Recently, I have been having a lot of conversations about the best ways to track the success of organizational diversity, equity and inclusion. I am a strong believer that traditional approaches to measuring effectiveness based solely on diversity -- which tend to rely heavily on snapshots of representation by gender, race, LGBTQ2S+ identification, for example – are not sufficient. Instead, to be truly meaningful, I believe organizations need to also have insights into the experiences of diverse staff.
For example, seeing that an organization has 24% women in 2018 and 26% in 2019 would suggest that it is increasingly being viewed by women as an ideal place to work. However, we are not shown what is happening behind the scenes. For example, knowing that the figures have grown provides information about recruitment, but not necessarily retention. Indeed, women could be cycling through the organization with a high rate at turnover that is only slightly outpaced by the rate of recruitment! A snapshot alone will not capture this.
Such stats could also obscure information about:
According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “any organization or business that is regulated by the federal government has a legal obligation to comply with the Employment Equity Act and provide equal employment opportunities to four designated groups: women, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.” However, during many discussions I have had with clients on the topic, employment equity has often been frequently misunderstood. They assume, incorrectly, that it means hiring staff from one of the designated groups regardless of whether they are the most competitive candidate. For hiring managers making decisions accordingly, not only does this lead to unsuccessful partnerships between new hires and employers, but it also suggests that diversity numbers are rooted, to a certain extent, to tokenism – which can be easily concealed by reporting diversity snapshots.
(Indeed, a whole other blog can be written on employment equity alone, as embedded in the idea that hiring managers must make a choice between competitiveness and representation is the incorrect assumption that the designated groups cannot also be competitive!).
For organizations that are interested in fostering meaningful and sustainable diversity, it’s important to learn about the state of inclusion in your organizations. Here are four ways in which you can achieve this in order to foster more meaningful and sustainable diversity:
For those looking to explore success measures, I also encourage you to consider both quantitative and qualitative data. Currently, there is rising interest in story as a means of effective communication. Indeed, story can be used not just for marketing purposes, but also for the collection of rich and actionable data. For this reason, I invite you to consider storytelling as a modality for learning and reporting on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.