allows your organization to:

  • Improve decisions regarding the advancement of DEI providing you with a range of choices to accomplish your goals.
  • Acquire sound information that can reduce uncertainty and associated risks when making strategic decisions.
  • Increase the effectiveness and sustainability of your organization’s efforts and provide the intel to turn intentions into outcomes.

You wouldn’t make other investment decisions without first getting the appropriate data, so don’t make them regarding DEI without doing your research.