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How HR Can Create a DEI Progress Report Card

Criteria to include and how to create a basic DEI report card template

Elle Mason

by Elle Mason - July 31st, 2022

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging are already at the forefront of the priority list for forward-thinking businesses - and for good reason! Creating more diverse and inclusive organizations, beyond being morally imperative, have also been demonstrated to:

  • Enhance creativity and innovation

  • Improve team performance and make an impact on profitability and bottom-line

  • Build healthier work environments, including increases to physical and emotional health as well as team trust, cohesion and engagement

Download the free DEI Policy Template

And efforts to improve shouldn't be limited to just DEI amongst employees, but for everyone who interacts with the businesses products or services. Still, many HR leaders may be scratching their heads and wondering how to set and meet DEI goals - or how to determine what should be a measure of DEI, or in what ways DEI should be demonstrated.

Is "diversity of thought" sufficient? What about one woman executive amongst a sea of men?

In other words, how do you know if your business diverse, equitable and inclusive "enough?"

Of course, there's no benchmark to let you know that you're "done" and you can stop working towards DEI. After all, it's a process of ongoing and continual improvement that will naturally shift with time depending on your people and your business. But a DEI progress report card can go a long way in setting the tone for transparency and impact.

Transparency shouldn't be a negative thing that you meet with fear, either. These types of report cards can actually bring unconscious biases to light that people in the organization weren't even aware of, as well as put the spotlight on any persistent patterns that perpetuate homogeneity or exclusion of anyone deemed as "different" or "not a culture fit." You should think of them as a learning tool, first and foremost.

With DEI being a major focus in 2021 for many businesses, we want to create a resource for HR managers and employers who are looking for a way to hold themselves accountable and present back to their employees and clients how they’ve progressed throughout the year. This article will serve as a guide on what criteria to include and how to create a basic template.

What is a DEI report card? What is its purpose?

A DEI report card is a data-driven tool for assessing the policies and procedures of the organization, and analyzing the ways that they support or inhibit diversity, equity and inclusion within the business.

There are distinct benefits of having benchmarks and concrete goals to work toward as an organization and as HR - whether that's in terms of hiring diversity, implementing additional inclusion training, or otherwise.

There is virtually no limit to what can be measured - such as climate, impact, resources, readiness, and policies. A mix of quantitative (numerical or statistical data) and qualitative (written, perhaps in the form of direct interview quotes) data is best for providing a holistic perspective and telling a more complete story.

How should a DEI report card be structured?

To start, you can set your mission statement and core values. This can act as a guide to determine the best direction for your organization.

For example, there are a number of large corporations that highlight areas such as:

  • Year-over-year progress for race/ethnicity and gender diversity

  • Self-identification of percentage of employees that are LGBTQIA+, non-binary, having a disability, etc.

  • A spotlight on DEI and how it's represented in the higher ranks of the organization (e.g. Are all of the minorities working at the lowest level of the company?)

The next elements to determine are:

  • What are your goals or objectives?

  • How will you measure them (e.g. not met; ongoing; accomplished)?

  • What areas will they cover (e.g. Hiring; training; retention)?

You can also include more qualitative sections around accomplishments or achievements, in addition to climate survey data such as: The actual reported experience of people at the workplace, the degree to which they feel comfortable and able to raise complaints, and their sense of inclusion or belonging.

What are some ideas for DEI objectives that HR can work towards?

Ultimately, you can think of metrics and objectives as serving three different purposes: Diagnosis (What is the problem?), Progress and Return on Investment.

Some questions that objectives can answer are:

  • What are the risk areas?

  • What are the opportunities?

  • How can you identify blind spots?

  • Where are they present: in representation, retention, recruitment, selection, promotion, development, engagement, or pay?

After you get an understanding of the baseline, or where you're starting from, you can then assess how are you progressing in these areas. ROI will depend on the return the organization is looking for, but this will likely align to broader performance and business goals. The more you can add concrete number, goals and percentages, the more impactful it will be. Be ambitious - but also set realistic goals.

To illustrate this, some objectives can include:

  • Attracting and hiring a diverse and inclusive workforce, including building a more diverse talent pool to recruit and select from

  • Improving the satisfaction, engagement, trust, support and respect amongst employees - and segmenting this data by various diverse groups (e.g. LBGTQIA+ people, people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds)

  • Revisiting pathways for promotions and improving the diversity amongst appointments to acting roles and higher ranks

  • Developing partnerships with diverse clients and/or a diverse client base

  • Ensuring pay equity across racial/ethnic groups and gender

What Are HR Leaders Doing to Implement DEI Progress Report Cards?

It's one thing to say what can be done to implement a DEI progress report. It's another thing to show successful examples and practical tips based on real experienced. We've asked HR leaders to give us their best tips for measuring the success of DEI initiatives. Here are a few of our favorite responses:

Link DEI Progress or Failure To Overall Business Objectives

Go beyond quantitative and qualitative data to increase the value of the report. Executives outside of the field often struggle to connect DEI to the "big picture". DEI Leaders have an opportunity to facilitate and usher in that clarity with patience and effective "E-speak" by linking DEI progress, or a lack thereof, to overall business objectives. One example is to present the report findings by identifying the subsequent impact on ROI and P/L for specific and strategic goals associated with the following: productivity; process improvement; technology and innovation; service/product creation and enhancement; employee recruitment and retention; corporate social responsibility; and business development. 

Senior-level executives who engage, respect, and value the DEI Leader as a business partner and peer are essential to securing data and additional information to support this approach.

Michele Lawlis Shelton, CEO and Principal Consultant of Michele Shelton LLC

Present Your DEI Program as The DNA of Your Organization

Some organizations put in the work to ensure their DEI Program is the DNA of their organization. Their efforts pay off in a profitable and humanitarian way. People want to work for authentic organizations that align with their values. But, sadly, there are organizations only checking off the boxes. 

What's the difference? Organizations who make DNA the fabric of their organizations do several things: They aren't afraid to assess their culture, openly discuss their blind spots, and most importantly do something to change the narrative. They align their DEI initiatives with organizational goals. Metrics create accountability. If an organization is unwilling to take this step, they are likely not serious about DEI. They execute. There is so much talking about DEI. But, organizations committed to doing the work make DNA the fabric of their organizations and form initiatives that bring about change. 

If your organization takes these steps, the sky is the limit!

Elizabeth Overstreet, CEO and Founder of ENO Enterprises, LLC.

Report The Planning and Metrics Involved at All Levels

It is critical to approach your DEI strategy as you would any other business initiative with planning, training, and metrics at all levels. The leadership team must communicate, lead by example, and allocate resources to the strategy. Your line-level managers and supervisors must be given tools, training, and expectations, including Key Performance Indicators with DEI goals. To create a culture of inclusion and belonging, your employees will need transparent communication about the goals and progress of your DEI strategy.
If you are transparent about your goals and progress, it will keep the entire organization moving forward instead of a diversity backlash when not meeting expectations.

Michelle Jolivet, CEO and Founder of DEI Recruiting and Consulting

Include Prioritized Actions You Tracked and Measured

What is not tracked and measured, gets lost and forgotten. Understand the diversity, equity, and inclusion gaps in your organization. Dive into the policies, practices, and behaviors and more importantly stay connected to the teams across the organization by listening to their DEI pain points. Prioritize short-term wins and long-term actions. You want to demonstrate to your teams that they were heard and there are long-term actions that will require more energy and resources. These prioritized items become your actions to report out internally and externally. These prioritized actions also align to a broader DEI strategy, purpose, and accountability to build sustainable momentum.

Simone Sloan, CEO of Your Choice Coach

Show Qualitative as Well as Quantitative Data

It is essential to include quantitative data in DEI reporting. However, qualitative data brings the human experience and perspective of the DEI initiatives and strategies. It is an opportunity to ask open-ended questions and collect data that measures employees' feelings and attitudes. It is a great way to measure inclusion. It also provides content specific to the organization and industry when reporting and writing articles.

Enid-Mai Jones, Founder EMJ Consulting

Let Your Core Values Lead You

Start with your core values. These values should guide your DEI goals which you can then track on your report. For instance, maybe you want to highlight your year-over-year progress for race, ethnicity, and gender diversity. Or, maybe you want to focus on ensuring there are minorities in every level of your organization. Is your C-Suite diverse? Or, are only your entry-level employees made up of a wide range of people? These are key goals to track that should correlate with your core values.

Isaiah Henry, CEO of Seabreeze Management

Be Balanced and Transparent To Win Trust

The journey to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive, or human-centered company culture happens over many years. Along the way, you'll have successes and you'll have misses. You'll make strategic decisions to focus on your annual priorities which means some potential focus areas won't receive attention in your first year, or your second year, or maybe even your third year. That's okay. 

When sharing your annual DEI report, be clear about your priorities with details on how you have, or have not, moved the needle on those priorities. Celebrate your successes and the actions behind you've taken to deliver on your commitment to DEI. Be open about your areas of opportunity, where you can do better, and share how you've learned from your misses. This balanced, transparent, and honest approach to your messaging will contribute to reaching your community in a trusted, authentic, and meaningful way.

Brian McComak, CEO and Founder of Hummingbird Humanity

Cover the Entire Employee Pathway

I would highly recommend a holistic approach to DEI and a systems approach to metrics. It should cover the complete employee lifecycle, from hiring (recruitment funnel, diverse slate, referrals etc) to progression (promotion analysis, promotion velocity, succession planning etc) to departures (regrettable, non regrettable) all captured with a DEI lens.

This means looking at every metric that you measure through the diversity data lens (race, gender, ethnicity etc) and connecting it to overall representation (race, gender, ethnicity etc) to craft your narrative to demonstrate progress and next steps.

Hasan Rafiq, Newsela

Deploy Direct Recruiting Strategies

Organizations must be intentional when it comes to attracting, hiring, and retaining diverse talent. The culture must be one of inclusivity and belonging. When diverse talent is recruited and hired, there must be a direct strategy to retain this talent. The recruiting data should show how many new employees are hired in the various diverse categories: how long are they staying, promotion and talent development, opportunity availability to fast-track their career potential, and exposure to top decision-makers who can mentor and promote their growth and development.

Maxine Price, JC Max Consulting & Coaching, LLC

Utilize your Sourcing Networks

Analyzing the effectiveness of your sourcing networks for candidates is a key element to a DEI progress report card. Consider any diversity-oriented job groups and organizations your company is associated with—it may be necessary to connect with others to expand your network to improve diversity. Also consider any outreach programs with universities and other notable institutions. Job advertisements can be shared with these contacts to focus more on under-represented groups. It's crucial that you use your network efficiently to get the most out of your DEI efforts.

Dan Gray, Kotn Supply

While this may seem overwhelming at first glance, GoCo offers an HRIS for hiring and onboarding can help eliminate unconscious bias towards employees that may happen when you are manually working in the hiring process. An HRIS treats each employee the same and helps ensure consistency from onboarding to benefits administration to payroll. It also helps streamline day-to-day HR tasks so that HR can focus more on DEI and other high-value efforts.

Furthermore, GoCo’s newest DEI features help create a culture of inclusion, which in turn will attract and retain diverse talent. Examples of GoCo’s DEI improvements include:

  • Ability to mask legal sex on your profile

  • Renaming preferred pronouns to just pronouns

  • Adding a wide range of pronoun options in the HRIS

  • Adding Juneteenth to company holidays

  • Removing the legal sex requirement within the software

  • Using preferred name in employee email communications

Ultimately, DEI requires a series of ongoing improvements - it's not "set it and forget it."  But implementing DEI report cards can help you measure what matters, and work towards broader organizational impact and equity.

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